I am at Creative Arts Camp on the shores of Long Lake in Maine yet again – for my eighth consecutive year – while my husband holds down the fort at home with our eleventh grade homeschooler. This time I am taking an all day memoir class and painting on my own on the side. In the photos you can see the charming setting for this cozy class of eight students. Our teacher is an editor for the Christian Science Monitor, who has a PhD in literature and is a writer herself; she loves the memoir as an art form.
Today each of us shared verbally to the class our life story in three minutes, which was a feat in editing itself. What interesting people are in this class! That took so much time today that we didn’t write much, and will write more in the next four days. Below is the snippet I did write today; we were encouraged to start with action and write about something we love:
Smearing red next to violet, I touch in some orange, bordered by brilliant cobalt. Shapes swim, pinned down by streaks anchored in a foundation of forest green. Colors dance before me, vibrating insistently, while intuition leads the way.
Painting is a happy place for me, a contemplative reverie, a deep communion with my Maker, the master Creator, who is both the source and the impetus. It is my best prayer in action.
When I have an especially difficult case in my practice – either beleaguered at a stubborn impasse, or struggling with a problem that is too impressive in scope – and I’m feeling either frustrated or overwhelmed, my husband will tell me to do one of two things: go on a hike or go paint.
Lots of people say they are intimidated by a blank canvas, but not me. My mouth actually salivates over one. I love the unfoldment of painting, the step by step clarity of what to do next. God does not provide me with a complete view of what it will look like; instead it is a discovery process that has taught me to listen for ideas, which reliably come. I always know what the next few steps will be and I’ve learned that is enough.
It reminds me of driving 70 mph down a highway in blackest night, when your headlights penetrate only 15 feet; this means you are trusting that the road will still be there as you proceed, even though you can’t see it. People don’t usually give that a thought, but they can both live and paint the same way.
I’m not a big fan of contrivance. Outlining in advance how something should be can be a big mistake. Simply going forward with trust in the process, I’ve found is a much better approach.
So I embark on painting with both listening prayer and a love for expression and color. There are always more ideas than I can use, but like the short span of the headlights, I’ll paint only what is immediate right now, and let other paintings illumine different parts of the highway to come.
I think that’s why it is such a healing thing for me to do, and why some of my best healing work has occurred while I’ve been painting. I get in the focused flow of the present moment –totally immersed – grateful for the past and trusting the future, while basically oblivious to anything but pure obedience to God.