I have been musing about the appropriateness of taking time to see, notice and paint beauty during such tumultuous times of this virus, black lives matter demonstrations, economic uncertainty and the urgent attention needed regarding climate change. My sense is that there is a greater need than ever for the remembering and noticing of what is beautiful in an ordinary day. There is a greater need because it is in this noticing that we find our resilience for the long haul ahead of loss and hurt and the unraveling of life as we have known it. These combinations of changes are not for the next few months, not even just for the next couple of years but for likely the next couple of hundred years or longer. Our ability to find and keep our individual and collective humanity intact will require these moments of pause and remembering and noticing the bloom of a flower, the owl in the night calling across a valley, the changing colours of the sea and the curve of a tree as it reaches for the sunlight. This is not burying one’s head in the sand so as not to notice. This is a reminder of why it is so important to be present and do whatever we need to do for a better world. These are not just pretty paintings or escapism. They are the very foundation of our endurance… at least for some of us.
This is my offer: If you are struggling, angry and doubtful about our abilities as humankind, give seeking beauty in an ordinary moment a try. See if it doesn’t possibly remind you of what is good, what is possible, a moment of kindness, a moment that breaks away from the hurtful and the unforgivable. Try it for just even a few minutes… then continue on being the change you wish see, with gratitude for being alive and having the opportunity.
I am including “Amber’s Peonies” below to provide an immediate opportunity to take me up on this offer. You see, I don’t notice just these peonies. I see Amber’s soft smile and strong gaze as her eyes hold mine with confidence and clarity. She is due to have a second child this summer and her husband and young daughter are there by her side helping out in the market stand. She is getting them ready to take on a bigger role as this young family provides essential fresh food needs for island residents… and yes, beauty in the flowers that she has arranged between the long hours of growing, harvesting, bundling and packing produce. I believe their work is one of the many ways forward into a better future. The very least I can do is take a few hours standing at the easel with my brushes to capture their beauty and her efforts to offer sustenance, hope and community.
So here they are so very shiny and wet resting lightly on the linen canvas board….