One of the ways I have tried to stay connected with others throughout the pandemic and our move has been to make small works of art, handmade prints, cards or paintings, and mail them with a note to friends. I have sent mail-art to Nova Scotia, Washington, DC and to different parts of Ontario, from Barrie to Windsor. It’s been a great experience, a practice in letting go and physically releasing something out into the world. It’s also neat to see how people receive them. Some people respond by text message, others I don’t hear from at all. Only once so far have I received a letter in return. I just find all of it kinda fun.
One of the pieces I have made came from a reflection a friend of mine shared this past Christmas, on the love verses in the bible, found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. What he shared really resonated with me at the time (still does). He admitted his “love tank” was close to empty - something I think everyone can relate to at times. As this pandemic has dragged on, it can be difficult to be loving toward ourselves and others and all too easy to become irritable and less than patient with the people around us. It’s not about fake positivity, it’s really about honesty. I asked him if he would send me his notes from his reflection so I could mull them over. With his permission, here’s an excerpt of what he wrote:
Love is being patient with others and circumstances regardless of what is happening.
Love is being kind to those around us, period.
Love is us not being envious and jealous of those around us for their perceived good fortune.
Love is not being boastful and thinking of others as being not as good as ourselves.
Love is not being proud of ourselves in a way that points out everyone else’s faults, or demeans other people’s successes.
Love is not us enjoying when someone else is put in their place or taught a so called lesson, or we decide that they deserved the awful thing that has happened to them.
Love is us not being rude to someone because we disagree with them or we are annoyed with them for some perceived wrong doing.
Love is us putting other peoples needs ahead of our own needs, being willing to sacrifice a comfort for ourselves to lift someone else up.
Love is us not being angered easily but rather seeking to understand someone else’s perspective.
Love is us not keeping a list of the wrong things that we feel other people of done to us, or bad things people have said about us.
Love is us protecting others who are being attacked in word or action, especially when they are not in the room to speak for themselves.
Love is us always choosing to trust somebody as a starting point, and not demanding that they earn our trust first.
Love is us always hoping and believing the best of people and circumstances.
Love is us continuing to do, say and believe all of these things, even when it is really hard to do and we want to give up.
What came from mulling over my friend's explanation of love, was a small artist book, painted with watercolour paint. The artwork was very experimental - I have only done a handful of watercolour paintings before and wasn’t sure a lot of the time that it would amount to anything worth looking at. I’ve wanted to make an artist book for a very long time and the subject of love seemed like a really great theme. But it really wasn’t until I was done painting the colour that it occurred to me to add “Love is…” and it’s adjectives.
Generally, I set out with an image in mind but once I’m started, I let the artwork speak to me (most of the time) so I can respond in kind. With this project, I really was unsure what was going to happen, yet, one brick at a time, it started to come together. When I finished the one side of the paper, I had enjoyed the process so much, I decided to do the back as well. This took a couple of weeks to finish so when I decided to include the words, I needed some courage to proceed. I was taking a big risk, if I messed up a word, the entire thing would be ruined - I had invested a lot of time into this and I kinda liked it!
Fortunately, I didn’t make any mistakes. Once all was said and done, I propped it up to see it all together and was delighted with how the light reflected so beautifully through the colours on the paper.
It was a surprise to me, how in the light, the colours overlapped in such interesting ways through the front and back of the paper. At this point I had only painted words on one side of the accordion book and decided to include more love attributes on the other side, so that, no matter which direction you’re coming from, you will see love.
To be absolutely honest, I kinda wanted to keep this one for myself. Who couldn’t use a beautiful reminder about love to look at everyday? The completed book was way better than I could have imagined, planned or hoped for. Love is a little bit like that isn’t it? But I couldn’t keep it, love is not meant to be kept only for ourselves.
I put it in an envelope, sealed it shut, put a stamp on it and off to Canada Post it went. I didn’t write an explanation - I was hoping the book would speak for itself. I was a little worried that it might arrive at its destination with a bend in it or if it had gotten wet, the colours would have bled into each other. A small part of me wondered if he would even like it or just find it kinda weird. And then I heard nothing. Haha, for about a month I think. He’s a busy guy so I wasn’t hurt or offended - I don’t do this for recognition. Just knowing I have put something out there from my heart is enough. What happens to it is not up to me or anything I can control. It’s a discipline to let things go, but it’s freeing as well.
Then one day, out of the blue about 3 weeks ago, my friend emailed me. Not only to thank me, but to ask if I would consider creating a mural in a room using my artist book as the inspiration.
So, for the past couple of weeks, I have taken a small watercolour painting on paper and used the concept to fill an entire room with love!
Since the room is cinder block, practically speaking it fits very well. However, it gave me the opportunity to expand on the concept and interpret love as the foundation, in all that we do and in particular what my friends will do in this space. How the colours were layered on the paper made me think of the ways love builds on and doesn’t take away from. In a similar way, mixing each of the colours from a base of only six colours for the walls, demonstrates how none of us can be fully ourselves without the other.
A place, where people will meet, learn, grow, and share life in all of its ups and downs. I’ve been able to apply colour theory and symbolism and my faith to
establish a cornerstone of Love, and how that can be reflected out into the world through people, everyday people, like you and me.
For some it will be so rich with meaning their hearts will melt, others might think it’s just something fun. My experience with this sort of thing is that it will mean something slightly different to everyone, which just deepens the impact that Love has.
I'll be finishing the touch ups this Easter weekend, which seems suiting to me. The most profound expression of Love humanity has ever seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The embodiment of Love and Light. I pray you are surrounded by Love this weekend and always.