The Snowy Day

Sometimes I can see the church across the street and sometimes I can’t. After a week of beautiful weather, with temperatures into the 50s (which is warm for South Dakota at this time of year) and glorious sunshine, I woke this morning to dismal grey skies. When I crawled out of bed to evaluate weather conditions, the sight of a semi fishtailing — though not completely out of control — down the hill and snow creating a picturesque burden for the pine trees across the street suggested I cancel my planned roadtrip.

I had wanted to travel to Rapid City to spend some time with Katie. Work — and an ultra-conservative priest who delights in praying for our “misguided president” during the celebration of the Mass, leaving me feeling isolated instead of included — have encouraged the winter blues to visit a tad bit earlier than usual this year. Usually, they don’t hit until February — and last year after the joy of spending several weeks with my granddaughters, they didn’t hit at all. I suppose that hiatus makes this year’s early arrival seem more burdensome.

Fortunately, age has given me a little self-knowledge and I know I need to resist the blues — or at least make the effort to do so. My instincts are to withdraw and suffer in silence. However, I know that getting out of my apartment and engaging in social activity usually brings a modicum of temporary relief. And so, that was my plan for the day.

I was going to engage in a little shopping therapy. I have discovered that my stash of art supplies from the long ago days of landscapes doesn’t lend itself very well to my intimate little Simple Gift series. I have huge tubes of blue paint in every hue from the warm and pale cerulean blue to the dark and cool phthalocyanine blue. I even have the dark, almost black, prussian blue that can add richness to the right palette.

I needed blues for landscapes, went through them faster than Dove’s chocolates, in fact. It’s just another color on my palette these days, and I’ve discovered a desperate need for other colors. A similar situation exists with brushes. The marvelous filberts and flats — brushes with long bristles — I preferred to use with landscapes because they encouraged greater spontenaity, don’t give me quite the control I desire with my Simple Gifts. Unfortunately, the brights — brushes with short bristles — from my portrait-painting days are so dry they lack flexibility.

I had planned very carefully what I was going to purchase and eagerly looked forward to picking up a few things. Then, Katie and I were going to test drive a few vehicles since she’s in need of one these days. I was going to end the day with Mass at the Cathedral, where the priests tend to be a little more inclusive in their prayers of the faithful. Just thinking about the day filled me with greater peace than I have experienced in weeks.

But, with snow and hazardous road conditions stranding me at home, I decided to go into my studio and work on a piece that hadn’t been going very well. The joy I experienced in painting again after my six-year break from the activity has been tempered in recent weeks by the unwelcome arrival of The Harsh Critic. THC made his presence known when a piece that showed great promise turned into garbage that even a grid salvage operation (i.e. adhering strips from shredded journals) couldn’t save. His most effective technique with me is pushing me to overwork a painting so it loses its vitality. However, he’s nearly as effective when he simply plants the seeds of general discontent. That can keep me out of the studio altogether.

He was using that approach with the last painting I started. However, after being forced to abandon my plans for the day, I felt I had nothing to lose in working on it. I started listening to “The Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon, the first in a series of books I enjoy and the only one I have on CD. Before long, I couldn’t hear THC any longer. I was immersed in Claire’s story and Jamie’s, and allowing my intuition to guide my color selection and brush.

Lo and behold! By mid-afternoon I had finished a piece that satisfied me. THC tried to tell me the colors weren’t quite working, but I told him I didn’t care. It felt like joy to me, like falling in love, like seeing my grandgirls, and that’s all that mattered in that moment. Joy falling like a feather into the darkness that has been smothering me.

I decided I didn’t need to go to Rapid City to engage in shopping therapy. I went online and ordered some paint and brushes from Dick Blick, where I purchased all of my supplies for years. They’ll arrive in a couple weeks. And I decided that sharing time isn’t the only way to reach out to loved ones. Writing outstretches the hand at well, and I sat down to write another post for those few friends who actually read my blog.

This snowy day didn’t bring the experiences I had anticipated, but it brought blessings. I think that’s one of the ways God shows his love. It affirms that I am still am part of the family of believers, despite the priest’s efforts to make me feel otherwise, and that brings additional comfort as well.

I am grateful.

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