I’ve posted about this van Gogh painting before. It’s hanging right above my computer screen, so it is probably the most-looked-at painting in my house. My copy is a little grayer and bluer than this image. Not only is the weather appropriate for today (windy, rainy, gray, cold), van Gogh himself is appropriate. Here’s a guy who had a severe mental illness. Yet he struggled through, battling against all the negativity around him. He didn’t win every battle (at least I assume cutting off your own ear consists of losing some sort of battle), but he kept doing what he knew was right: creating art. Where was the encouragement? Where was the motivation? It had to be spiritual because I can’t understand it any other way. Even when we’re backsliding into the same old patterns, God ensures His plan continues.
Beauty and inspiration come from weird places. But behind all the weird places is a Master Designer.
Sleep is a weird thing for me. I’ve had insomnia. I’ve had sleep with consistent nightmares. And sometimes I sleep just fine. Sometimes I love it; other times I dread it. Lately, I’ve been wanting to sleep, which I know is a sign that I want to skip as much awake life as I can. I do force myself to not go to bed right away. But last night I didn’t. I went to bed early and allowed myself to stay resting (if not actually asleep) until my normal get-up time. So if I’m still easily tipped off-kilter, at least I’m also well-rested. That must count for something.
Actually, I learned today that my real need is dealing with sin, not dealing with relationships or feelings. I knew that already, but it’s good to learn again. And Jesus already dealt with the sin and took care of my real need. So I’m good to go. Did you hear that brain? You’re good to go.
I like this painting for its beauty. It’s like she’s dreaming this sweet-smelling summer world, and she’s in it, too. Best of both worlds. She’s good to go. It could be a really ugly painting with dead flowers and storm clouds and whatnot, and maybe you couldn’t even tell that the girl was sleeping peacefully. Maybe she was really ugly, too. She could still be good to go, on the spiritual side. You never know by looking. Or feeling. But sometimes art is symbolic of spiritual things. If this one is, then perhaps she’s resting in a beautiful psalm, like Psalm 23, which my daughter is memorizing. “He makes me lie down in green pastures… He restores my soul.”
Marriage is a joining: Mr and Mrs, man and wife, flesh of my flesh. But the minds still operate apart. As close as we get together, touching forehead to forehead, there’s still that bony skull in the way. The Mrs. Krohn part of me says “I am you; why are you saying these things I would never say?” The Amy part of me draws my forehead away from his as a little rebellion against the whole marriage deal. Sometimes I’ve found myself in the same room as my husband, but not touching, not connecting one bit. Bone of my bone, but the bones don’t fit.
And then there are times, even when bone of my bone is walking a different way across life than I am, tenderness applies a little surgery, and my forehead is resting against his shoulder. It doesn’t matter that he is still mostly stranger after eleven and a half years. It doesn’t matter that he can’t remember much at all about me or things that happened after we were married.
There’s a voice that God uses to draw us together. It lisps. It starts talking about my mind, or his mind, and it drops the d at the end. So it says “mine” and means both of us. I don’t know how this works, and sometimes I like to deny it, but then, I find myself resting my head against his, and I’m curled up in our joined world again, a refuge that takes me by surprise when I find it.
This artist is from Illinois, which explains why the landscape is familiar and home-like to me. Illinois isn’t very far off from Wisconsin. In its sparseness I find comfort. It is simple, not too bright to dazzle me, and not too dark to sadden me. I like the puddles and the straight horizon. I like the two tall trees on the fenceline. I even like the cows, probably because they are just two cows and don’t seem to be the most important thing here.
What is important? If you don’t mind, I’d like to tie in some homeschooling thoughts here. What is important is the stretch of meadow, the expanse to walk through. It is important to have puddles to splash in, and equally important to have dry spots interspersed so you don’t always have to be in the water. Like school, this expanse is regular enough to not be scary and rugged enough to provide special experiences. There is a gate to head toward. There are some things around to attract your attention when you get bored with the puddles. But most of all, the education is the whole expanse you walk through. There’s that gate, but no brick path with arrows. There’s the fence, but lots of space. There are slow, chewing creatures around, and maybe in my metaphor, they are like me, the teacher, and mostly I just watch the student and moo at him occasionally, keep my eye on him, walk toward a new clump of meadow and see if he will follow me there.
I am often more rigid than that, but lately, I’ve been feeling like that meadow-approach is better than other approaches.
Last summer I decided to paint a copy of this painting by Paul Peel, a Canadian artist. I meant to get it finished in the summer. I didn’t. I didn’t have much time or ambition to work on it during the school year, so I didn’t get around to finishing the painting until today. Below is a slightly fuzzy photograph of my copy. I intend to hang it in my bedroom.
I wrote to someone that I often read poetry when I’m in need of sophistication and beauty. Here I look at this beautiful, sophisticated woman, first asleep and then waking up, and I think this must be a poetic painting. I could tell you what it is like to sleep peacefully. I could explain the loveliness of a new day after you have slept fully and deeply. But there’s no need. This painting shows more than what I can write.