Christ in the Wilderness - Consider the Lilies by Stanley Spencer
The trees hold tufts of snow, cold, white, cotton balls lifted toward a pale blue winter sky. Yesterday I painted three canvases. I have no idea what I’m doing, paint-wise, but bold strokes of citrus green and bright magenta seem to help with these mid-winter blues.
I could spend all day playing hide and seek with the black clumps of pet hair scattered across the floors of this old house, all day washing cups and bowls, corralling books into baskets and bins. And in the end, someone with a stroke of genius will scatter paper, pens and tape across the carpet, we will read more and more and books will fall across the furniture like snow, the dog will shed endlessly.
But whatever I paint green today will be green tomorrow, that much I know for sure.
It feels as though I missed the train for Lent this year. No bold post proclaiming my intent, no quiet reflection inviting deeper reflection yet. Fat Tuesday came and went and the only ashes I saw on Wednesday were the ones I spread across the iron stove's belly, the ones I sweep daily from the hearth.
I heard some murmurings online this year, from various quarters, about the practice of lent - certain groups reminding themselves, "We don't do Lent, that's for Catholics." Someone else pointed out that Lent, in French, means "slow" and another focused on the Lenten call to wilderness living, the motion of removal and return modeled in the life of Christ.
That's a lot to ponder and I could add my own unformed thoughts to the crowd, but instead this morning I'm leaning over a brown canvas outlining flowers first in pencil lead, then acrylic. A voice on one shoulder reminds me I don't know how to paint, but in front of my eyes my hands create stroke by stroke a bright pink zinnia. As I work another voice whispers about the flowers, how their beauty is enough, how their impermanence does nothing to denigrate the gift of being.
This morning I'll take our black tom cat to the vet. He's been acting strange this week and his breath could knock a giant flat. I don't know if there's anything really wrong with him, but he's been jumpy and bossing the dog around in a way none of us appreciates.
Do cats get cabin fever?
I don't know, but the other day, with a plate full of bright magenta paint and that big, black cat standing nearby I was tempted to dip his paws in. I stopped myself just in time.
The bible doesn't tell us exactly why Jesus went into the wilderness, only that the "Spirit drove him out." For forty days he watched the birds, the flowers, the trees and streams. The stars unfolded their blanket across the sky before him each night, while the mother birds tucked their chicks into bed.
That's the Christ I'm looking for these days - the one who watched the flowers bloom and fade, who baked fresh caught fish over coals turning to ash. Christ who bent to draw in the dust with his finger, who saw the word of God in the way a tree grows and watched the foxes tumble from their dens as evening fell.
This is the Christ I journey with this year, my canvases and brushes tucked under one arm, my cat and his vile breath under the other. I want to seek and find the wonder of this world like Christ did, the wonder that both is and is waiting to be, like strokes of paint on the tip of the brush, like the quiet seeds sleeping beneath this melting snow.
I want to seek. I want to find.