Recently I have been faced with two friends threatened by despair, one from a horrific diagnosis and the other an impending divorce. Turning inward, I searched for words, any meager words of solace and support, and found only a familiar, powerless emptiness. Then I remembered that a writer I revere had just the words of hope and healing I had been looking for. I sent both of them this quote from Barbara Kingsolver in “High Tide in Tuscon”:
In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.
One of those friends told me she had shared the quote with her family and they were putting it into practice together. Once again I marveled at the power of art flowing from the artist to me, then through me to the next concentric circle out, and on and on.
Last week I watched Daniel Day Lewis animate the complex, tortured, noble life of Abraham Lincoln with a brilliance I can hardly comprehend. On a continuum of my interests, movies would be in the cluster at one end while historical anything would be as far away as possible on the other. I am grateful for Lewis’ portrayal that allowed me to access all the interwoven threads of the amazing tapestry of that man’s life and heroism as no college history course (which I consistently avoided), battlefield visit (as interesting to me as sitting down and watching its grass grow) or nonfiction Civil War bestseller (so many books, so little time and none for these) ever could.
In this my favorite season, a time of thankfulness for the universe of gifts that enrich our lives, I want to remember the artists who work courageously every day, never giving up, to bring to us their works of beauty, insight, power, hope, comfort and joy. I’m sure it’s because I struggle to use my far lesser talents in service to these same goals, but I am keenly aware of their talent and effort this time of year. When I’m a little down, I try to remind myself that at that very moment there are artists all over the world working on creations that some time in the near future will bring me pleasure, reassurance, understanding, and appreciation for all that is best in life. Some time today, one or many of my artist/heroes will find that germ of a new creative idea, see the world from an exciting new angle, break through a paralyzing barrier, allow a character to make a surprising transformation, hear at last the perfect harmony, or write the words that perfectly express the humanity in all of us.
New books, films, paintings, photographs, poems, music, even wearable art, recipes and blog posts, are lined up in the creative pipeline. Anticipating the joy of receiving them fills me with thankfulness.