Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chiaroscuro and Fragile Leaves

Currently Reading: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (because The Witch's Daughter has still not arrived from Woodstock), and The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Even though it is falltime and I am completely enjoying my autumn book list because it effectively gives me chills down my spine and increases my already brewing anticipation for THE HOLIDAY (a.k.a. Halloween), I am going to take time to blog about a book I am reading as an audiobook: The Memory Keeper's Daughter. In particular, I want to explore an aspect of the book that I cannot help obsessing over because it is such an integral piece of the experiences of each main character. I won't give you the synopsis of the book, but will only set it up for you: at the beginning of the novel, one of the main characters makes a horrific choice in order to spare himself, his wife, and his son from pain and loss. Despite his attempts, his life is completely altered in ways he never could have imagined. His wife, the woman he attempted to protect, has completely changed. She becomes depressed and lost; their marriage starts to crumble. The perfect life he tried to create for them does not exist precisely because he tried to create a perfect life. I am not finished with the book so I cannot guess what will happen next, but from where I stand, it seems as if they are both on a downward spiral. The trajectory of their lives demonstrates vividly that loss can never be avoided, no matter how hard we try.

Do you know how I judge a "great" book? If it makes me pause and reflect while I'm reading it, or if I find myself obsessively analyzing it as I make the bed, clean the kitchen, and feed the cat, then in the Jillian dictionary, that book falls under the entry of "great book." I can't get this book out of my head. In particular, the idea of escaping from pain will not leave me alone. Which means that it is time to muse....

I would love to protect myself from pain and loss. Who wouldn't? The world is such a fragile place; I have only to glance out my window to see that fact reflected in the leaves breaking away from the tree branches and meeting the earth with each passing breeze. Our lives, like our world, is in a constant state of flux. The tide goes in, the tide goes out, and nothing stays the same. We think about our futures and we make our great plans, but we often forget that absolutely nothing is guaranteed. Plans will go awry, prayers will not be answered the way we wish, and people we love will no longer be with us. Although I see myself as a "glass half full" kind of girl, I can't deny that there are days where fear takes precedence over living in the moment. "What if Nathan doesn't come home tonight?" flashes through my mind as I wave him out the door. "What would it be like if I was never able to have children?" I wonder as I watch a mother read to her babies in the library. "What if my mother was sick like that?" I imagine as I help a patron whose hair has fallen out and who wears her bandana with pride. When those "What If" moments grip me, I imagine the impossible and panic takes the place of calm. "How terrible..." I think. "How awful." "What would I do?" And the answer of course is: I don't know. If I had the choice to spare myself any sadness or hardship that life may throw at me, wouldn't I take it in a heartbeat? To protect myself and my loved ones from the unknown and the unplanned sounds like a promise, a relief that life can be exactly what I dream it to be.Would it make our lives easier to live, not having to worry about the "unhappy" potentially ahead of us? Or would it make life less precious, less appreciated, less magical because it would always be the same? While I never like having my "What If" moments, I feel they are sometimes necessary for me to properly drink in the blessings God has heaped upon me, savoring the taste and texture of each smile, each "I love you", each conversation, each stroll through October leaves.

Astronomer by Candlelight, Artist: Gerrit Dou, late 1650s
In high school Humanities class, we learned about Chiaroscuro... the contrast and blending of light and shadow within a painting. The beauty of Chiaroscuro is that the shadows work with the light to emphasize and enhance the focal point of the piece. Ultimately, the shadows give the light more luster and radiance. When both are present, the painting shines with its full beauty. Perhaps the principle of Chiaroscuro can be applied to how to live life without the fear. To accept that life has and will have its fair share of sunlight and shadow... both will always be present. But together, they create a stunning and unique piece of art... a beautiful life that is ours and ours alone. We can't escape it and we can't protect ourselves.. but if we did, our paintings wouldn't be as beautiful. That is a thought to cherish, one that helps me forget the fear and wrap my arms around the moment I'm in now. Come what may.... my painting is going to be lovely.

Have an inspiring week doing what you love... I hope you all are able to find the chiaroscuro in your own lives.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant perspective! If only we could all see life from your point of view, the world would be a better place indeed. Definitely an attitude worth striving for....


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