The Luscious Light of Sorolla’s Paintings

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Rocks and white boat, Javea - Joaquin Sorolla:

It was love at first sight when I discovered the paintings of Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923). Known as “the painter of light,” his seascapes and beach scenes are drenched in a warm, buttery light, and swim with dazzling swirls of color.

They evoke a dynamic sense of playfulness, as if capturing fleeting moments of the here and now, brief snapshots frozen in time.

They reveal a deep love of nature and the simple pleasures of life.  Sorolla was a family man and many of his paintings feature children at play, mothers with flowing skirts, young women with veils and parasols.

As I enter each painting and let it wash over me, all that luscious light and sensuous movement thrills me, and I feel bathed in bliss

I couldn’t help sharing some of my favorites with you. Enjoy!

Joaquín Sorolla SPANISH NIÑOS BAÑANDOSE ENTRE ROCAS, JÁVEA (CHILDREN ON THE SHORE, JÁVEA):

 

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Sorolla:

 

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On the Beach at Valencia - Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida:

 

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Joaquin Sorolla - Csak ki a tengerből:

 

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida  1863 - 1923:

 

'Clotilde and Elena on the Rocks at Javea', Oil by Joaquin Sorolla Y Bastida (1863-1923, Spain):

Promenade au bord de mer | LASKO:

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida  ArtExperienceNYC  www.artexperiencenyc.com:

Sorolla - A Spanish impressionist who doesn't get enough recognition.:

Mending the Sail Painting  - Mending the Sail Fine Art Print:

 

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Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863 –1923)  "Maria Watching the Fish at La Granja":

 

My Art or My Novel. Which Would You Choose?

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Mother and children Lange-MigrantMother02

Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph

Someone asked me recently what I loved more, my painting or my writing? Or, she added, is that like trying to choose which child you love most?

It is a little bit like that. Writing has always been the love of my life. Like a first child, I never thought I could love another as much as I loved him. And then number two came along and I learned that I could. Just as much, but differently.

Some children are easier to raise than others. My writing, like my first child, has wild mood swings. It’s like riding a roller coaster, one moment were up, up, up, dizzy with exhilaration, and the next were down, down, down, hating each other and sure we will never write another word again. But painting, like my second child, couldn’t be easier to live with, and there’s never been a cross word between us. She’s always ready to play when I am, and she keeps me delighted for hours.

Painting gives me more pure pleasure than writing. There’s pleasure in looking for a new project and in planning it. Pleasure in the process of painting and in the finished product. Pleasure hanging it, and every time I enter the room to view it anew.

There’s pleasure in writing too, especially in those first few hours, or days, or weeks, when the writing is hot and flowing out of me like I’m taking diction from some inspired muse. There’s even pleasure in the revision process where I’m weeding out what is extraneous and trying to make it as lean and luscious as possible. There’s pleasure in reading what I’ve written when it goes well, when I’m in the right mood, when I’m feeling confident or inspired.

Those are the peak moments. But in between all this pleasure are deep, deep lows. The sense of futility and frustration and despair can seem overwhelming. And then there are the long droughts when nothing inspires me. And the long, cold slogs when nothing is going well. And the times when I cannot force myself to sit down and try again, to keep it going. When I’d rather clean the toilet or go to the dentist or pull out my own teeth with pliers than sit down and write.

With painting, I never have to force myself to start or finish a project. If anything, I have to force myself to leave it be so I can do the laundry or prepare dinner. It’s not that I absolutely love everything I paint. But at the end of the day, it’s deemed good enough. And I feel my time was well spent. Sometimes I’m thrilled with the results and hang them on the wall. Other times I’m mildly pleased and lean them against some bookcase or pin them on bulletin board. Either way they keep me company. They suffice.

But writing, when I’m finished, disappears from sight. I might get pleasure re-reading it from time to time, but mostly I don’t bother. The few pieces that get published seem to go into a dark vault and are forgotten. Worse are the pieces that were much-loved but remain unread, unpublished. Instead of pleasure is a sense of loss and regret, of unrequited love, of stillborn life.

Given all that, you might wonder why I bother to write at all. Why not give it up for painting?

Because I can’t imaging life without writing. In some ways, for me, it’s like breathing. It seems a natural, intrinsic part of me. I can’t live without it, as difficult as it might be. I’m writing in my head all the time. Thinking and writing gets all rolled up together. Writing–putting thoughts on paper–takes me to a deeper place, and sometimes I don’t know what I think until I write it. It’s like the act of writing pulls up astonishing things from my unconscious and twirls them before my eyes so I can see what I’ve never seen before and be amazed. How could I give up something like that?

Writing this blog gives me pleasure and is a great outlet for my need to write. And your “likes” and comments help to sustain that pleasure, make it seem worthwhile. I don’t feel like the writing has dropped into a black hole or disappeared into cyberspace. I don’t feel I’m engaged in a futile exercise.

But my novel. My poor, poor novel. Unless I return to it, it will remain stillborn. And that I can’t bear. Pleasure or no, I must do it justice and publish it myself if nothing else. But all that takes time. Days, weeks, months of dedicated painstaking work. And I’ve become bewitched by painting. I can hardly stand to be away from her for a minute, let alone days, weeks, months.

So if you were me, what would you choose? Pure pleasure, or high anxiety and uncertain results? The answer seems obvious.

And yet, and yet, in the still of night my novel still calls to me.  In soft, wistful whispers.

Still Playing – Still Life and Florals

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I’m still “studying the masters” and playing with style. Most recently with two contemporary artists.

The first is a floral inspired by a David Peikon painting of pink dahlias. I love the way his flowers and surrounding garden fill the whole space, a riot of colors, lines and shapes. I found I enjoyed painting that tangle of leaves of the left as much as, or more so, than the flowers in the center. I didn’t try to copy his leaves but created my own, each shape leading to the next and the next, making it up as I went along. The same with the garden on the right. I tried to keep this side lighter, hinting at what was there and using less detail. I’m happy enough with this to want to frame and display.

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I’ve discovered that I like painting detail in a complex design, that I can get lost in it. I’ve also found that I like vibrant colors that fill the whole paper leaving little white space.

That’s probably why Shirley Trevena’s work and her book Taking Risks with Water Color caught my eye. In her book she details how she painted “Pink Pears Red Flowers.” I tried to follow along but kept getting ahead myself. I didn’t want to copy hers, but use some of her techniques and basic design, simplified somewhat, as seen below.

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I liked how she started with the rich, red blossoms on the blank white paper and worked outward, filling up the space, placing objects and background patterns, often from her imagination rather than what’s actually before her.

I used some of her techniques to create my first still life drawn from objects collected around my home: an African violet and orchid in bloom, two oranges in an antique bowl, a clay figurine, and a crocheted doily. I wanted the cobalt blue to be the unifying color, and a mix of warmer hues of yellow, gold, orange, and sienna as the complement.

 

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When I finished painting the main objects, I created the surrounding background from my imagination, inspired by the way Trevena breaks up her still life,s with bands of color and patterns.Thus the coral background and strip at the top left and the purple/yellow combo on the right.

While some parts of the painting I like more than others, altogether I’m pleased with my first still life drawn from real life, from things that I love.

Studying the Masters, Playing with Style

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Not long after I finished those first three watercolors paintings I shared last week, I was inspired to try to capture something of the style and subject matter of some of my favorite artists.

I fell in love with the paintings of Odilon Redon and especially his paintings of boats. It’s not surprising, given my own love affair with the sea and boats and sailing. There was something so iconic about his images. His seas capturing the deep unconscious, his amazing skies, and the boats themselves, so graceful and buoyant, evocative of vast journeys into the subconscious, the unknown. I had to try my hand at that.

I created studies of two pieces, the one above in the header, and the one below. They aren’t copies. The colors are different, the composition. But if you know Redon’s work, you definitely know who inspired these.

The drawings themselves were simple, the people harder, but capturing some of his techniques, done in oil, with watercolor was a challenge, and the part I actually enjoyed the most. I wanted my paintings to have the richness of oils, to have that “primitive” look, and to look “old.” The blue sail one was my first and easier to paint for some reason. Here’s the original I painted.dscn2101

I ended up toning down some of the gold at the bottom and the colorful reflections at the right in the final version. Now I’m not sure I should have done so.

The gold one was more of a challenge. It’s a study of his painting called “The Yellow Sail, Final Journey, Guardians of the Soul”. I love that title! It was challenging capturing the “souls” in the boat and those little bits of light floating away (the souls moving heavenward?) which I translated into butterflies (he paints lots of butterflies in his works). And that sea. I wanted blue/green, rather than his gold, but getting the right color, and getting a reflection of the sunset in the water, that was difficult. I reworked it too much in some places, but I think that added to the “primitive, old” look.

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I think I’ve succeeded to some degree  in what I wanted to do. Enough to want to frame these and put on my wall in more prominent places, our foyer. They just got back from the framers. But they looked a little lost in the bigger frames I’d ordered and wide matting, so I trimmed it down and put them into smaller frames. Here they are lined up on the couch. We’ll hang them on the wall later today.

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I was especially pleased that my husband liked these as much as I do, even more than my paintings of our tropical travels. He likes the other study I did below as much. No, even more so. It is in our bedroom over a dresser where we see it each morning when we wake. I’m so lucky to have a husband who has the same taste in art and who loves my work (or me, least) enough to want to show it off.

The following is a study of the work by a contemporary artist, Holly Irwin. I used one of her paintings in the header for my post “Able to Be the Mother of the World.”

I love the way her images, mostly women and girls, seem to appear out of thin air, or melt into it. That sense of oneness with one’s surroundings really speaks to me. Then of course the iconic image of Madonna and Child, mother and infant, is so heady with the evocation of unconditional love and acceptance, of nurturing and birth and creation, of life itself, that it’s hard for me to resist wanting to capture some of that.

And I think I did. At least enough to want to wake to it each morning. What do you think?

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Dare I Share? Paintings in Progress

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Family and friends have been asking me to show them some of the watercolors I’ve been working on, so I posted a few on Facebook the other day.

I thought when I first started that my painting would be “just for me” and not shared with the world at large. But it’s hard to keep things you love, that bring so much joy, to ourselves, it seems. And I’m curious to know what others think.

I’m averaging one watercolor a week, and so far, all have been deemed “wall-worthy,” unlike the pastel paintings I worked on last year. My walls are filling up fast. A year from now, will there be any wall space left to fill?

I’m reminded of an immensely talented but public-shy artist friend. She’s been painting for 13 years, but rarely shows her work and does not display for sale. “What do you do with all your paintings?” I asked her one day after class, which she attends for the camaraderie, since she needs no instruction at this point. “Your house must be full!”

“Oh, yes,” was her nonplussed reply. “My house, and my garage, and a storage shed to boot. I trade them in and out of the house to mix things up a bit and give each a chance to shine.”

What a shame, I think. So much talent and beauty hidden from public view. Then I wonder what I’ll do when my own walls are full. How soon will I need a storage shed?

What a think to worry about! Especially when I’m having so much fun, and when there’s still so much I want to paint. I have at least a dozen paintings in my head that I want to get on paper. And there’s more inspiration every time I go to my Pinterest boards and view all the amazing artwork I’ve collected there.

Which brings me back to this blog. Perhaps I will start sharing some of my work here, despite what I wrote in a previous blog post about my painting being “just for me.” I’ll start by sharing my first three watercolors, which already have a place of prominence on a bathroom wall. They were inspired by photographs taken when we were sailing on La Gitana. I’m planning a whole series of tropical paintings–seascapes, boatscapes, landscapes, all from our travels.

Lately though I’ve become sidetracked from the sea to try my hand at some more impressionistic or symbolic paintings, as well as some florals and still lifes. I’m still experimenting with style, you see. While I admire realistic, representational painting, and I think it’s so important to be able to do this kind of painting well, I find myself drawn to a looser, more imaginative style that captures the essence of things with all its attending emotions and conotations. Like the paintings from artists I’ve featured on this blog.

Of course, representational painting in the hands of talented and inspired artists can do the same thing. But I’m not there yet. And these first three paintings I’m posting aren’t there yet either. But they capture enough that I’m pleased with. Enough to inspire me to keep practicing, keep painting.

They don’t capture that “something more” I’ve been writing about in one of my last posts on art, the form and the formless. But each hint at it. Something in the shimmer of the sea with the rocks half-hidden beneath. In that white-sand serenity of a turquoise sea. Something deep and dark in the dream-like beauty of those mountains rising out of the mist during our first tropical landfall in the Marquesas islands after thirty days at sea.

They hint at, but do not quite capture what I was after. Yet viewing them with the mind’s eye I can still go there and feel it. And that to me is what art is all about.

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Snorkeling in the Bay Islands, Honduras. Watercolor by Deborah J. Brasket, 2016

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Anchored in the Isle of Pines, New Caledonia. Watercolor by Deborah J. Brasket, 2016

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Landfall at Nuka Hiva, the Marquesas Islands. Watercolor by Deborah J. Brasket, 2016

 

“Able to Be the Mother of the World”

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Madonna and Child by Holly Irwin

These words from the Tao Te Ching are my mantra. They inspire me to identify with and live larger than what I appear to be individually. I turn to this felt-sense of self when I want to have a clearer, purer, more expansive sense of who I am at heart, when all that’s extraneous is removed.

The words refer to the Tao, that which is all-pervading, all-embracing, unchanging and unceasing. But I take them in a more personal way, as something to aspire toward–as a mother, a writer, a homemaker, artist, citizen. The world has much need of our mothering.

Each part of the mantra inspires me.

“Able to be” speaks to the capacity, the potentiality, of all humans, male or female, to aspire to something more, something beyond our current understanding of who we are or can be. “Something more”–that intangible, mysterious Other we yearn toward.

“Mother” is the symbol of all things round and fertile, life-giving and nurturing. Unconditional love and acceptance. The ground or source of being. The creator.It refers to inscrutable urge to turn ourselves inside out, to bring that which we love into fruition.

“World” refers to the entirety of creation, the universe and all that lies within. But it also refers to all that is yet to be. All those intangible, interior unwritten landscapes.   It refers to that hidden nebulous thing within which longs to be brought into full, vibrant, elegant being.

The mantra leans toward the female but the male is not excluded (note how the words  male and man are included within the words female and woman).It’s impetus is the male and female in blissful, rapturous union. The male rooted within the female, the female pierced by the male, the two wrapped together, one being. No “mother,” no “creator,” emerges without this union. No creation, no art, no worldly domain. No new life or exterior being.

There’s a sense of fullness here, within the mantra. A sense of  completion, satisfaction, fulfillment. A sense of power and presence. Powerful presence. There’s nothing static or final about it, despite the fullness, the sense of completion. It doubles back to the “able to be” part:  Capacity. Potentiality. Ever fertile. Ever reaching toward the intangible, the unknown, to bring it into being. Ever reaching toward that “something more” waiting to be born.

When I meditate on this mantra and feel its full potential within, feel myself as some reflection or expression of that woman “able to be the mother of the world,” I know I’ve come home. Home within myself, and within this world that embraces me.

A Poet & an Artist on Making the Unknown Known

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Photo by PhotoCosma

I came across two quotations about the creative process recently and found such striking similarities I had to explore them further. The first is by the poet Mary Oliver, and the second by the artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Both are attempting to articulate how they create, how they make the unknown known. Both make reference–one obliquely, the other explicitly–to the need of stepping over “the edge” into something vague and nearly inarticulate: “formlessness” for one, the “unknown” for the other.

Where does the “extraordinary” that precipitates the creative act take place, Mary Oliver asks:

No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications. Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen. It likes the out-of-doors. It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts, or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. Its concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.

From “Of Power and Time,”  Upstream: Selected Essays (public library).

How do we create something out of nothing, O’Keeffe asks:

I feel that a real living form is the result of the individual’s effort to create the living thing out of the adventure of his spirit into the unknown—where it has experienced something—felt something—it has not understood—and from that experience comes the desire to make the unknown—known. By unknown—I mean the thing that means so much to the person that wants to put it down—clarify something he feels but does not clearly understand—sometimes he partially knows why—sometimes he doesn’t—sometimes it is all working in the dark—but a working that must be done—Making the unknown—known—in terms of one’s medium is all-absorbing—if you stop to think of the form—as form you are lost—The artist’s form must be inevitable—You mustn’t even think you won’t succeed—Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant—there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing—and keeping the unknown always beyond you—catching crystallizing your simpler clearer version of life—only to see it turn stale compared to what you vaguely feel ahead—that you must always keep working to grasp—the form must take care of its self if you can keep your vision clear.

From Georgia O’Keeffe: Art and Letters (public library)

Both speak of the need to step over the edge of the known into the unknown to create.

For O’Keeffe, the idea is to keep reaching for the thing just beyond one’s grasp, something felt, but not understood. That’s how you make the unknown known. How you create form out of formlessness.

For Oliver, one’s concern must be always directed toward the edge, toward bringing out the form from the formlessness beyond the edge.

That need to be always living at the edge of things, and being willing to step over the edge, is what really interests me, and has been a motif in my writing, my urge to create, for a long time. This blog, “Living on the Edge of the Wild,” was an attempt to explore this vague and mysterious something lying just out of sight, just beyond our fingertips: The Wild. The Unconscious. The Unknown.

God, perhaps, if God is that vast unknowable spirit from which all things are newly sprung.

It’s the urge to push consciousness over the edge, beyond the ordinary perception or understanding of things as they seem to be, to discover what else lies out there just beyond our grasp.

It comes like a tickle in the back of the mind–an inkling of something exciting, extraordinary, brand new. and undiscovered, just out of reach. The conscious mind cannot make the leap into the great unknown. It’s too slow and cumbersome, too full of itself and its preconceptions. Too fearful of what’s not itself. But we sense that something else can. Some deeper part of ourselves that we rarely tap into can make that leap, if we are willing to risk letting go and allow it. It’s like flying from one trapeze to another. We have to be willing to let go of what we so desperately cling to, to leap out into empty air with nothing to support us, and trust the thing we are reaching for will be there. Without that risk-taking and that trust, nothing extraordinary happens.

The thing that tickles our mind, that intrigues and arouses us, that we want to grasp, seems vague at first, formless. Like a tree hidden in the mist, we catch odd glimpses of a form we cannot recognize at first. But as we pursue our art, our painting or our poem, it becomes clearer, almost as if we are reclaiming it from the mist that has obscured it. As if it already existed perfectly formed, and we are simply the tool used to reveal it, or, at least, reveal some small aspect of what we originally glimpsed.

What we bring forth may not be perfect, may not be the thing-in-itself, but merely hint at it. And that’s enough. To have touched, to whatever degree, that which intrigues us; to have given some slight form to that vague reality which tickled the mind, which once had lain unperceived among the formless, is enough to sate us, to satisfy the creative urge. At least for a while.

For having once tapped into that deeper part of ourselves, having once stepped over the edge and touched the form within the formless, we spark anew, again and again, the urge to create. To risk letting go and trust the empty air before us will bring to our fingertips the very thing we hoped to grasp.

[A review of O’Keeffe’s letters and Oliver’s essays can be found at Brainpickings.org, where I found the original quotations. You might also enjoy “Endless Emerging Forms – Photos of Fog and Mist,” a blog post I wrote with a similar theme]

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Love, Power, and Economic Justice

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Image result for images martin luther king jrCelebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King days before Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the Unites States could not seem more incongruous, nor be more timely. And needed.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, he had begun to turn his attention away from the civil rights movement to what he considered to be an even more compelling problem: economic injustice.

“For we know now that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?”

He had discovered that the major divisive force in America was not color, but class. The rich and powerful, whether black or white, shared the same interest in keeping the races segregated, exploiting the poor and powerless, and maintaining the status quo.

He believed the unequal distribution of wealth was tearing America apart and threatening to make it a two-class society.  He wanted to help build the kind of America that would not tolerate poverty within its borders, that would not allow one class to exploit another, that would not allow the powerful to abuse the powerless.

He called for “a revolution in values” that placed “democratic principles and justice above privilege.” Fighting for this change would not be easy. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

“We will be greatly misled if we feel that the problem will work itself out. Structures of evil do not crumble by passive waiting,” he warned. “The battering rams of justice” are needed.

Shortly before his death he began organizing for another march on Washington, this time for economic equality. He fought for an “economic bill of rights” that guaranteed full employment and a livable wage, affordable housing and a “massive public works programs (to build) decent housing, schools, hospitals, mass transit, parks and recreation centers.”

“Freed from the smothering prison of poverty, people could chart their own path and fully realize their human potential.”

At King’s death, nearly 50 years ago, the minimum wage in today’s dollars would be $9.54. Now it is only $7.25. That’s a loss of nearly three dollars per hour for today’s workers.

The gap between the rich and the poor is far greater now than it was then. The two-class society King feared and warned us against is already here. And people in the mostly white rust belt who had been suffering steep economic decline because of jobs being shipped overseas, decided they had had enough. Decided that career politicians had failed them. Decided that what they needed was a “strong man” to save them.

Why do the hard work of organizing, of mobilizing workers to strike and march, of flooding into the offices of their congress to demand change, of creating white papers on policy-change and registering voters? Why do that when they had a demagogue who promised, “I will fix it, I will bring jobs back, I alone will do this.”

They trusted him to do hard work for them. A man who said the minimum wage was already too high. Who did not support tuition-free colleges. Who’s idea of stirring the economy was to give even more tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent. And whose “jobs bill” appears to be giving even more subsidies (corporate welfare) to big business to “fix” our broken infrastructure. It’s just another form of “trickle-down,” voodoo economics.

The few jobs Trump has saved so far by giving kickbacks to corporations to keep their factories in the US is a small pittance in comparison to the number of jobs President Obama saved in his stimulus packet and in the auto industry bail-out at the beginning of his term.

But so far these Trump supporters seem pleased. And well they should. What they want is THEIR jobs back. And they believe that Trump will keep trying to do that.

Unfortunately, Trump isn’t interested in economic equality across the board. He isn’t interested in tearing apart the political policies and economic structures that create and sustain a two-class society, that allows the rich to grow richer and the poor poorer as one class exploits another. Economic justice isn’t on his radar or even part of his vocabulary.

And for many Trump supporters that’s just fine.

But the rest of us, hopefully we are waking up. A divided America cannot stand. Economic just across the board is sorely needed, in all corners of our nation. In the rural outback and inner cities, the factories and fast food kitchens. It’s needed for home care workers and preschool teachers, for farm workers and grocery clerks, for all who work full-time jobs for half-time wages, for all who see good jobs disappear without the training programs to support those who lose them.

What we need, as King said, is “a revolution in values” that places “democratic principles and justice above privilege.”

We need an economic system based on love. That’s what transforms the heart and mind and motivates real lasting change.

King said: “Power without love is reckless and abusive. Love without power is sentimental and anemic.  Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against justice . . . It is the collusion of immoral power with powerless immorality that constitutes the major crisis of our times.”

That kind of love and economic equality lifts all boats, for, as King said, we are all “interrelated.”

“The agony of the poor impoverishes the rich. The betterment of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one affects all indirectly.”

This is Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy to us, and his challenge: To end poverty and economic injustice by wedding power with love.

He writes:

“In the final analysis, love is not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual.

When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems.

Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.”

In the age of Trump, this kind of love is needed more than ever.

 

 

O Holy Night, Ablaze in Light

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“Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.”

The single-most, salient symbol of Christmas, for me, is a shining star in the night sky.

It’s what wakened the shepherds and fell them to their knees, what mesmerized the Magi and led them across a wild desert with precious gifts in hand. It’s what shone above a humble dwelling, revealing a holy trinity–mother, father, child. It’s what revealed the Christ, a promise of hope, salvation, peace on earth, and goodwill toward all.

It’s what leads us each year away from our mundane, daily lives to a world full of wonder, magic, and mystery. It’s what drops us to our knees in recognition of the vastness and beauty of the universe, and our own humble and radiant place within it.

For me Christmas will forever be wrapped in the silence of a starry night, the background against which the beautiful pageantry and rituals and traditions of Christmas unfold.

All unite in igniting that sense of awe and wonder and delight, of humility and holiness:

The Christmas tree all aglow in the dark, pointing upward to the heavens.

The magical whimsy of that great gifter, Santa, driving his sleigh across a night full of stars.

The children tucked in their beds as their fondest wishes magically descend in the night to await the first light.

Whole streets full of houses ablaze in the night, inviting the gasps of wonder and delight in the young at heart.

Candles shining in a still, dark church as voices unite and rise in songs of joy and adoration.

All are mere reflections and whimsical mimicry of that first night of wonder so long ago. It’s what brought us, and still brings us, to our knees when we realize all that childlike wonder and delight, humility and awe, generosity and love and innocence, lies deeply embedded in each one of us.

It signifies a promise of hope, salvation, and wholeness. Of identity with out own Christ-like nature, our own unity with the divine.

We are that shining star in a dark night.

We are those humble shepherds and adoring Magi.

We are that infant cradled in the holy Trinity.

We are that promise of hope and salvation and holiness.

Christmas is the Christ, and a bright star in a dark night is what leads us to him, to our own humble rebirth full of awe and wonder: the recognition of the Christ in each of us.

May the peace and power and glory of the Christ be with you all this Christmas.

Public Domain 507px-Stella_-_The_Adoration_of_the_Shepherds_-_Walters_371045

Walters, “The Adoration of the Shepherds”

 

Wikipedia Commons 398px-Christmas_throughout_Christendom_-_The_Christmas-tree

From “Christmas throughout Christendom – The Christmas Tree”

 

Painting, a New Passion

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800px-wlanl_-_jankie_-_zelfportret_als_schilder_detail_vincent_van_gogh_1888

Detail from painting by Van Gogh

Writing has always been the primary passion in my life, the thing I love most to do and identify with. I began blogging as a way to share my writing and the things I’m inspired to write about. Art has been one of those inspirations, particularly the paintings I fall in love with.

In one post I compared writing with painting: “Images and ideas are the paint, words the loaded brush, and sentences our brushstrokes. The mind and imagination of both writer and reader is the blank canvas.”

Writers paint portraits of our characters in the minds of readers and place them in dramatic scenes.  We use lighting and color to evoke mood and atmosphere, and prop “still lifes” about them, revealing tiny details that suggest associations and symbols and themes.

The idea of painting has always intrigued me and I longed to try my hand at it one day. That desire became particularly loud when I was sick to death of words. Yes, even writers weary of words. Then the idea of painting, working with pure pigment and brush strokes on a blank page instead of words, words, words–so fraught with meaning–seemed utterly refreshing.

Writing with no words–that’s what my soul sought.

Watercolor drew my interest. I loved the lightness, the fluidity, the transparency of the medium. But when I was finally ready to paint, the only class I could find was in pastel. So I began playing with pastel about a year ago. While a few paintings were successful and deemed wall-worthy, more often I felt frustrated by my efforts.

Finally a class in watercolor opened up and I feel now I’ve found my medium. Nearly everything I’ve painted so far gives me pleasure. Finally my walls are beginning to feel the presence of my new passion.

I’ve found with painting the kind of satisfaction I’ve rarely found in writing. I always wanted my writing to find a place in the world. I wrote for myself, but also for something beyond me. I wanted my writing wedded to a world apart. Few pieces have found that bliss, and even those that have I still view with misgivings as I wrote about in one post.

But painting doesn’t feel that way. It’s a child that never has to find a place outside my own home. I paint for the pleasure of the process, and also the pleasure I feel from the finished product. It’s something I can enjoy that needs no outward approval.

Much of my writing remains an unwedded bride, an unsung song, a bright promise languishing in a dark corner.

But my painting is a child who needs no one but me to love and enjoy her to feel fulfilled.

It’s a rare blessing.