I started this painting on the afternoon of January 6th, while unbeknownst to me violence was unfolding in the U.S. Capitol. I “finished” it the next morning, moving it out of a much uglier stage. Although I’m not sure I’ve moved it far enough out of “ugliness,” I also know it’s good to sit with it all, that the truth of a moment doesn’t always appear beautiful in the ways we’ve known. And also, that ugliness and beauty are mostly ideas and relative to their context. Art is not always visually appealing; movement doesn’t always feel good. My paintings don’t usually name themselves when they aren’t finished, but this one did, so maybe it is.
In the hiatus of favored things Pain evident in your gait and change of habits We feared the worst, prepared for the end
Until suddenly, again, you trotted along the beach Delighted in old crab shells and seaweed Then later begged to climb into bed with us, Something you’d not done for months And earlier, chewed on a long discarded bone Nestled between forgotten toys Remnants of your younger days
These things seem small, maybe But I know they are the sum of everything Evidence of more living, less dying
And so it is, for all of us Times of grace, even joy Smiling into salty waves and leaning into the day while knowing. That final day will come
Change can be difficult and is often filled with associated grief, but freedom can also be found in the process of letting go. Major life transitions offer a special opportunity to find freedom in change, but it’s easier said than done depending on the details.
We just sold our house. And truthfully, nothing about the related details over the last months have felt close to positive, except the knowledge that we would eventually conclude the stressful parts and be another step closer to our goals – a simpler life, fewer possessions, reduced financial obligations, to name a few.
Anticipated freedom on my mind, I noticed the plywood board sitting on the side of the road – FREE in bold marker written across the surface. Instead of unwanted junk, I saw a new canvas for the old house paint I’d not yet discarded. This idea was so compelling, I actually turned the car around to retrieve the board after initially passing it by.
I’d already made two other paintings with house paint, which turned out to be highly therapeutic, as well as productive. See an example here. But those paintings were made on canvases already in my possession, the benefit of using them more immediately obvious.
In the middle of a move, the last thing anyone needs is to accrue anything new. Nevertheless, I found myself putting the board in my car, unable to resist the symbolic reference and the therapeutic value of a new creative project to soothe me between the packed boxes.
Although I understood FREE would be erased by whatever painting I made, I imagined I’d know freedom in the layers of the painting. I was right.
Freedom is a mindset, not only a consequence of release from unwanted circumstances. Freedom is found any time we allow ourselves to move beyond preconditioned responses. Freedom comes when we let go of expectations.