faith

Be moved to wonder.

be moved to wonder

People are moved to wonder by mountain peaks, by vast waves of the sea, by broad waterfall on rivers, by the all-embracing extent of the ocean, by the revolutions of the stars. But in themselves they are uninterested. --St. Augustine

There is a deep place in my soul for those things that move me to wonder, that call out from a bigger Existence—the Greater Than. I've never truly felt that I had eyes to see or ears to hear, but I long for my senses to reach past the stillness and silence and detect a small whisper of a Something.

Do you know this feeling? This deep wanting, waiting, watching?

I can see It and hear It most clearly when I am taking in those mountain peaks and vast waves and broad waterfalls. These things speak such a strong language of Createdness to me. It all works. It all dances together. How else than by some Plan?

I'm not the only one drawn to such a wonder.

“The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient womb. Nighttime is womb- time. Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.” ~John O'Donohue

The atmosphere, the earth, the water and the water cycle - those things are good gifts. The ecosystems, the ecosphere, those are good gifts. We have to regard them as gifts because we couldn't make them. We have to regard them as good gifts because we couldn't live without them. ~Wendell Berry

Some part of my soul relaxes when I see the “universe of nature”, and I’m reminded that it doesn’t need to be much, or for very long, or even very far before nature touches me. ~SARK

"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." ~John Muir

"Whatever peace I know rests in the natural world." ~May Sarton

"The closer you get to real matter, rock air fire wood, boy, the more spiritual the world is."~ Jack Kerouac

This kind of seeing, hearing, and touching can only come from a stillness of heart. I am learning that. I am learning to quiet myself enough that my soul has a moment to wonder.

And in all that wonder, a light flicks on in me. A yearning to put that light into something that others can see and take in.

This is the call for you and for me: To receive what we've been given then pass it along, compelled by our own abundance and gratitude.

Have you "wondered" lately? Have you heard and seen and felt? Have you allowed yourself to sense some other Bigness? Have you taken in your abundance lately in order to share it, passing it along like loaves and fishes?

If not, I challenge you to be moved to wonder. To come to the place of open-heartedness and receive what the world has to give you. Take it all in, what is coming and what is already there. And then pass along as much as you can.

This is the call to life. This is the call to creativity. This is the call to stewardship.

Painting past the panic: Refuge

The thing that touches me the deepest is the invitation to create a piece that will sit in someone's personal meditation space. This has happened multiple times, and came at a moment where I dreamt of designing a chapel, a la Rothko in Houston. So someone says that they'd like me to interpret a concept in "my style" that will hang in an area of their house where they will have their spiritual reflection time. These people with their dedicated spaces, they are serious about this environment. And they invite me in. And we work together to craft a piece that gives them hope and keeps their eyes looking forward.

It's the greatest honor: to speak into that space.

My first piece centered around Psalm 46. The one with "be still and know that I am God..." Such a familiar and hope-giving passage. And I knew her reasons for requesting this. I knew the concept of this want for stillness and knowing. I knew the reach for peace, and I wanted to reflect that in the painting. I dug deep into the psalm, peeling back the layers of meaning, and found utter turmoil. Nations are crumbling, mountains are giving way, enemies are encroaching.

Not the "feel good" stuff.

But REFUGE was there, in the beginning middle and end of the psalm. Book-ending the meaning, and sitting at the heart of it. Refuge. Refuge in the storm. The river that makes glad the city of our God. And the fortress. And Martin Luther writing "A Mighty Fortress" in response to this psalm. It's all there. The good and the bad. The calm and the storm. The protection and the war.

This was not what she wanted. In turn, this was my first moment of panic in this process...

I warned my patron that my handling of this psalm might not be as sunshiny as she'd like. Still, she trusted me with the process, so I put paint to canvas and began the stormy but serene process of capturing the truth of this tumultuous passage.

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I started with the mountains, knowing I would weave fog throughout. This fog being a "fortress" in its own right, both concealing the hunted, but also making it difficult to see the impending dangers. Layers of fog and layers of trees, pushing into the foreground.

And of course: the river making glad... And there's the tiny fortress, nestled in the farthest mountain, barely visible except through its strong reflection in the water.

And then I laid awake that night and panicked. Panicked at the messy flat elementary look of it all. It needed more: more grit, more truth, more layers. But how? It's so cold, stale, sterile.

Destruction rushed in me. To bury it all and start over. I imagined a thick layer of gesso over it, a new beginning. But, then came the pattern paper. Warm. Engulfing. Thinly covering over those layers of fog and mountain and tree and fog. Bringing a dynamic depth to the painting, while also reflecting motherly love, caregiving, nurturing. Sewing, making, building. All wrapped in that pattern paper.

This was the foundation it needed. And in big strokes and splashes of energy, I pulled the foreground, with heavy blacks and shadows and layers. Splatters and details and messes, and the piece came to life.

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My emotions were high at this point; I was taken in by the intensity of what was building before me. But yet, I couldn't take my mind from the word "refuge." Throughout the process, I kept in my mind the intent to include the hebrew word for "refuge" in the painting--prominent and demanding. Overpowering the rest of the painting. Sitting in it. Resting in it. But where would it go?

Panic again...

I buried a layer of soft blue in the mountain, and stacked "refuge" on top of it. It settled in, declaring piece over the harsh conditions of the painting.

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I stepped back and asked myself if it was done. NO. And then came a fresh wave of panic. The blacks were too black. The look was too "complete" -- I felt a sense of destruction roll over me again. Strong. I grabbed the watery white, used in creating the fog. I buried my brush in the milk mixture and started slinging. And the storm came. The torrent of rain.

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I knew that this was it: the final layer of the painting. Refuge from the storms of life.

 

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The Shadow Side Series

Too Much to Ask I've come to accept that there is always a both/and to life.

  • Joy and Sorrow.
  • Pain and Contentment.
  • Light and Dark.

And The Shadow Side Series reflects the darker side of what I have struggled to accept in faith and life. These are not declarations as much as they are admittances. The truths sit on a dark watercolor paper background, with the high contrast of red, blue, and white pushes the truths of these darker sides to light. They are simple, but strong. Much like truth, when it stares us in the eyes in an undeniable way. It's there. It's not ornate or flashy. But it's so very unmistakable.

At seven, I feel that this series is at a place of rightness. I am not sure if I will continue to create more "shadow sides," so I wanted to offer a collector's cut for this piece: 25% off the purchase of all seven prints. You can see the full collection HERE.

Just let me know and I will set up the purchasing details for you. Comment or email works for me: mandy@mandythompson.com