Give me time and I’ll give you a revolution.”
-Alexander McQueen, Designer
Sometimes the afternoon really does know what the morning never thought of.
It all started by sitting in church. As I scanned the bulletin, a simple announcement transformed into a divine invitation.
You are invited to “The Spiritual Journey,” being held this afternoon, Sunday, November 16, from 2-4pm at The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk.
Join us for a special Kaufman Theater lecture on the roles of faith and religion in Thomas Cole’s masterpiece, The Voyage of Life, with the Rev. Canon Win Lewis of Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Norfolk.
Afterward, enjoy a Gallery Talk on the exhibition led by Crawford Alexander Mann III, our Brock Curator of American Art, in Gallery 211.”
The Spiritual Journey
It was a blustery Sunday afternoon. Part of me wanted to curl up with a good movie (movies > books, no shame here), yet that divine invitation wooed me.
At 1:30pm, I left home in search of inspiration.
The minute I walked through the doors of our local museum of art, stress began to drip from every pore. What is it about a museum that brings such calm?
As I made my way to the theater where the lecture was to take place, I thought, “Why on earth don’t I take advantage of this luxurious place? It is just minutes from my house.”
As I listened to both Rev. Canon Win Lewis and Brock Curator Crawford Alexander Mann III share on Cole’s Voyage of Life, I remembered.
I sincerely can’t remember where I first saw Cole’s paintings—perhaps the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC—or perhaps in an art book. I’m not sure. I do remember that I was somewhere between 26-28 years old. Enamored by the four distinct images of the seasons of life, I found great solace in them. They tell a grand story—our story. At the time prints of famous paintings could be purchased for a mere $1. Yes, $1. I bought Cole’s (and others), framed them, and hung them in our first little home. Even as a young woman, art offered tremendous therapeutic/healing power to my soul.
The Power of Perspective and Experience
What a difference (almost) three decades makes.
As I stood before these four grand canvases of story, I realized how many things I had missed when I was in my twenties. At that point, I was in the second canvas of Cole’s Voyage of Life—the “youth” of my life: newly married, new to motherhood, and new to my vocation. The world was wide open and I was full and overflowing with zeal and gusto and passion—and, naivete.
Thankfully, I really didn’t know what was up around the bend.
That is the beauty of our youth. It is the time to dream and scheme and work and discover and live into the adventure we call life. I loved every single up and down and all around because they added depth and breadth to my life’s canvas.
As I stood before these paintings on Sunday, I realized I am now in the third canvas—manhood or “the early afternoon” of my life. That season that prefaces old age. Experts call this the adolescence of old age.
Three specific aspects that had gone unnoticed in my twenties were now crystal clear:
- The movement of the river. It turns and twists around several bends. In my twenties, I only saw it as moving forward. I didn’t even see the bends.
- The hourglass being held by the golden angel on the front of the boat. Quite symbolic. I didn’t even see the hourglass.
- The “demons” that hide in the menacing clouds, said to represent suicide, intemperance, and murder. About this painting, Cole states, “Trouble is characteristic of the period of Manhood. In childhood, there is no carking [burdensome] care: in youth, no despairing thought. It is only when experience has taught us the realities of the world, that we lift from our eyes the golden veil of early life; that we feel deep and abiding sorrow: and in the Picture, the gloomy, eclipse-like tone, the conflicting elements, the trees riven by tempest, are the allegory; and the Ocean, dimly seen, figures the end of life, which the Voyager is now approaching.” I didn’t even notice the demons.
Connecting with God
Needing a few moments to really connect with God and talk over what I had seen, this time, as I stood with Cole’s paintings, I meandered around the Ghent area. I found a church for sale and thought, “Wouldn’t that be a great retreat center?” I found myself so inspired again that I started dreaming, as if I was back in my twenties.
A girl can dream. And who knows, maybe starting a retreat center where families can be made whole again isn’t a silly dream. Maybe you know someone who has an extra million…I’m open to investors!
One thing was certain—standing before that church, I didn’t even notice my age.
How do you connect with God? If I am completely honest, I connect most with God when I am surrounded by HIS inspired beauty and creation, i.e., standing before Cole’s Voyage of Life, at the beach, on a hike, traveling to other countries to see varying customs and cultures, on a bike ride, taking a walk, sitting by the river, or even as we will do this week, set a beautiful table and sobre mesa with my family…
How about you? What inspires you? What helps you take a deep breath and drink in the reality of Christ?
Please share with us. Your words may be the divine invitation someone needs today.