There are so many different reasons why I paint.
Zuzu has been driving me crazy lately. Like cra-zee.
The thing about art--good art--is it's ability to transform something inside us, make us feel things we didn't feel just moments before. For me it's often this strange mix of nostalgia and novelty, a pang in my heart that makes me feel I found the very thing I never knew I was looking for all along. GK Chesterson said, We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call spirit, and art, and ecstacy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget. CS Lewis said, If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that we were made for another world. So often I think that art takes us to the brink of this remembering of things we forget, this other. At its best, art lifts us and can both stir and satiate, at least temporarily, these longings.
The thing about motherhood is that the joy comes in moments, as Elder Ballard once said. (Perhaps you've read Glennon Melton's essay Don't Carpe Deim about motherhood and how we can't enjoy it all the time...but the moments, we can enjoy those. I'm not trying to rewrite that essay here, but you should read it. Its good.) Back to what I was saying, joy in parenting is in the moments. This feels especially applicable to me with Zuzu right now. When you take the total innocence coupled with the unbridled curiosity of a 15 month old baby you get a constant flow of disasters on the brink, disasters actually occurring and disasters just completed. I am in a constant state of motion trying to keep up with the most adorable hurricane this side of the Mississippi. Yet as you may have guessed, or well know from experience, living life in constant motion is exhausting.
Its amazing and sometimes almost odd that even the smallest artistic endeavors can leave me feeling more elevated than regular life. For example childrens books can feel unnervingly magical. Even though I'm reading about bedtime, baths, busy spiders and hungry caterpillars. Suddenly all those things feel special. Not ordinary. Sometimes I want to jump in the book and be in that moment, and I'm like what is going on? Why is this version of life so charming? There are even these tricky children's books that make disobedient children who destroy homes and sanity for everyone in the homes feel magical and delightful. How do they do that? Art. Illustrations, words and humor all mixed together make us see and feel the world around us differently. This is nothing new. How many people have ever read Romeo + Juliet thinking, Why can't I find my suicide pact soul mate? Sigh. Of course taken to extremes this can be problematic, but in the day to day drudgery of life this other, this feeling of being alive can be a rainstorm on our parched, desert souls.
And so when I was looking at my instagram feed last week, at the beautiful pictures of my beautiful offspring I was surprised to think, these pictures feel more beautiful then the real moment did. And so is it fake? Is my instagram feed and/or blog perpetuating a myth about my life and how idyllic it is or isn't? No. The problem is that we often base reality on how we feel, but sometimes our feelings are not reflective of reality at all. The reality of these amazing, beautiful creatures I call my children who have beating hearts and thinking minds, who I somehow helped bring into existence and who in turn brought the mother in me into existence is a miracle! They are walking, breathing, living miracles. Their very existence is poetry in motion. They are the riches of my life. But the miracle and beauty of my children is so often overshadowed by fatigue, the routine of dishes and laundry and the slow tick-tock of the clock. The fact that I can look at a picture of a moment from earlier in the day, week or month and see and feel things that I wasn't able to see and feel in the moment is just one more testament to the power of art.
This is why I paint, this is why I take pictures and this is why I write:
To remember that I forget.