The ten year painting

As I was looking for the next thing to do, I found an old oil painting I had started on a wood backing when I was 20 years old. It had a composition starting that I’m sure I thought was finished. Thanks for the head start, 20! Ten years later, I can see it was immature and needed more. Ten years ago, the painting was too open-ended. I needed more life experience first.

When I was younger, I loved for life to be open-ended. I didn’t have any set plans of where I wanted to live and was up for moving around a lot. Being in transit meant I was headed somewhere new and could avoid the mundane, boring, and domestic. Life needed to be exciting! Then I had my first child, and I don’t go anywhere much. This was a difficult adjustment for me to make. I’m grounded for a little while, staying at home most days with two small children, and life is in danger of being mundane.

“This is the story of my life, that while I lived it weighed upon me and pressed against me and filled all my senses to overflowing and now is like a dream dreamed.” (Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry).

What I’m realizing is that even though I’m at home changing diapers and honing some serious domestic skills that only three other people even notice right now, life is still filling my senses. Every adventure has its darks and lights, or it wouldn’t be an adventure. It is tough to do this work of being a mother and wife and artist. It is turbulent in an inward way, like trying to balance a serving tray in one hand with it all sloshing around. This is this painting. It is being parents of young children and having your senses saturated (much like traveling), being bone tired, but full to the top with love. Little hands reaching for me, needs, requirements, snuggles. It is saturating, but positive.

(“The Family” oil and oil pastels on wood, 30″ x 40″)

What will I think in another ten years? I will probably see how pulled apart I was back then, wanting to be a good mother but also a good artist (is that possible?). I might see the contrasts as something of a life portrait, an image that sums up the anguish of trying to keep it all in balance but having it slosh around and nearly fall off the serving tray. Or I might see a shifting landscape that is turbulent but leading somewhere triumphant. I hope I look at that orange circle in the middle, balancing on the moving peaks, and remember the love we had in our little family. I’m sure it will be like a dream to remember it all as it is now, when I’m 40.




Thanks for reading,

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