"Still I'll rise"
This painting was born of so many scattered, random, pent up emotions after the quarantine of 2020. My parents are elderly, and like everyone, I have friends and family who are vulnerable to the virus.
I believe in times like these we are meant to draw closer to God, to find new understanding in the world around us. For me, this has meant a lot of prayer, but not only the prayer where I ask for protection for my family and friends and guidance, but the kind where I try to also listen. This is harder than it would seem.
I have found walking helps with this kind of prayer, and one day as I was out taking photos of sycamore trees for reference photos, I came across an old convent with a labyrinth on the grounds. It was a quiet spring morning and no one was there, so I decided to see what it was about. The directions said to enter after taking a deep breath, ring the chimes, and follow the path, as you are walking, you can pray. When you get to the center there is a tree where you can kneel and pray. On the way out, you simply quiet yourself and try to hear what God is saying to you. It is a wonderful, cleansing, beautiful way to become quiet enough to pray and be present.
What does this all have to do with my portrait painting? I had been unable to focus my haywire energy and anxieties enough to paint. After that morning at the labrynth, I came home and painted her. And I had no idea what I was doing or if it would turn out to be a study for my trash pile, but soon realized I was painting my response to the strange chaos of quarantine- all the focus was there and it was coming through the brush.
And what came through was clear rebellion and fearlessness. The underlying knowledge that fear, worry, distraction and lack of belief have no place in my life as a child of God. That I can be- when I put my trust in him- free of the constant background noise of the media, free of the constant stress and worries about loved ones. I can regain my focus and have confidence in God, when I give it to him. This is in his control, not mine.
It reminded me of the poem "Still I rise" by Maya Angelou. Of the emotion underneath her words- the rebelliousness, the confidence and faith to move forward, and the inability to tamp down the human spirit in any and all circumstances.
Those attributes are what got many generations before us through worse times than this, and it will get us through as well.
It's a long, incredible poem- you should read it, but today, here, I will put down only a few lines
"Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wonderously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
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