Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Beauty Saves, Pain Defines

Despite all the ugliness, there was a lot of beauty in my home growing up. It's the root of my obsession with having a pleasing interior design wherever I live, because I felt the balm of that grace every day I was there. It's part of what helped me get through (the other parts being all the time I spent out in nature and the millions of books I read).

I remember being struck when I came home from a week at Bible camp to find the living room repainted with one bold blue wall that hit you in a wash of calm when you opened the door. I was so amazed by the strong statement it made and the beauty of it; it's where I get my love of bold colors. Against this backdrop, the framed painted prints - gifts from my "rich" grandmother both before and after her death of lung cancer - of old Master paintings gained a new vibrance.

Those paintings were my first introduction to any kind of art history and some I loved, like the three girls on a sofa sharing a large book, the profile of a young girl reading (above), and some I didn't - the young girl looking miserable in a fishing boat with her grandfather. Growing up with those around me made me believe that art was just as big a part of life as anything else.

My grandmother had also given us an original painting by one of my not-to-distant relatives who was of the still life and flowers ilk. In her painting, which hung over the stairs for as long as I can remember, fruit spilled across a table, glowing with such vibrancy that I can't even recall what else that ornate frame that was such a bitch to dust held within its corners. That painting was a constant reminder to me that artistic talent lurked in my blood, running up and down my body the way I ran up and down those stairs.

Besides the paintings, I also loved to look at the little green spot in the living room that served as my mother's indoor garden. She was a firm believer in needing plants in ones living space and we had several hardy ivys and, later, a small tree. On winter days I would sit in the chair beside the window, stair at the only green plants within sight beside me and soak in the sun with them.

There was also a lot of beautiful music in my parents' house. Being Baptist, the only kinds of "approved" music were hymns, certain contemporary religious songs, classical music, songs from Disney cartoons and Broadway show tunes (but not the "indecent" ones). My mother had been a music teacher and played in the church orchestra. I have seen her play the clarinet, flute, cello, harpsicord and piano and know she can play much more. The house was often full of her practicing or beautiful classical music that sent my soul flying. I could lose myself in certain songs and emerge at the end feeling as if I had been on a long journey. The few live classical performances I saw only fed my love and I soaked up all that glorious old music like I was dying of thirst.

With the Broadway show tunes I indulged my love of singing and memorized tons of songs. There used to be a show on the old classical radio station here in Kansas City that played show tunes for several hours every Saturday night. Singing my guts out with the various characters and letting out my anxiety, anger and sorrow through them always helped me be calmer in church the next day when I'd have to deal with a bunch of judgmental bullshit and feel like a fish out of water.

I still seek solace in art, music and beautiful surroundings. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that the things I clung to as a type of escape would end up defining the largest parts of me. But it does. I guess it's like Kirk said in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, "You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves."

Related posts:
Create Your Own Reality
Thoughts On Learning By Experience

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1 comment:

Stacey K said...

You're the only one I know who can end a post on the beauty and importance of art in every day life with a quote from Star Trek - and sitll make it work!

Nice post.