"Love is..." acrylic on board - 14x11 inches
This small painting holds so much meaning for "Me"... as it did for my Mom. It hangs in my studio now and will be passed on to one of my children when I decide the moment. It was painted as a Mother's Day gift for my Mom when "She" was struggling so to adjust to her the "home" where she would spend her final days with my Dad. For both of them... leaving their home because they no longer had the health necessary to continue on there independently was traumatic... for home was everything to them. It defined them ... and everything that they derived pleasure from on the journey. For them ... "Home" was more than a house... it was a state of mind... a bastion against the outside din of the world they lived in... a haven where they could actively pursue Health ... Happiness and Freedom. In every corner, a sweet memory was couched of Christmasses long since passed... the many evenings of laughter and conversation between friends now departed. A sofa "manger"... where every newborn grandchild was first presented and welcomed into the Sherman family.
My parents were hardly saints... for they made mistakes in raising their children... as we all have... simply because no manual for parenting... instructions for assembly was available then... or came with anything other than the wisdom of parents and their experiences. We had our share of bad moments as all families will... for as long as the human species still builds nests to rear their young. However... I am and will forever be grateful to both of them for their unconditional gift of love.... many sacrifices and the "map".... values which I have used to help guide me on my own journey. I truly hope... that if I leave my children nothing more in the way of an inheritence... it will be the knowledge that I truly loved each one of them as unique individuals adn that "I" am proud of them all... equally for their uniqueness... and their differences!
While I simply allow most of my paintings to speak for themselves... this one is special... and seeing it hanging this morning.... just to my left in our indoor basement studio space caused me... think and to write these words to share with my Friends. The subject of this painting comes directly from a setting and year in my life which was to become pivotal to my growth and development as an adult. This was my desk at Prince of Wales School in Brockville in Grade five. My teacher and mentor in that classroom was Miss Evelyn Mott... a teacher both revered and feared for her dedication and her high expectations of EVERY child in her care. Ironically... in her eyes... we were all "special needs students" who learned in very different ways.
Despite the fact that she was required to dispense curriculum according to an educational document (aptly) referred to as "the Grey Book"... she somehow managed to tailor it to the needs of the thirty-odd members of her class. Memory work underscored every core subject... from the Biblical Beatitudes... multiplication tables... to the required recitation by each student of iconic Canadian poems like Wilfred Campbell's "Indian Summer":
"Along the smoky hills
A crimson forest stands
And all the day a blue-jay calls
Throughout the autumn lands."
I loved this woman as a second Mother... simply because I knew and felt everyday that although she had high expectations of me... she loved me in an unusual way. She particularly recognized and honoured my predilection to draw and paint and offered art lessons to all every Friday afternoon using materials and techniques which incubated an inner creative spirit and added further to its development. Her words to me when submitting this crayon painting to the Annual Public School Hobby Show were to become the springboard which catapulted me into my lifelong pursuit of art in my personal and teaching lives... up to this very day.
" Me at Miss Mott's Apple Orchard"- crayon on manilla paper (c.1954)
This "painting"... from memory as well could well serve as my introduction to plein air painting because it is exactly in a ten year old's view of his world what lay before him. Miss Mott and her brother Harry (whom she lived with) owned an apple orchard on the northern outskirts of Brockville. They harvested and sold their "Macs" each fall and I would spend my Saturdays picking bushels of windfalls for them. I was accepted as one of their family... though neither ever married or had children of their own. My mom was not jealous of my "love" for Miss Mott... rather she encouraged it. She made special gifts like a green apron with an apple for a pocket which made Miss Mott cry when she opened it. I was always on the lookout for a way of "gifting" and repaying her for the contribution she made to my life and sense of self-esteem.
Though most good parents do in fact help develop self-worth in their children... it is the unconditional and unexpected "no stings attached" recognition of a gifted teacher which can have such a significant and often life long influence in shaping a young child's life. My journey has been blessed with such gifts... from "Givers"... who gave their all! I have made it my duty... and honour to contact as many of these individuals as I can to simply say "Thank you." I have myself received those thank yous... and each time it warms my heart and offers a sense of self worth.
In Newtown, several such individuals offered the supreme sacrifice of their lives to protect those innocents in their care. I live too far away to offer thanks to their surviving family members and peers. But over this week, I have written posts using more carefully chosen words and thoughts than is the usual case. They are sent to offer everyone in that grieving community the gift of my "presence"... through my words. I feel your sense of loss and grief. Your loved ones have not died vainly... if their going acts as the catalyst to our countries are driven by a public outcry and a demand ....that these too numerous needless and obscene tragedies end.
If Heaven and God do exist... and my Faith and Hope continues to believe so... Miss Mott and these individuals lost far too soon and wretchedly will already be in Paradise... for no other reason than the fact that lived and died... embraced in Love. Therefore... Hope and Forgiveness can survive and offer an epitaph that we must all remember... and honour in our daily lives!
Give Love a chance! I send mine... unconditionally and fully. Let... "Love lift us [all] up to where we [all]... can belong" !