My beloved friend came through the operation fine and hopefully she is now cancer-free. Such a relief.
Frosty sun-dazzled morning here in the mountains. Later today I am going to visit a friend who is an artist and who has occupied herself since the loss of her husband a year ago by painting small canvases that have helped her transmute suffering into art. works of mourning and restoration, to acknowledge bereavement and at the same time to celebrate and remember the goodness of a long marriage. She began painting three weeks after the funeral, stayed up late at night mixing paints and making false starts and then carried her easel out into the courtyard with its grey lavender bushes, silver-green of teucrium mounds, boulders patterned with lichen, and the dark oblong pool. There she learned to work with the morning light behind her, filled her canvases with the shapes of stones and leaves and water, slowly found that figures emerged, shadowy and clasping one another, recalled gestures and loved places.
The power of art and beauty to console and heal us.
This too: the power of art to transcend and transform our deepest sorrows and joys. Poet Charles Simic writing about Poetry and Utopia in the NYRB describes a similar alchemy, the ways in which we find meaning in art and how that art may outlast us, go on speaking to those who come after:
A young man in a small town in Patagonia or in Kansas reads an ancient Chinese poet in a book he borrowed from the library and falls in love with a poem, which he reads to himself over and over again as the summer night is falling. With each reading he brings the voice of the dead poet to life. For one unforgettable moment, he steps out of his own cramped self and enters the lives of unknown men and women, seeing the world through their eyes, feeling what they once felt and thinking what they once thought. If poetry is not the most utopian project ever devised by human beings, I don’t know what is.
To step out of the cramped self and lose oneself in art made by others who, like us, tried to give meaning to terror and sadness. Making a place for hope.