Yesterday was a very special day, a tree was planted in memory of our son, Jason Langhorst, right on our boulevard! When I spoke with Steve in the parks department of the city we live in, and asked if this was something they would do he said yes. A Parottia Persica Vanessa now sits front and centre. The tree and all it represents puts me in a wonderful space for painting. The mini masterpiece below was painted in a deep and peaceful space, where my intellect said one thing and my brush said another. You see I’d never drawn or painted an orchid before. After the initial drawing which was very poor, I could have started over, instead I kept working until I found not all was lost and that a trick to success is to never never give up. I like the word – Sisu it is a Finnish word generally meaning determination, bravery, and resilience. …. fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win. As Jason liked to say “fight like hell”.
When I woke up this morning, my first thought was Jason and Mother’s Day; I survived. We invited friend Susan and her husband for brunch. A brunch for bereaved mums, a good time was had by all because it was on the agenda; having a good time was our intention.
To live intentionally or to live with intention could have been my mantra while I parked myself before an empty art trading card with a strong desire to paint. Jumping right in I settled into another field and slipped into the art zone where all time stands still, completely alone with my art and my head. The little bird in the right corner is a symbol of hope. And I am hopeful, of what I do not know but life is a series of opportunities and I plan to be open to many. Finally I am beginning to be glad I am alive.
I’m finding comfort back in the fields again today. Painting the familiar feels like a lovely meditative place where I can forget the pain of my grief, recalling all the things I love in this life and in the life I had when Jason was alive in this world. The brush strokes just came as free and as easy as I could hope for. Doing experiments with pastel colours and again using more of a colour wash than a heavy acrylic is new and exciting. Painting on these tiny cards has necessitated I learn to find a way to use the acrylics that is conducive to small spaces. I love this particular mini masterpiece; something about it makes my heart swell with happiness and love and a yearning to go there, to the place, to that field and make it my home. And I guess it is my home, my comfort zone, the place I love to go to. After all I keep painting in this or another field of my dreams.
When I create little villages it makes me feel at home or that I have a home. No matter where I am if I paint, doodle, sketch a little village I begin to feel soothed. The little village below is no particular place in the world. Just a place in my mind. As I painted it, I wondered if this is the home I seek; am I attempting to create something on paper that is so illusive to me in life. When I practiced Transcendental Meditation back in the 70’s I used a mantra to carry myself into a meditative state. I like to think, my mini masterpieces are, just by by painting the same old familiar scenes of villages or fields, my path to nirvana!
Today when I settled down to paint I knew exactly what would happen when I began. With the knowledge of my own permission given yesterday I was excited and happy to stick with the old and familiar “field of dreams”. And there was a time when farm life appealed to me and I suppose that is why fields are my go to place. I was given some lovely little page marker post its, with birds or bees, dragons flys, a heart or and a key at one end. Clipping off the featured bird I pressed it into the corner of my mini masterpiece turning it into a piece I feel quite at home with. Adding the branch and fruit was a stretch for me but it seems to have worked too. My session with the cards this day was a free flow of pleasure. And as I had imagined, a perfect meditation. All my worries fell away and allowed me to be in the moment, for the moment. All the while I felt the glow of Jason’s presence and my own peacefulness.
My art card for this day began very slowly. My inspiration seemed so absent; I sat down, held pen, stared at the tiny card, willed action. Finally just went to my familiar place of doodled country scene and through experiment ended up using my acrylic paint as a water colour. The tiny space seemed to necessitate thinning out my colours, and I do like the affect, one I will try again. The whole process of creating this mini masterpiece was so familiar, so easy to do and came with such flow I forgave myself for turning to the familiar when in doubt. There is a kind of comfort and pleasure in the known and familiar action, which bodes the question, will I find my way to comfort and pleasure through the unknown. I’ll need to experiment at some point.
As I worked on my mini masterpiece I recalled being with Jason while he was in hospital and colouring in a little note book I bought for the purpose. It was meant for Jason to use and ended up a collaborative effort by both of us, his kids and other family members. Of course I’ve kept the note book as a reminder of last happy times together.
April 28, 2014
Recently someone tried to give me a book on grief suggesting it would help me with the sadness I feel each day as the result of the loss of my son. I was taken aback as it is not a book on grief I need. What I need are books on joy or how to find joy and happiness? The quote below by Lao Tzu was one I had seen many times before without really taking notice. Then for some reason it took hold of me when I read it again about two months ago. The message has been instrumental in helping me manage to live with grief through seeking joy and looking for the good… by living in the moment.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
At the time I had just begun a journey of thirty days of art trading cards or what I like to call mini masterpieces. The art cards are hand decorated, or hand painted cards measuring 2.5″x3.5″, meant for artists to trade with each other. Hence the name “art trading cards”.
My art trading cards are not for trading, they are for 30 days of therapy. The 30 day idea was incepted after I had introduced a friend, with supposedly no artistic ability, to art cards.
We each did two on that first day and while we worked away we became relaxed and floated into almost a meditative state as we worked side by side. The art cards were a success on many levels. Soon I got an email saying she had enjoyed doing the cards so much she was intending to make a commitment to herself of one card a day for thirty days. I decided to join her.
As it happened the new month was March and that is when we started our cards. By chance we began our thirty days on a new moon, an auspicious time for starting a new trip or new venture. Today is also a new moon, a very lucky time for beginning new projects. Until the next new moon, I’ll be sharing the cards I painted, how the process went and what making these mini masterpieces has meant for me.
Do you believe in magic? I do…some time ago I spoke aloud , a wish to meet a like minded person, someone close to my own age, someone who lived close by, an individual who could share creative endeavours with me. I was as specific as possible then forgot all about my wish…..And wallah! Through what appeared to be chance I met Susan at a grief support group. A like minded person who had also lost an adult child, she is my age, and is living in my little village. The only thing she claimed was missing was an aptitude for art. And so one day I invited her for lunch with a plan to introduce her to Art Trading cards. She took to the cards and a day later in an email she shared her plan to do a card a day for a month. Loving the idea I decided to join her and from our separate residences we have begun.
I like to call my cards “Mini Masterpieces”. They measure just 2.5″ x 3.5″ and can have as much or as little detail as possible. I was no stranger to art cards and know the process to be quite meditative. Never being one to sit still long enough to actually meditate this instantly seems to provide a therapeutic element that may have the effect of a good daily meditation practice.