Remembering my mother today, on the tenth anniversary of her death.
There are people who sweep onto the stage of our lives, and show us something grand, impress us with their brilliance, magnificence, charisma, power. We always remember them, and even try to emulate them, but they may disappear from our lives just as quickly as they came. Then there are other people whose presence is much quieter and steadier, who teach us how to actually live a life, day by day.
My mother never traveled much; she had asthma and it was difficult for her to be in strange environments, but she was also fairly shy, and happier to stay in familiar surroundings - her home, the lake and woods - which she loved deeply and knew in detail. She loved the beauty and peace of simple things, and never complained about her life being boring or mundane - how could it be, when it was filled with family and friends, books, plants and animals, a natural world that changed not only with the seasons but daily, for she observed all its minutiae. She bore life's inevitable difficulties with stoicism and grace, and far more equanimity than her daughter, who seems to have taken a much longer and circuitous route to learning those lessons - I should have just observed the Zen-master qualities of my mother, but when we're young, we can't see our parents clearly, nor their wisdom.
Each year, when the lilies-of-the-valley are in bloom, I make one of these drawings for her; I think she would like this one, the first to include color, and some other flowers: the purple violets she loved, and the forget-me-nots that always filled our gardens. I'm happy today, remembering her, grateful for so much that she gave me, including this love of art, and her gentle, steady encouragement about everything I tried to do.
I look at the painting, closer, closer, searching for her, for myself.
And I decide that the underlying emotion is captured best in the drawing rather than the painting that it became. There's something in that horizon line that stops short of the edge of the page; it was a deliberate but subconscious gesture, if that makes any sense: our relationship is not finished, cannot be squared up; something continues, or is left open. I don't mean that in terms of "meeting again," but rather that I continue to discover her, and myself in relationship with her. A gift I've only understood well after the passage of an entire decade.