For me the line between my creative process and prayer and meditation is fluid, with each informing the other.
A friend commented that the "Encounter" painting reminded her of a bonfire; someone else felt it represented wilderness experiences. These comments led me to ponder a famous story from the Old Testament, while I continued to work on the canvas.
The story goes that Moses gets drawn to a bush that burns yet is never consumed by the flames. He investigates this phenomenon and encounters God. It is a moment which changes not only the trajectory of his own life, but also history. For the remaining 40 years of his life he leads the previously enslaved Israelites first out of Egypt and then on through the wilderness to the border of the promised land.
It is often forgotten that Moses, an influential leader in Egypt in his younger years, had spent 40 years in a personal wilderness prior to the burning bush incident – a very long “messy middle” indeed!
While the bible is essentially silent over what happened to Moses between the ages of 40 and 80 (apart from meeting his wife and herding his father-in-law's sheep), I reckon that those years became a vital preparation stage for what was yet to come. It is worth remembering that “pointless" task can mould our character for future challenges...
What attracted Moses to the burning bush? Curiosity? A welcome break in the daily routine? A longing to encounter the divine and get some answers? We will never know. We only know that lives were changed because of the way Moses responded.
What would you have done? Being a curious person, I may have checked out the phenomenon IF I had become aware of it.
How often do we miss opportunities because we either do not expect them or are already planning how to tackle the next item on our to do list? Neither our tendency to multi-task nor the avalanche of images and messages we are bombarded with day after day, help us to register potential burning bush moments.
How much may we miss because we are distracted? What would it take for us to be in a state where we can fully encounter ourselves, another, let alone the divine?
In the painting, I have tried to represent potential points of encounter through the circle, two butterflies and hints of different pathways. Some things are quite obvious, even from afar, others are easy to miss or dismiss, as there are so many things that may catch your attention.
Teilhard de Chardin points out that “God, at his most vitally active and most incarnate, is not remote from us, wholly apart from the sphere of the tangible; on the contrary, at every moment he awaits us in the activity, the work to be done, which every moment brings. He is, in a sense, at the point of my pen, my pick, my paint-brush, my needle—and my heart and my thought.” (Hymn of the Universe, New York: Harper & Row 1961, p 82)
To train my attention, I have sometimes sat in front of the "Encounter" canvas and tried to follow and explore a particular pathway.
As always, you may find that the painting speaks more to you when you turn it around. I was initially working on it in landscape format...
My initial blog post for this painting was published on 31st July 2021. There will be another instalment of my reflections on 14th August 2021.
In the meantime, I would love to know your thoughts. Feel free to comment below or send me an e-mail at Susanne_Irving@outlook.com