I stopped at my beloved local flower shop this morning on my way to the studio. It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m finding it hard to muster the love.
I had already cut out a pan of heart-shaped brownies and given my kids their annual Godiva chocolate boxes, and last night’s dinner was all shades of red (purple cauliflower! mashed sweet potatoes!), but I’m not feeling it this year. So I stopped by the flower shop to soak up a little beauty and inspiration, and to spread some cheer in the form of those heart-shaped brownies.
The shop was full of blossoms and goodness, and it was an instant lift to stand there among flower artists and their stunning medium. Two gentlemen came in to buy flowers while I was there, and the simple act of bearing witness to their intended gestures of love was uplifting. I bought an entire bucket of tulips.
I told my friend Ellen, the shop’s proprietor, about my struggle to find meaning in my work these days. She related and we laughed about how we both sell flowers. Ellen’s are grown from the local ground and arranged into stunning bouquets and mine are painted on paper in response, but it’s not a stretch to say that we both use flowers to bring light - in the form of joy, goodness, beauty, hope and possibility - into the world.
At it’s very essence – and if this is too much woo-woo for you, I understand because it’s almost too much woo-woo for me – I see myself as a light worker, my work as spreading the gospel of light – of hope and joy and possibility and the opportunity to choose those things in this world. I’ve seen this light seeking and spreading as my work for a few years now, and it’s manifest in my paintings and in my writing and in my daily goings on with family and friends and the person in line next to me at the market and the cashier and the mailman and my neighbor and her dog. My work is about being the light – about embodying it and reflecting it back into the world around me.
It’s not easy work, this light seeking spreading sharing thing I’m fumbling around trying to describe - it requires tons of self-care and attention, and in a darkening world it’s exponentially harder. I have to work harder to find the light; I have to work harder to shine the light; I have to work harder to share the light with others, all the while knowing that the work is more important than ever. So I push on.
How do I talk about paintings in this moment of political and social turmoil? How do I shout cheerfully from the rooftops that there are prints for sale?! How do I even make pleasing pictures of flowers when I can hardly see goodness through the fog? How do I begin to convince you that you need artwork on your walls when I’d rather you donate those dollars to help protect and defend the organizations we believe in? How do I push on?
And how do I not?
I am horrified by the notion of a world without beauty, it sucks the wind right out of me. Without color or joy or laughter or light, it’s not a world I want to live in, and so I keep painting. I keep showing up to the work and pushing on and making artwork that says there is hope and beauty and goodness in this world, there is something bigger than this moment. I keep sharing my paintings with you because they are made to be shared, to be seen, to be reflected back into the world. I keep digging deep for the light and buying myself the whole bucket of tulips when it seems that nothing else will work.
There is light in each of us. Find yours, reflect it back into the world, shine what you can on our neighbor and your sister and the stranger in line next to you in the market. Let your light ignite another if you can.
This is how we rise.