Identity

Dancing Before the David

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This morning I had a picture of myself dancing before Michelangelo’s David. The high ceilings and marble walls of the gallery proved an amazing setting for perfect pirouettes and pas de bourrée. The beauty of my dance was perfected in my thoughts, and it became something akin to Viviana Durante in the Rose Adagio of Sleeping Beauty, … a wordless contribution of beauty for beauty.

It wasn’t long before I pondered not the perfection of my dance ~ this is my dream, after all ~ yet why dance before The David? An online travel guide for Florence, Italy so aptly reviews the sculpture, “Its position, though expressing perfect balance, alludes at movement, … The attitude is strong, arrogant and, above all, filled with inner life like no other similar classical statue.” 1

Balance. Movement. Attitude. Inner Life.

Isn’t it interesting that the reviewer detects these qualities, in a sculpture? That is part of the mystery of beauty. Just like a masterful pirouette depicts the paradox between strength and delicacy, so a marble statue depicts movement and inner life.

Reviewing the flawless dance in the presence of unparalleled, sculpted beauty, I was reminded of the nearly spontaneous combustion that can occur when individuals come together, in unity, to produce something more significant than they can produce individually. Musicians demonstrate this when their skill takes them collectively away from the written score to a breathless improvisation. Each one has submitted their skill, even rescinded their individual identities, to the greater purpose of the collective. Only mutually agreed-upon, non-verbal expressions lead to a change in key or tempo. Each musician not only participates, but also cooperates. No one person leads throughout, and no one hides. Eventually, each one takes his place to lead out into the unknown with precision. 2

http://www.italyguides.it/us/florence/michelangelo_david.htm

2 Bents, E. Identity

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Beauty Demands Engagement

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Have you ever wondered about the subjects in a painting or a photograph? Truly great artists have developed the ability to capture their audience’s attention beyond a single, cursory glance. So aptly will they have portrayed their subject’s expression, the activity of the moment or even the stillness that we, as their audience are compelled to lapse into storytelling. No matter where we are, time seems to stand still for a moment and like small sailboats we bobble away from the shore for just a moment and we wonder…

How is it that I can feel the community in this painting?Edward Henry (1857-1927), A July Day Edward Henry Potthast was particularly gifted at capturing the simple connections between people. The women have their arms around one another and you can almost feel the intimacy of their chatter. The children are splashing and giggling together, entranced with the kersploosh! they can make by tromping in the water.

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) - The Girl With The Pearl Earring (1665)

I can’t help but wonder at the way in which Johannes Vermeer, the 17th-Century Dutch Painter who created Girl With a Pearl Earring captured his subject’s expression. Was it really as Tracy Chevallier described in her magnificent novel by the same name? Tracy’s story is so well written that you step back into time with her and perceive how a young girl might have come to be a model for a renowned artist in the city where she lived, and all of the ensuing conflict that occurred. R.Z. Sheppard reviewed Chevallier’s book, Girl With a Pearl Earring, and offered the following review for Time Magazine:

“Chevalier is especially adept at character studies: imperious burghers, butchers, biddies and crones. It’s as if, after scrutinizing Vermeer’s masterworks (and doing the required reading), she began to think and feel like a 17th century Delfter.”

Tracy most certainly did her research of Vermeer’s art. But even she gives evidence of the way in which Vermeer’s art compelled her to see the paintings in person, and to understand more about why he painted the subjects he did.

Our culture demands detachment and isolation. Beauty demands connection and engagement, no matter how tragic the underlying story. Enter into a moment this week. Really see something beautiful. Ask questions. It’s analytical, to be sure, but it’s restful as well.

There are a couple of exhibits occurring at the Joslyn Art Musuem presently through the mid-part of September. Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism and Beyond Impressionism

Leaving a Legacy

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I remember when I was growing up, my Dad would show us stuff. He was intent on teaching us to identify trees and plants, like Morrel mushrooms, Bittersweet and Sumac. Of course he taught us useful stuff too, how to back up a truck with a trailer; how to drive a boat; how to collect sap and make Maple Syrup and, best of all, how to fish. Although my growing up years are mostly wrapped in nostalgia and I have few opportunities to exercise those skills, what I actually learned was this: I am limitless in my ability to learn a skill and do it. Dad taught us to be learners, and to not be afraid to try new things.

One year Dad decided to build a cabin on the back edge of our property. Dad was neither a builder nor an architect but he and my lovely, artist-in-residence Mom put their skills together. With the help of generous builder-type friends, the tiny, humble building came together. At the time the cabin served as the best fort and doll house a girl could ask for! We loved it! With it’s steeply-sloped corrugated roof, woodstove and dry sink, the cabin stood on stilts and overlooked the trout stream that ran through our property. My friends and I would traipse around in the woods and slosh in the creek for hours at a time.

It wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I learned the strain that building the cabin placed on our family. Apparently it wasn’t the most fiscally responsible undertaking, nor was the building designed to withstand 25 years of rugged weather. My Dad has been gone for some time now, and yet the cabin stands perhaps as a tribute to his tremendous influence on our lives.

Talk is cheap and we spout ideas of who we are and what we’ll one day become. The fact is, we are not who we say we are. We are what we do.

Dad didn’t leave behind a cabin. He left behind a legacy of attempts to show us how important we were to him, how deeply he cared and how much he wanted us to love the things he loved.

Plain and simple, Dad wasn’t great at communicating. I still wonder about who he really was, and why he called me Scout.

But I know he loved me.

And I’m not afraid to try stuff.

Falling into True Love

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I’ve reached point of undertow, that unenviable point where it’s necessary to kick it into high gear if I want to sell my house. And I do! Want.to.sell.my.house.

Have you ever been that way, where every cell in your body is geared to accomplish one thing?

Perhaps you heard me howling over the airwaves early in June. You probably thought it was the bloodhounds in my neighborhood, but no, that was me. I learned that, for five months, the listing for my home on the Multiple Listing Service made my home appear as though I lived in a one-horse town about 20 miles north of where I actually live. The listing was corrected and re-started, thankfully.

It is for this reason that I find myself in early-July’s steamy heat, power-washing my entire house, garage (ick), and patio. Attractive, flicky chips of grey paint flew off my porch at the speed of …well, fast water … and attached themselves nearly permanently to me or the house. Words. Words just don’t describe the fun I had! The festivities culminated this morning as I chased a thunderstorm with my mower, and mowed my front lawn WET. Anyway, it’s done…the prep and the first open house.

This afternoon, as I sat in my local Starbucks with very large latte, I tuned into a song on my iPod. I’ve written about this song in the past but the artist, Jonathan David Helser, is gifted and the song I’ve Seen I AM completely unhinges me.

I looked into the eyes of The Lion
Felt the courage of His gaze
I heard Him roar my name with passion
As I buried my tears in His mane
Looked into the eyes of a Lamb
I saw Love face to face
I felt grace destroy my sin
As mercy flowed from those veins
I’ve seen I AM
Now I am LOVED
I’ve seen I AM
Now I know who I am.

As I listened I felt all my drivenness and striving drain away from me.

You see, when we allow ourselves to be loved … truly loved by One who will never fail us, and we also permit ourselves to comprehend what that means, it has the ability to redefine everything. Some days we let our responsibilities pile up on one another, and create walls that we try to lean on for support. We attempt to find identity in the things we do. And we’re severely disappointed when our efforts fail to supply what we really crave.

Love. True love. Not the romantic kind. Not the familial kind. But that in-spite-of me and even-though-you-don’t-understand-Me kind of love … it doesn’t come from a person. We’re not capable. Only Father God can love us in that deep, wrenching kind of love. It spins you off your dime because you and I can’t even define it, let alone generate it.

I can tell you this, though. You haven’t lived until you’ve felt love like this. You see, the Lamb and the Lion of the Tribe of Judah are both Old Testament name for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In each we see pictures of who the Son of God is to us. He’s fearsome and powerful. He’s incredible gentle and fragile beyond words. We have the opportunity to lean into this powerful Lion, and also be tenderly loved by this Lamb. Somehow, when we let Him He comes close. It’s unnerving. But it’s beautiful. It’s fearsome because it threatens our whole plan. The process is, for me, is like a free-fall…releasing my hold on everything and simply letting Him encompass my world.

And then somehow chippy paint sticking to my legs doesn’t mean beans to me anymore.

I’ve seen I AM. Now I know that I am Loved.

Special thanks to Singer-Songwriter Jonathan David Helser for the reference to his song.

Grams Teaches Identity

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I recently heard someone say that parents form their children’s identity by reminding them of who they are, moment by moment, day after day. This is such a mystery to me. At what point does a young girl or fellow grasp what’s been instilled? And how does this feedback manage to so vividly shape the who of our identity? I remember well the verbal instructions, “Ladies don’t slouch. Stand up straight.” Surely my brother and sisters remember the imaginary plumb line Mother would draw from the tops of our heads. At what point does a parent stop saying the words and begin twinking their brow, a telegraphed message across the room, to pull yourself together? Yet my parent’s instructions were mild compared to my grandmother’s.

An expert seamstress and cook, Grams taught all her children and grandchildren a myriad of skills. My earliest memories were of watching my Mom and Grams cook and quilt together. They would nod sagely, wordlessly consulting one another, dismantle, re-assemble until a beautiful masterpiece was born. Their tireless work always seemed so effortless. Year after year, I would prepare my 4-H sewing projects beneath their watchful eyes. My wobbly seams were doomed. “Rip it out, child. It must be straight.” Heartbroken and frustrated, I would tug out the stitches and then battle with my temper and the sewing machine until a worthy outcome was produced. I basked in their hard-won pleasure with my work.

Grams always kept a charming home. It was where she wore her heart on her sleeve, with momentos and photographs of treasured places in Germany. The nostalgia and tchotchke always left you feeling like you had visited a place in her heart. That time had stopped for a moment and you had really lived. I did not realize that Grams’ standards for me would endear her to me. Her lectures I endured wordlessly as I learned she just needed a snuggle from me to stem the tide of words.

Though I’ve lived in many places through the years, it occurs to me that the walls of my kitchen have always resounded with the rumble of Grams’ deep German voice. Growing up, I perceived her to be stubborn, opinionated and, above all, outspoken. Yet she loved me. Deeply. I memorized the look in her eyes, her beautiful skin, and the wrinkles on her hands. I would hold hands with her just because I could and, over a cup of heavily sugared tea we would discuss all the world’s problems. Though she enjoyed people very much, it was in the quiet moments together that she showed me who she was. She would talk about her family in Germany, and history, and about her sons, and her daughter, my Mother. She would talk about the neighbor boys who had tragically died in the war, and how she taught herself to drive. While I wish that I could remember the stories, for I did not write them down, it occurs to me that it is not so much the historical accuracy that matters. What matters is that she told me, and I listened. And I carry within myself a part of who she was.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken on a sewing project. Yet, it’s pretty safe to say that the work that I produce today as a software developer bears a strong resemblence to those straight seams that Gram required. I think what surprises me even more is the motherly manner in which I exact straight seams from those I mentor in the office. Stubborn? Outspoken? Surely you jest! Let’s have a cup of tea.

Dancing Before The David

Posted on Updated on

This morning I had a picture of myself dancing before Michelangelo’s David. The high ceilings and marble walls of the gallery proved an amazing setting for perfect pirouettes and pas de bourrée. The beauty of my dance was perfected in my thoughts, and it became something akin to Viviana Durante in the Rose Adagio of Sleeping Beauty, … a wordless contribution of beauty for beauty.

It wasn’t long before I pondered not the perfection of my dance ~ this is my dream, after all ~ yet why dance before The David? An online travel guide for Florence, Italy so aptly reviews the sculpture, “Its position, though expressing perfect balance, alludes at movement, … The attitude is strong, arrogant and, above all, filled with inner life like no other similar classical statue.” 1

Balance. Movement. Attitude. Inner Life.

Isn’t it interesting that the reviewer detects these qualities, in a sculpture? That is part of the mystery of beauty. Just like a masterful pirouette depicts the paradox between strength and delicacy, so a marble statue depicts movement and inner life.

Reviewing the flawless dance in the presence of unparalleled, sculpted beauty, I was reminded of the nearly spontaneous combustion that can occur when individuals come together, in unity, to produce something more significant than they can produce individually. Musicians demonstrate this when their skill takes them collectively away from the written score to a breathless improvisation. Each one has submitted their skill, even rescinded their individual identities, to the greater purpose of the collective. Only mutually agreed-upon, non-verbal expressions lead to a change in key or tempo. Each musician not only participates, but also cooperates. No one person leads throughout, and no one hides. Eventually, each one takes his place to lead out into the unknown with precision. 2

1 http://www.italyguides.it/us/florence/michelangelo_david.htm

2 Bents, E. Identity