I am clearing out and rearranging my studio this week, so I have not been painting. But I did uncover this little gem that holds tremendous meaning for me, even 36 years after I painted it.
I was in 8th grade, Mr. John's art class, and we were supposed to paint a watercolor landscape. I painted the hill, sky and fields with trees, but wasn't happy with it and was ready to start something new. I took it up to his desk, where he was, as usual, working on a watercolor of his own.
He called me by his nickname for me, "Grinnin", and told me to look for what I saw in my landscape. I said I wanted a little farmhouse but messed up the shape of the building. He proceeded to paint a small rectangular bar of red and a couple of dark brown squares for windows. I'll never forget how that red roof brought the entire thing to life. Suddenly, out of watery shapes, a painting emerged. It was there all the time, it just took his guidance for me to see it. Like magic, something new out of what I had essentially given up on.
Fast forward to the past month when I realized my painting space was converging on me like I was in the center of some very creative, unfocused, bird's nest. Which is actually kind of snug and sheltered feeling to me, so I can let it go for longer than I should. Fortunately, fate intervened and after watching an episode of "Hoarders" last week, I decided it was probably time to act, before the crew and cameras showed up.
My studio has been a holding place for my indecision. Last year I moved my parents out of their home into assisted living and in doing so, absorbed a lot of their "stuff". How do you go through a house full of sentimental things and make definitive decisions? If you're like me, you do it overwhelmed and poorly, then give your brother a carful of stuff he could probably live without.
Holding on to material remnants of a life that don't serve anyone any longer simply clouds one's vision and stagnates creativity. To truly honor my parents, I am discovering, I have to let go of the material and move forward in order to carry their true gift- a lifetime of love, beauty, and experience- with me into the future. .
So I started the difficult process of cleaning this week and during a break I went for a walk, clearing my head and talking to God. And the words -I never know chapter and verse, but I usually know a sentence or two- "See, I am doing a new thing" kept coming to my mind. I went home and looked it up and the verse is "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19.
I am so thankful that God does a new thing in all of our lives, every day, throughout the world, even at the cellular level. He does a new thing so that we can have hope, healing and courage as we continue opening ourselves to the possibility of a new day. It was exactly what I needed at precisely the right time.
When I came across my old painting , I thought about how Mr. John put a little magic into my painting and my life that day, allowing me to see previously hidden possibilities and find joy and life in something I had deemed unworthy. His ability to see potential in a dorky middle school kid's painting in 1984, has been carried into the the year 2020. Who can know the potential of seeing a situation, a person, or a problem you had given up on from a new perspective? The possibilities of a tweak in thinking have the ability to change our future.
I am remembering Mr. John's lesson and Isaiah 43:19 as I let go of the "stuff" that stagnates new possibility, and renew my studio space to give new life to my creative journey. As well as a way to live each day , looking for the potential for beauty, integrity and possibility in places, spaces, and relationships we have given up on.
So, in Mr. John's words, today; "What do you see"?