This was a painting commission I created for Heather Strauch, PT/ 2010,inspired by winter
I woke up this morning recapturing the feeling I had as a child just before Christmas, and thinking of how, for me, Christmas is about Jesus and snow.
Laying there half asleep this morning, I felt that pleasant stirring at the heart chakra, remembering how those images on cards and in figurines of a baby effected me as a child. This baby, poor, innocent and vulnerable, born into a wretched circumstance was also held, protected, cherished. That image of Mary holding a baby in a barn got an important point across to me: that no matter how low we humans can go whether at birth or later in life, love preserves us, we are majestic to the core, even at our most vulnerable point.
After getting up, I kept thinking of how mankind has longed for God, and wished for there to be no separation from God. I sank into memories or the feeling of my perception of God at that time, as a kid at Christmas. God, I understood, was omnipotent but willing to breech the divide between earth and sky is as if, after a long time coming, God finally got it and came down to we banished children of Eve. All that deeply devoted reverence of the earliest scribes of monotheism, “God is One”, finally had a pay-off in that God now had to suffer a little bit like we have to, so maybe now he’ll be able to help us a little more? Yes, I figured he would, for sure. Maybe He’d protect me from the evil math teacher I had to encounter each day, in utter horror and fear. Or maybe He’d at least see what I was enduring in her class (and hopefully severely punish her, I prayed). He might even send Jesus to appear before her, as she taunted me with Cuisenaire Rods, and gaze at her with pity for her actions toward me, those flashing eyes clearly saying, “How could you? I know how Elaine feels. You should be ashamed of yourself.” I’d picture her cowering under the beams of light flashing from his eyes, realizing her great error and weeping in sorrow. These were my thoughts as a young Catholic kid praying to God to take away my burdens and suffering. As a kid with troubles that kids can have, I got that there was not to be a separation from me and God, only a connection and one that had meaning in my everyday life. Jesus never appeared and chastised her as far as I know but I held tight to the prayer as I suffered through that school year.
As I got ready for the day, I appreciated how we grow away and learn from past suffering, and suddenly realized how suffering is a huge part of Christmas. Suffering and the alleviation of suffering. And this is where the snow enters in for me. When it snows, I feel such a sense of harmony. And as it snows, often the divide between sky and earth blurs and everywhere is glistening white. There is for a magical interlude no separation from earth and sky, it all becomes one swirl of magic. And of course I always had the image of Saint Nicholas trudging through the snow to put gifts at the ends of the beds or in the shoes of very poor children while they slept. Wasn’t he so good? Bishop Nicholas thought to give poor, innocent children what they lacked, and I liked hearing of it. And he left foot prints in the snow which said that the separation from harmony when we are at our worst times on earth ends when our suffering is alleviated, or when we end the suffering of another.
As I headed to the studio for the day, I thought of how snowflakes remind me of a celebration, the kind that says we’ve reached some point at the end of suffering. The snowflakes drift down, nature’s confetti, each one magical and unique beyond comprehension, and gone forever in a quick fractal of time. They fall more than a millionfold from sky softly to earth and only last for a while–just like us–and seem to whisper secrets of the universe. When it snows, I run out to it as those crystals come down, making splendid designs on my face, my arms, my open hands. They cover everywhere and everything in silence, transforming everything and making it all feel that it is true, we are One.