Sunday, October 30, 2016

White Rabbit

At 86 years old, Polly's energy arrived in short bursts and then would fly away like a bird that longed to break free from an old cage. It would come back but fly away again. Her habit was to take lunch at noon, then promptly go nap. In sleep or in visions as she lay on her bed in the afternoons, vivid wonders came regularly—vanquishing the thinnest of veils between worlds.

She had lost her dear husband years ago, and resided alone. Her son lived a thousand miles away. A few close friends visited regularly, bringing her books to read, and sometimes playing a game of cards. Recently in her dreams at night, and regularly in reverie as she rested in the afternoons, a lively and animated little vision would occur. The same four characters would arrive: a white rabbit, an angelic girl dressed in white, and two ballet dancers—male and female. Usually the rabbit appeared first, then the child angel with the dancers.

When Polly was six years old her parents brought a white rabbit home for their daughter, and her father made a cage where it lived in the backyard. It ate greens and carrots and was content, especially when allowed out to hop around the yard. Polly loved to stroke its long ears and feel its twitching nose on her tender fingers. It was so long ago! Whatever happened to it? She could not remember. 

Her mother was an ardent lover of ballet and often booked seats whenever a ballet group came to town. Polly had many fantastic youthful memories of blissful nights seated next to her mother and father, watching famous dance companies. She had seen some of the greats perform; including Rudolf Nureyev and Nadia Nerina. Now, the pas de deux ballet memories came through the mist like whirling dervishes arriving from afar to entrance her mind and lift her heart. 

A tragedy had occurred in her home when Polly was just thirteen. Her best friend visited after school. The two were playing jacks on the hardwood living room floor. Polly got up to get a glass of water and when she came back her friend was choking. Mother was summoned as the girl was turning blue in the face and not able to breathe. Frantically, mouth to mouth resuscitation was attempted but the child expired. Minutes later, the girls father rushed through the front door and gave out a wail of grief seeing his lifeless daughter in Polly's mother's arms. An autopsy revealed that the poor girl had one of the jacks lodged in her windpipe. For many years afterward at random moments of work or play, Polly sometimes fleetingly glimpsed her friend—as if she was not gone at all, but just transparent.

The foliage on the trees outside the living room window were changing colors. The days became shorter and the air chilled. Polly felt a tinge of remorse anticipating the cold coming. One day, she sat in her rocking chair, gazing for hours at the leaves falling, before suddenly getting up.  She went to the refrigerator and pulled out a pot of soup and heated it for lunch. She ate slowly, put the dishes in the sink and feeling tired, went to her bedroom. Outside, the sky was overcast, with bits of sunlight puncturing the clouds. Kicking off her slippers, she laid down in bed and felt her energy gather like a bird and fly out the window. She followed it. It flew and careened past the trees to a field not far away that was bordered by woods. Suddenly on her feet at the edge of a meadow, something white caught her eye. Rabbit stood at attention, one eye cocked toward her, watching, ears standing straight up. With a little hop, he was in the woods. Suddenly, by Polly's side the girl angel appeared and took her hand, pulling her to follow the rabbit. A path became apparent. Rabbit ran ahead. Polly heard footsteps and holding to the angels hand, she looked back to see two dancers, man and woman, in ballet costume coming up fast behind them. Rabbit hopped to the right. Everyone followed and entered a tunnel of earth and vines. It became dark but smelled wonderful. Polly squeezed tight the child-angels's hand who squeezed back and in a second, the darkness gave way to light as they entered a plush theater. Light dazzled from spectacular chandeliers hanging above. Rabbit disappeared. 

The dancers bounded past. An orchestra was tuning and a ballet company waited onstage for the arrival of the two celebrated dancers. Finely dressed people were arriving. The child-angel leaned softly and whispered in Polly's ear, “Look down there darling!” She gestured toward the front row. A lovely couple seated in the middle turned, and beaming with smiles beckoned to Polly. Her parents had an empty seat next to them and waved excitedly for Polly to come join them. Suddenly, Polly's energy came back to her, as if she was not 86 years old but 16. Joyfully she rushed down the aisle to join them. 

Nora, 80, Polly's neighbor, knocked but got no answer. The morning paper was at the doorstep and it was almost noon. She took the extra key Polly had given her and unlocked the door. “Polly, are you all right?” The home was silent. Nora went to the bedroom and opened the door. Polly's hands were folded on her chest and she lay with closed eyes, not breathing. Nora walked to her side and looked close. Polly seemed to be smiling but she was certainly dead. Nora peered tenderly at her friend. "OH! You rascal!” was all she could say.

© 2016 Steven Boone ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Bizarre Thought

Political Hangups oil on linen, 18 x 24 inches
It all started with a bizarre thought that came to my mind many years ago in 1993. A couple of faces hanging from a clothesline like laundry hung to dry. I had no idea where the mental picture came from or why it arrived in the moment. I was driving on a lonely road on the way home from working at my art gallery. Another odd thought arrived on its heels; that I must paint it.

The painting I made promptly exhibited and sold. It was all so curious that more were created. Most arrived in the span of a few years. During twenty years over thirty paintings came. Many sold, but they were on the verge of madness and often took quite long to be bought—if at all. I remember having a show at my gallery, called Hangups. The entire front room was filled with them. 

A young woman worked for me and had an uneven temperament. She could drink heavily at times but was quite brilliant. The show lasted for two weeks and she worked at a desk in the same room. The day the paintings came down and were replaced with landscapes, she almost cried tears of relief. I was surprised, and to this day remember her reaction. They are not easy paintings . . .
I had to quit at one point because I was becoming mentally unbalanced. I discontinued showing them but made a collection.

The last time I made one was over six years ago. This year, with the election heating up here in America, and the two candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seeming to be ubiquitous and constantly in the news, I ventured to make another Hangup painting with the two of them. Now that it is done, as people see it they laugh. It breaks the serious fighting that has been part of the issue of these presidential elections . . and casts the whole matter in a humorous if not morbid light. 

I am sure some people will not find the new painting funny. That has been true all along. The paintings cause reactions—either you laugh or get mad.
Click on the image above to see the book!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

When Summer Passes Away

A girl paddling on Lake Dal, Kashmir, India
During my daughter Naomi's eighteenth year, death was encroaching upon her so forcefully that she despaired thinking of her future. She wrote in her journal that she wanted to do volunteer work, but had a superstition that she would die when her work was accomplished. 

Naomi sensed her life was drastically condensed—shortened by her cancer. Nagging suspicions plagued her and she hated them. Death continually whispered into her ear, “Darling, you're life is ending! You only have weeks and months to live, not years and decades.” She found herself wary of accomplishing goals because her purpose would be fulfilled and life would abruptly end.

This is how death, when it touches us—not as an abstract thought but as an dominating force, can play with the mind.

Death signifies ending. When summer passes away, plant life goes dormant. When a bird dies, its song ends and it falls to earth. Nations and people expire, species go extinct; even great powers like stars in heaven die. Once the purpose for life has been realized, death is sure to come. 

Is anything eternal? Does anything exist that does not die? For this we must go beyond the material worlds. We must touch God, the Uncreated Creator of All. His unborn, undying Spirit inhabits and informs the spiritual realm. What lives there by His grace and love is preserved from decay and death. Naomi knew this and wrote, “I want God to know that my life is in His hands and I know this. If He decides it is my time to leave, well then that is His choice. What I want God to know is that I truly love this earth.”

Naomi Boone, 1/11/1980 - 7/5/1999

Be thou watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before god. The Bible, Reveleation 3:2

To read my book about Naomi, go to: A Heart Traced In Sand

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Stand Side By Side

I see on the news so much destruction in the world. How odd it is people can't be friendly! These conflicts occur at every level of human civilization; within and between families, tribes, localities, nations, races, and practically every stratum of mortal life. Other animals get along better. Zebras don't fight each other. Bees cooperate. Dolphins love one another in the big oceans.

Recently, I have trekked with friends up in the mountains that rise above Santa Fe. The elevation rises to about 13,000 feet (3960 meters). As the seasons change, so does the landscape. This time of year, our summits have broad swaths of aspen trees that turn a brilliant golden yellow. An entire mountain side can suddenly turn from green to gold. The display lasts a couple weeks and attracts crowds of hikers who amble underneath the gold. Above all is the bluest of blue skies.

Aspen spread roots in the earth and from the roots arise other trees, called clones. The root system is a colony and can live for tens of thousands of years. One tree dies while another is born. Individuals live 40 – 150 years. Aspen support various animal and insect life. I find great peace among them. 

"Joy of Autumn" 24x36 inches, oil on linen

Imagine that human beings all spring from the same root. We are made of the same substance, feed from the same earth and metabolize together in the same way, using the sun as our source of generation along with the elements. We stand side by side, and grow together under the same great cosmos. Why do we turn against one another? There is something to learn from the simple aspen tree.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Red Leaves

Deep within the vault of my memories, full now with six decades of life, is an episode of rapturous wonder, thrill, and happy connectedness. Veiled and buried with so many other memories, once in a while it comes to mind, as it did the other day.

Late summer is now shifting into the autumn season, and the colors have been summoning me to paint outdoors. Temperatures begin cool and become balmy. One day I drove about an hour out of the city to one of my favorite places; the Rio Grande Gorge. Following the twisty, softly flowing river through volcanic rock canyons, I found a scenic area by a bend. I climbed out to scout for a scene to paint, and took my camera. Amidst tall reeds at the river edge, the only sounds were the gurgling of water and paddling of ducks congregated on a log by the other side. Among the green shrubs and brilliant yellow blooms, I spotted some crimson leaves—a sure sign of the autumn. It was the red foliage that jarred loose the buried memory, so pleasant and nostalgic.

When I was but six or seven years old, beginning school in La Grange, Illinois, (a suburb of Chicago) the class went on a field trip at the beginning of Autumn. We drove out into the country to a nature preserve. The weather was perfect—blue skies and the lingering warmth of summer coming from the earth. Colors of nature were already changing. Several teachers watched over the group of children from various classes. A sense of happiness and love pervaded the day. Something thrilled me and touched my soul with wonder—to be out of the confines of a classroom, yet with adults who took pleasure along side of me and the other children. The sky seemed so blue, like I had never seen before, perhaps because the colors of the trees and fields were burnished so brilliantly orange, red and yellow. To walk in the grass almost up to my waist and hear it swish, while smelling the aromas of plants and fertile, moist earth . . .
I came upon an oak leaf that had fallen onto the path at my feet. It's red color surprised me and I became aware how color could arouse my senses. I still remember that leaf.

Later the class went among tall reeds and cattails by a pond. It was there that I saw a snake slither by, gliding in the water, wriggling rapidly while holding its head up. I thrilled at the sight and also the slight danger of something foreign, mysterious, and alive arriving out of the deep dark water.
The visit was over after a few hours and we went back to school. I do not remember the school as clearly as the sights and sounds of that day in nature.

At the Rio Grande, as I relished the nostalgia of that memory, I stopped to gaze at the red leaves, while listening to the river flow and feeling the sun warm on my skin. Hiking back to unpack gear and make a painting, I trampled among sage bushes. They released an indelible pungent aroma that had a medicinal effect on my senses and mind. 

The painting flowed through me the same way as the memory.

Rio Grande Gorgeous, oil on linen, 14 x 18 inches