Monday, October 26, 2009

Year Two: Art, Prayer, (Hope), Now What?

A lot of people, people who would know because they are mothers who have lost children, have told me that the second year is the worst. You get through all the anniversaries ~ which for us started with Mother's Day and continued all summer long with the usual holidays plus all five of our birthdays and then the anniversary day ~ and then what? No resolution; it all just starts again and lies endlessly ahead.

At first that seemed to be the case. September was wide open, no end in sight, and some awful and unbloggable things happened. Twice in as many weeks it seemed clear that I would have to drop out of seminary. Most of the time I felt that the key to my survival was that I simply didn't believe in what had happened. As long as it wasn't true, I could put one foot in front of the other.

Now ~ maybe just today, maybe just a few days ~ a little different.

I think it's art.

I started but never finished a post a week or two ago about how I was starting to turn to art in prayer. A bit of an ironic move for a girl who is pursuing ordained ministry in a tradition in which words predominate, for someone who processes almost everything by writing (two or three blogs, stacks of spiritual journals), for someone who has barely picked up even her pocket digital camera in months (although some fall color photos are probably coming soon).

But I had been thinking about how much I longed to go back to Mount Angel Abbey to pray. And wishing there were someplace around here where I could find some icons. And starting to imagine that digital SLR I've been dreaming of for years.

Then, a few days ago, I received a beautiful little package from a blogging friend, which included little icon cards, including Julian with her apocryphal cat, and Brigid, whom I think of as one of my peeps. As I told my friend in thanks, I didn't need to find a store; I just needed to wait for the mail.

And now, this morning, a new (to me, anyway) Annunciation, a link to a whole series of paintings on the themes of The Spiritual Exercises, and a link to an online store with other amazing art, at which I've only just had a look.

When I was on Iona a couple of summers ago, I thought vaguely about organizing some of the photos I was taking around The Exercises. I am probably not together enough to do that yet, but I might be able at least to to think about it again. Right after Josh died ~ and by "right after" I mean, literally, a week or two ~ an artist friend invited me to a show and talk by a photographer who has done magnificent black-and-white work, much of it out of an undisclosed terrible loss in her own life. At the time, I found myself unable to fathom going out in public to a lecture and show, and I've forgotten her name, but maybe it's time to look her up again.

In fact, while I was trying to decide whether to return to seminary, it seemed to me that the only other two realistic options were (1) never to leave my bed, or at least my house, again and (2) immerse myself in photography. I'm not exactly sure how or why school won out; perhaps because I was so well adapted to verbal expression that I thought it was something I might be able to do again, while the idea of trying to make meaningful images was completely overwhelming.

Recently, though, with the end of my seminary career looming ahead and the knowledge that there will probably be a lag of several months between ordination and a call to ~ to WHAT? another dilemma . . . ~ I have been thinking that there is a window for photography in there.

Well, I quite like Robert Gilroy's Annunication ~ not surprising for someone who so likes Henry Ossawa Tanner's painting on the same subject, a painting which has made several appearances in my blogs. But the one I'm really taken with this morning is called Sorrowful Woman, Figures in Flames and The Light of Truth, from Week One of the Exercises.

I don't pretend to understand it much, but one needs to contemplate a work of art over a long period of time. For starters, I would throw out phrases like: Week One (of the Exercises) ~ a time of immersing oneself in God's good creation, in our own brokenness, and in our need for healing and reconciliation. Year Two (of my new life) ~ perhaps a time of some little healing and reconciliation of a terrible, terrible brokenness and of finding a jagged and rocky path back to God's good creation. Flames ~ destruction and terror, light and truth.

For me, it's a good painting to pray with. Maybe on the other side of those flames, in that yellow life, is a future.


Purple said...

My spiritual direction program used the cultural arts fairly extensively. It was good for me. I now what to express my statement of faith in images instead of words. I find worship services with so many words...I get lost.

I have created powerpoints...just for express my anger, disappointment, frustration, over the call process...among other things. It has been a powerful discovery for me.

So photography...yeah for you.

Karen and Joe said...

Year Two--life keeps moving and I don't want to leave my son behind. It tears my heart out. I'm trying to figure out how to bring him along, because life demands forward motion. Other people have done it, and so must you and I. Today and every day for the rest of our lives.

Art, music, nature, images, words, prayers--they all help. But nothing but eternity can ever fix it, and that's the terrible cross we bear.

Lisa :-] said...

I fret when you say things like "people tell me the second year is the hardest..."

I nod when you write: "Maybe[there] is a future."

There is, and it will be hard, but at least you can consider it, now...

Daisy said...

Wow, GG, you do find some amazing stuff. Thanks for sharing it.

Art certainly helped me when I had no words. Still don't have many words, actually.