Some of you may know that I like museums. I like the architecture and discovering new things (actually, REALLY old things most of the time) at the turn of each corner. I particularly like the hand-on ones, but that might become the topic of a later blog. When it comes to art, I’ve always been amazed at the amazingly vast perceptions and expressions poured into an object. Even more, the same work elicits so many different responses – as many as people who look at the same piece.
Don’t ask me what it is exactly what I like in a painting; my likes jump from Vermeer to Monet and Van Gogh. The following three paintings are probably the three I’ve liked the most – at least, the longest:
They are: “La Gare Saint-Lazare,” by Claude Monet, “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher,” by Jan Vermeer and “Starry Night,” by Vincent Van Gogh. They were all painted by very different people, and they all belong to different eras. What is more apparent (at least to me) is that they all have that vibrant cobalt blue that I like so much, so maybe that’s the deal to me. Since I first saw it in an Art book, I’ve had this little dream of visiting Paris and taking a cup of coffee in that particular train station. I also thought that, although beautiful, that blue velvet must be awful to wear in a hot, summer day – but gorgeous anyway. I even have a stamp that I saw when we visited a mall in Chula Vista when I was 18 years old; I got it the day I discovered an itty bitty store called Michael’s, and mom was having a hard time getting me out of there to visit the other stores around. She actually left me there and came back about two hours later, and I was still not done, hehe. Back to the paintings, I like blue. I can picture the wind in all of them, although I am biased by the sound it makes when playing with the cypresses….
(By the way, I found all the paintings I’m including in this post by googling them – yep, that new verb in the popular dictionary, “google.” Imagine – I google, you google, he googles, hehehe… Anyway, I don’t own any rights to the pictures I refer to and believe I am including them here without infringing any copyright law, as they all are of public domain.)
To my mom’s dismay, when we had the opportunity to be in Manhattan, I didn’t let go of the opportunity of seeing as much art as possible with my own eyes; I convinced mom to go with me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, just with the promise to see the Tiffany’s vitrals and jewelery, and find a place to sit somewhere. I couldn’t wait to see “the real thing.” Before that, I would get puzzles, post cards or little prints of whatever piece I enjoyed. After taking the guided tour with a lovely volunteer lady that was retiring (that tour was her last one), I just had to go to the Impressionist wing. I thought that Van Gogh only painted sunflowers, but it turns out that he also liked lilies. Mom actually liked his shoes; the painting is called “A Pair of old Shoes.” I honestly thought that I liked Monet, but after that visit, something changed. I still like some of his work, but it’s just not quite the same. And just to emphasize that we generally picture things different than they actually are, I saw the “Starry Night” some other day in the MoMA, way smaller than I thought it would be and never able to enjoy it a-plenty thanks to a huge crowd with cameras a-ready that kept pushing me away. (Mental note: Make good use of the internet and pay a virtual visit).
That day, in between all that excitement, walking and touring, I got a lifetime lesson. Today has reminded me of that in a special way. Let me share that experience with you. Have you ever seen any picture of a painting in an art book, and then seen the original, only to discover that your expectations weren't quite close to reality?
I never thought much of the Cypresses, any of them, but this one was breathtaking:
|A Wheat Field with Cypresses, by Vincent Van Gogh.|
Anyway, after drooling in front of Van Gogh’s cypresses for something about an hour, pretending not to see my mom plopped on the nearest seat, yawning and loving me in her quiet way, I decided that I’d better convince my feet to move away, just to glimpse at the Monets, Manets, Cezannes and real life paintings that had been just a picture in a book for me until then. So, I walked away from my drooling spot and caught a glimpse of a dark room right opposite to the “Wheat Field with Cypresses.” I thought that whatever was in there must be either really, really old, or really grand to get its own dark room; as curious as I am, I could not walk away and not know what was in there.
I walked towards the entrance, and it was until I saw a guard looking at me, chuckling a bit, that I realized my mouth was open. Those (previously) “boring” ballerina paintings did the trick… Yes, I'm talking about these two paintings:
|Dancers practicing at the Barre, by Edgar Degas|
Also, I’ve always thought that painting fabric is one of the most painstaking things in art (I won’t even tell you about my experiments… dreadful!), but the transparency and movement of the tutu were depicted in such a manner that my mind was speechless. And the limpness of those dancers… It was almost as if I was in that room, hearing them huff and puff after hoping and twirling for a while. They probably needed a good stretching session and a hot bath just to calm the cramps down. I won’t even mention the smell and the sweat… However, each time I came across these ballet dancer paintings before, I would say the same – boring. Almost monochromatic, dark, typical ballerina’s pose. Nothing like the gorgeous colors and movement in Van Gogh’s nights. And the faces! Poor girls! I always thought they shouldn’t keep their hopes up for a beau… Yep, that’s how much a direct witness changed my perception. I won’t even try to find words to convey the difference in thought; I’ll let the picture with my mouth wide open and the guard chuckling do the job.
Degas is still not my favorite artist, the dancers are not my favorite paintings, and I will never buy a print or put together a puzzle or get a post card that has “the ballerina” in it. Well, now that I’m typing it, I think I could change my mind one day, and use it as background in my desktop, at least for a day… who knows!
This brings me to what I‘ve said and heard from others in so many occasions: “I’ve read this many times, but seeing it never parallels the actual experience.” Now, feel free to substitute “read” with seen, heard or whatever other sensory verb you want – the idea is that you get the idea. Life on the Hilltop is full of these moments – leaves changing colors, the sound of my steps crunching snow, flowers opening with the first sign of warmer times, wheat being heavier than tares, horses greeting Gene when he feeds them and even heat lost through old windows. Hey! REAL stars at night!!!
But this post was about a life-time lesson, right? So, let’s get back to it! This morning, I was reading from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotional. The following is an extract:
“You shall receive the grace you so much require, and you shall have it to the utmost reach of your needs. Water refreshes the thirsty: you shall be refreshed; your desires shall be gratified. Water quickens sleeping vegetable life: your life shall be quickened by fresh grace. Water swells the buds and makes the fruits ripen; you shall have fructifying grace: you shall be made fruitful in the ways of God. Whatever good quality there is in divine grace, you shall enjoy it to the full. All the riches of divine grace you shall receive in plenty; you shall be as it were drenched with it: and as sometimes the meadows become flooded by the bursting rivers, and the fields are turned into pools, so shall you be-the thirsty land shall be springs of water.”
God gives us water when we are thirsty. He promised it, he does it every day and he will always do.
And just like that day in the Met, he has given me the joy of seeing his hand in every single little thing around me. Right before starting my devotional time, I took a glimpse of what I was able to “save” of my herb garden before the temperature dropped even more.
I thought this poor guy was gone, but I am surprised to see new sprouts every day, even in the driest of limbs.
Another one that I thought gone… Can you see the little green starting to come out?
Even the mint, which tends to grow like crazy was having issues… Look! There are little green leaves all over!
Don’t even think that it might be the result of my (practically unexisting) gardening skills. It’s just what’s happening about two weeks after I took them inside and watered them. I don’t mean I didn’t water them at all when they were outside, but that’s not the point either. Maybe it’s just the fact that they’re inside and I see them each time I walk next to them. Maybe I’m just starting to notice, but I am able to see the wonderful reality that God sets in motion every time those little plants have water.
Moreover, it doesn’t matter how much I read about gardening, I’m SEEING IT HAPPEN. And it’s when I thank God for the comfort of assuring me that, even if I go through the toughest of weathers, he will give me living water when I’m thirsty. The magnificent work of God has no comparison to those grand master pieces in the Met!!! (Drooling included… lol). That will never be constrained in mere words.
Reading about what God does is good, but developing a relationship with Him in my daily life “just ain’t like in the book.”