Slow, it’s how we walk up the wide wooden staircase behind her, holding on to the spindles, and breathing in the era of grace. Stop on every third step while Janet explains each of her paintings hanging on the mahogany wall over our left shoulder. Like a docent telling us the secrets behind the brush strokes, we get the backstage tour of Tara by Scarlett herself.
I met Janet and Tom at a church dinner, on a picnic table over a bowl of steamy chili. She extends an invitation up two flights of steep white see-through, to the tree house over her garage that is her art studio. When I tell her about how I amuse myself with watercolors on the weekends, she offers some lessons for the price of conversation.
She and Tom left their upper crust Virginia home to retire on the water and I can see it in her eyes. The loneliness of pulling up roots leaves her a stump of her former flourish, hidden in a field of wild flowers.
Those meetings of brushes swirling pigment grows a friendship. She invites my Aunt Paula and me to lunch while she is in town. Paula, she feels the ache too. Of roots, dangling free clinched in a hand of new dirt.
Janet walks with scales weighing heavy on the right, leads us to the top floor, through stacks of books and ledgers lying open on tables of southern sprawl. Tom’s chair spins our direction and away from the computer screen like a monk hidden among the holy. His head tilts up to get a good look at the visitors traipsing through his bifocals and waves.
We’re on our way to the bathroom to look at another painting.
Huddled together among the pink tile, we admire green jar illumination holding flowers on a window ledge. That’s when I feel it. Drops of inspiration bleed into lonely crevices, filling up the longing.
Each painting drips with a chapter in the story of an artist that inspires courage and beauty.
My aunt flies back to Ohio, signs up for watercolor classes from a local artist, forms a weekly huddle in her basement with fellow pilgrims, and gives countless paintings away. Many hang on my walls today.
And just like that day of tilted light when God took us on a walk to tell the story of what it means to live loved, to express love freely and give it away, He wants to uncover His imprint on you too. We need your art.
It will be quiet here for a few days. I’ll be away at Laity Lodge for a Writers Retreat, meeting some friends in person that I’ve only known on-line, learning the art of a sentence from Lauren Winner. It’s my first, so I look forward to sharing what I discover with you next week.
And those paintings in this post? My Aunt Paula reads my blog, collects inspiration from the photos and paints a few of them to give away.
Looking for some inspiration to share your art? Read Emily Freeman’s 31 Days to Change the World Series at Chatting at the Sky, Amber Haines Monday posts on Writing, and Jeff Goins encouragement here.
Tell my friends hello at Laity lodge. sounds lovely.
I’ll give them a hug for you Sharon.
This is so serendipitous, SHelly. Jjust *today* I discovered a beautiful painting of zinnias by my late great aunt which somehow got buried in our move. What a joy to behold it again–not just because of its beauty, but because I remember her joy in bringing beauty to others through her art. And now we have a budding artist, our daughter Sheridan, studying art at university. I paint with words, but admittedly, picked up a paintbrush with Michael in our early years of marriage in an art class in continuing ed. We didn’t paint well, but we loved well, and just spending time together was worth the price of the class. I’m so thrilled about your writing retreat, and just know that your art and others’ will be flourishing in Texas as God blesses you with time away. Have an artful and heart-ful retreat. Can’t wait to hear all about it!!! And please thank your aunt for sharing her beautiful work! Art runs in your family!
That seems to be an echo between us, the way God joins us through the events in our lives. Love that you found that painting, that I happened to write about painting and my Aunt. Oh God is just so amazing isn’t he? Look forward to sharing what I learn at Laity. I’m so excited I forgot to eat this morning.:)
I LOVE your aunt’s paintings…especially the last one! I have drawn and oil painted most of my life, but never could get the hang of watercolor as much as I love it. Today, I’m mourning the loss of someone whose art so touched and painted light on my life…someone I’ve prayed long and hard for to really know the Master Artist…and words from scripture have been coming to me all day that I pray are really the Holy Spirit’s answer to me after all these years of prayer…”Rejoice, for this my son was lost but now he is found. Celebrate him home.” And earlier this week, two ladies from my neighborhood whom I’d invited for coffee cake and goodbye to one of them, saw a pen and ink I did years ago and immediately asked me to do some for them. A gift for many reasons to me…but I’ve been praying, Lord please help me to still be able to draw like that! Because these last few years I’ve left that art behind and am not sure I still can… But I’ve heard him calling me back to that art as well as writing. Your post here sings in my heart with all of this Shelly. Blessings on your retreat!! Look forward to hearing about it. And it strikes me too, what a gift your aunt must be to give away such beauties as you’ve shared above… When I opened your post and saw that first painting, it spoke so immediately to me of all that’s been going through my heart this day….
Pam i’m so very sorry about your friend….but what a wonderful message from the Lord, to know he’s HOME with Him! What a blessing midst your loss. And what you are saying about picking up your paintbrush again…a lost dream resurrected… is so important. I’m singing Bach again after a twenty-five year absence.God has gifted me with a resurrected dream. I’m sure Shelly, you, and others like you are encouraging women to dream again. What a wonderful blessing to us.
Lynn, I’m hanging on to that word that was in my heart yesterday and still asking the Lord to confirm it to me somehow – after praying for so many years (since I was a child), I could see evidence of the Lord drawing him, but I never heard him say for sure. God surely put that “lifetime” intercession in my heart though (it still amazes me)…so I must believe He moved to break through. I’ve always prayed to know that before he passed, so looking to God to somehow have done it, and to be able to let me know that I know. . I’m glad you are singing Bach again! A beauteous gift.
Pam, so sorry for the loss of your friend. Praying peace as you mourn. And I’m so intrigued by your pen and inks, someone taking note, coupled with this post. Its smells of God’s fragrance in your midst.
Thank you, Shelly. Your choice of words is extremely interesting to me right now, because I just read that verse this morning about God making us His fragrance of Christ to others (or to some, a fragrance of death). And I was praying again, O Lord, DID you make me a fragrance of You to him, in all the words I’ve shared with him, as I’ve prayed for so long –as well as pouring your fragrance in my every prayer? Oh, how I pray it is so.
And yes, His fragrance leading me in this way of pen and ink drawing for now, too… always praying anointing on work of my hands, be it art or writing…
Pam, I couldn’t respond to comments this weekend, without much time for the internet at the retreat but wanted to tell you how much your words mean to me. Just knowing the way God is at work makes my heart smile.
“To express love freely and give it away”…..and, of course, I had never thought of my work that way. Much of the joy comes when someone else feels that love. I do so remember being so inspired by Janet’s collection. Thanks for sharing your love through your words and your photography. God does want to discover his imprint in us all.
Of course you wouldn’t think of it that way, generosity is natural for you. Love you Aunt Paula.
Hi Shelly…Beautiful post today, as always. A real encouragement. Your Aunt’s art is so lovely. Touched my heart. That she gives it away, is so wonderful—what a gift! Don’t know why, but I love paintings and photos of an artist’s workplace, messy desktops, (I have a thing for desks), rustic barns, and doorways to rustic homes. I have a photo of Ruth Bell Graham’s desk—full of every conceivable translation of the Bible, pens, crosses, etc. that I’m sure your Aunt could paint to perfection. Thank you for sharing this beauty with us today. Have a wonderful and blessed time at your writer’s retreat this weekend. Looking forward to hearing about it.
I’m learning more about you Jillie, perhaps that love of rustic, messy desks is something your soul is saying. Hmmm. . .
Like what, Shelly? Help me out here.
Jillie, I couldn’t respond to you over the weekend, lack of time and internet. I’ll email you.
Shelly- This was the word I needed today to keep pursing the call of expression through words or dabbling with collage and art journaling. Sometimes I’m not sure where all of this is going with blogging or creating…today you reminded me that we pursue so that we can give away! Thank you…enjoy your retreat.
I’m so glad it was a blessing to you. We never know where we are going with what we are doing. I feel that way often in the writing life. But do we really need to know? Just an open heart to Him, that’s all we need to know.
Lovely prose and paintings! Thanks for visiting True Hope and a Future!
Oh, friend. Praying sweet blessings in the canyon this weekend. Sending love down the Frio to you.
I was wishing you were there Laura, really hope I get to meet you in real life some day.
Each year, Laity Lodge welcomes writers to rock in chairs above the Frio, wander limestone trails, breathe deep and exhale full, and saturate our hearts in the gift of friendship. It’s really difficult to put into words, but Shelly Miller has nailed it. Read her reflection on her weekend away in the canyon.