When I was a child, we would test ourselves at the neighborhood swimming pool. Holding our breaths, we would submerge our bodies with our eyes open. The first one of us to give out of air burst up through the surface of the shallow end of the pool. The few of us remaining below paid no attention to the giant whale crashing a few inches away. We were in another world and our friend was in another ocean.
The agony of holding our breath was only outweighed by the ignominy of losing this contest of wills. I would hyperventilate before going under to extra oxygenate my blood those of us who led active, outdoor lives had an advantage over the “greenhouse lilies,” as my mother so quaintly referred to my less active, housebound friends.
In the art studio, as in life, there are moments of tension in which people can’t decide whether to keep holding their breath or burst out of the water with a mighty crash. Holding involves tensions and distress, but letting go means giving up. Most of us want to win easy and have losing be inconsequential. This is another world and a different ocean
I’ve been restless over the summer because my family has lost contact with my adult daughter who lives on the street in San Francisco. Mental illness is a part of many lives, so much so that the only way to explain families like ours is another world and a different ocean I live in one world and my daughter swims in a different ocean of her illness. Yet her life’s crashing and thrashing tides still affect my world.
Once I have done what I can to remedy the situation, all I can do is wait. It’s good I learned to breathe deeply, to hold my breath and wait, for giant whales of crashing emotions fall from day to day. I couldn’t settle down to paint calmly, so I took a layout app photo of an opal stone as my preliminary sketch, and made an abstract painting from it.
Once I got the basic shapes and colors laid in, I left the photo and worked the painting. As the shapes materialized, I discovered both a landscape and a butterfly within it this was painted at the end of July, which had a blue moon. “Once in a blue moon” means rarely or not often, I don’t know if I’m moving into a new direction with my work or if this is just a one off event. I think I’m being called in a new direction, one of purer color and less structured images.
Perhaps the promise of this text will one day ring true for all of us, whatever world we walk upon and wherever we swim in an ocean:
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.” (Isaiah 25:6)