Shedding Daylight

Gary Myers is an artist whose work I admire and whose blog I’ve followed for several years. He lives just north of Elmira, New York, in the memorably-named town of Horseheads.  His paintings, recognizable, unique and strangely stirring, have hung in such galleries as the West End in Corning, New York, the Principle in Alexandria, Virginia and the The Haen in Asheville, North Carolina.

A museum exhibition titled Internal Landscapes: The Paintings of GC Myers, officially opened at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York on August 18. Continuing through December 31, the show groups together larger paintings from the last few years with a few very early small pieces that represent the beginnings of his work. A highlight at the Fenimore is the first public showing of The Internal Landscape, a painting whose progress readers of Gary’s blog were able to follow.

Several themes in his work intrigue me, particularly his rich, mola-like hillsides and pastures and his unique portrayal of the “archaeological foundations” of our lives. But he’s best known for his Red Trees and Red Chairs, his most immediately accessible and perhaps most strangely evocative symbols.

While putting together a new show that opens at The Kada Gallery in Erie, Pennsylvania on October 20th, he selected Inward Bound as its title. Inward Bound also is the title of a new painting, a smaller (4″ x 7″) piece done on paper .

Myers affirms the title as a reference to an inner voyage of discovery. Facing away from the world, away from the moon and stars which guided past journeys across seas and continents, The Red Chair has been turned inward, inviting contemplation of qualities which can be found only within ourselves.

While noting the extraordinary difficulty of the journey, he goes on to say that, “the rewards can be priceless.  For some it is wisdom, a calmness seated in the knowledge that they are completely at ease with who and where they are, inside and out. That’s what I see in this simple, small painting.”

Another painting destined for the Kada show was introduced to Gary’s blog readers on September 25. Still untitled, it had a special purpose. Readers were invited to submit their own title for the piece. While each of the suggested titles would be placed on the back of the painting and become part of its history, the winning title would be featured at the exhibition and earn a prize for its creator.

When I saw the painting, a title came to me immediately. After three slight revisions, I emailed my entry and thought little more about it until, to my utter astonishment,  Gary selected my Shedding Daylight as the title for his piece. 

Certainly I delight in knowing that Shedding Daylight will be admired at the Kada Gallery, and of course the honor of it all would have been quite enough, but other surprises were  in store. When I received my prize, it included the promised copy of Gary’s  book, nicely inscribed, and much more: a bookmark from the Fenimore showing his painting Up Through the Lakes, a collection of note cards that includes one of my favorites from 2010 called Raise Your Eyes and – wonder of wonders! – a small painting bearing the title Inspiration. It’s living now just to the right of my computer desk, where I easily can see it whenever I need a little – well, inspiration.

For some time I’ve wished I could visit one of Gary’s exhibits to see his paintings as they should be seen – in person. Now, I have a bit of his canvas, his paint and his vision right here beside me – a lovely kind of inspiration and an affirmation that, when I finally get to one of his shows, it will be everything I’ve imagined.

The Genesis of Shedding Daylight, the Title

I’m fond of cemeteries, and one of my favorites is tucked into a corner of League City. Fairview Cemetery isn’t as “pretty”  as some, but it’s interesting because of the history it contains. The first burial in Fairview was Charlotte “Lottie” Natho, a nine-year-old girl who died from diphtheria following the Great Storm of 1900

Eighteen known Civil War veterans are buried there; half were Union and half Confederate. Three of the Confederate veterans – John Henry Kipp, John William Derrick and John Daniel Owens – were members of the Magnolia Rangers, a Company formed on January 17, 1861 from men living in Galveston and Harris counties.  One of the earliest Texas Confederate Units, it accompanied Colonel John Ford south to Brazos Santiago to capture Ft. Brown – a journey that could have resulted in their meeting my great-great-grandfather, whose 34th Iowa Regiment also fought at Brazos Santiago.

Wandering the cemetery late one afternoon, imagining the possibility that some who are buried there encountered one of my ancestors, I found myself standing in front of a sturdy tree.  It had a somewhat less sturdy chair propped next to it and I couldn’t help laughing. It looked like a down-home version of the concrete benches scattered around the cemetery. Had it been a favorite of someone buried nearby? Was it there to allow family members to take their ease while they chatted with the dearly-departed? Or was it simply meant as a reminder of simpler days, when the invitation to “C’mon over here and set a spell” rarely was refused?

Looking at the chair, I remembered a comment my mother made years ago, on a visit to a different cemetery. Wandering and reminiscing among the gravestones of her friends she said, “Dylan Thomas was wrong.”  Only half-listening, I said, “What?”  “That poem he wrote. The one they made you memorize when you were in school. The one about being mad about dying. He was wrong about that.”

Of course she meant Thomas’ famous villanelle, Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night. A beautiful example of the poetic form and certainly his best-known verse, its title begins the poem.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Required only to memorize the words, I learned little of Thomas, his father, or the struggles and frustrations which influenced the poem. I did know the world around me appeared rich and inviting, filled with possibility.  If old age meant the loss of that world, rage seemed a perfectly reasonable response.

Over the years, my understanding of the seasons of life began to change.  However wonderous Spring’s delicate beauty, no matter how verdant and rich the bounty of summer, I began to grow more accepting of that exquisite, mid-Winter bleakness. And though every bare-branched tree stood as a memento mori, a reminder of the darkness to come, I found it extraordinary that, through days of slowly encroaching darkness and nights of gentle loss, Autumn refused to rage against the thin and dying light.

In her latter years, my mother became as fragile as an autumn leaf. Her translucent hands trembled as though stirred by some  mysterious breeze, and her once-vibrant color began to fade as her connection to the world grew more tenuous.

Tired after seasons of growth, spent from a lifetime of production, ready at last for rest and release, she often would laze in the fading afternoon light, peaceful as a silent wood. “What are you doing?” I’d ask. “Waiting,” she said. “Why don’t you come and sit for a while?” I understood her meaning, and I sat.

Looking now at the Red Chair, cobwebbed and empty beneath its tree, I remember a simple chair tucked beneath a cemetery oak and my own daylight-weary mother, seated and gazing toward the horizon.  However well or poorly spent her life, she felt no need for rage as the end approached, no compulsion to “rave and burn at close of day”.  Her way of of leave-taking, quiet as a falling leaf and gentle as the day’s last light, required nothing more than a chair and companionship. Now, her “other way” has been joined with a marvelous painting. I think she’d be pleased.

Slipping gently toward that good night
the body rests while fears take flight.
The spirit turns, then sighs away
entreaties meant to bid it stay -
shedding sorrow, shedding tears,
Shedding daylight, shedding years.

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Published in: on October 16, 2012 at 9:09 pm  Comments (83)  
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  1. This is amazing. I love the way you write and all of the nuances of this post. Hurray for ‘Shedding Daylight’ – the title and the concept.

    • Julie,

      Thanks so much. I’m glad you enjoyed it, even though you’re in the process of adding daylight! I hope this is the best spring ever for you – despite everything, I think it could be. (I wonder what a painting called “Adding Daylight” would look like?)

      Linda

      • Interesting idea!

  2. What a beautiful post! you are amazing!

    For sure I subscribed to gary’s blog, but I realize that I’ve not received his posts! I’m heading there now to figure out what went wrong – perhaps a slip of the hand unchecked the following button!

    z

    ps – go figure.. i was not following! now i am! z

    • Zee,

      I thought about you again when I was thinking about the mola-like aspects of Gary’s work. I just bumped into one again on a boat I’ve been working on – amazing that a craft so localized can spread so far.

      You’ll enjoy his blog, not just for the paintings but for his musings on the creative process and his unusual artistic finds – like the photo of Henri Groulx and The Chicken!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m glad the usual gremlins hadn’t undone your follow!

      Linda

      • yes, and a lovely tribute to you was in today’s post. i cannot believe i’ve been missing his posts!
        well, i won’t miss any more!
        z

  3. I enjoyed this very much and congrats on winning. It’s a lovely gift and a lovely painting and a lovely surprise.

    • Ellen,

      It’s all of that, isn’t it? Every bit of loveliness needs to be cherished, celebrated and protected in today’s world – or so it seems to me.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Someone asked if I felt as though I’d won the lottery – actually, it was much, much better.

      Linda

  4. Linda; Congratulations on composing the winning title for the painting! I’m not surprised that your entry was selected- you have such incredible talent!

    I also loved how you segued into the second half of this piece about how we greet the eventuality of death. Like you, I lost my mother in recent years and I was moved by your words. We can rail against its unfairness when it seems cruel or untimely, or we can accept it with grace and calm. Or a bit of both. The closing poem is beautiful- your own work, I’m sure. :)

    Enjoy your painting! ~ Beth

    • Beth,

      The amusing thing about the title is that giving “titles” to Gary’s work is common for me. Every now and then he’ll post a new piece and I’ll say, “Oh! I’d call it this!” or, “Well, it reminds me of that…” I guess I just love titles. I enjoy coming up with a clever one for my blog posts, and I have several “drafts” in my files that are nothing but titles. I call them my blog-seeds.

      And yes,the little bit of poetry at the end is mine. I think of it as a bit of a “seed”, too. Someday it may grow into something more, but for now it’s fine.

      It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since your mother’s death, or that it’s a year since my own was laid to rest. Now that I think of it, your beautiful creations for your mother’s memorial service are what I remember most about that time in your life. We don’t have to paint a formal portrait or create elaborate memorials for the power of art to help us cherish the past and the people we loved.

      Linda

  5. Hi Linda:

    Just got an e-mail indicating you had written something new and I dashed to read your post. I’m glad I did it tonight and not tomorrow, because I can sleep with a smile on my face.

    As usual, you can weave English words in such a way that you are able to stir deep emotions. The paintings of Gary are unusually bright and delightful to appreciate.

    I loved the second and third painting with those rolling hills, very similar to our Kuna Indian “molas”.

    Congrats on your prize for the selection of the title of Gary’s painting “Shedding Daylight”. It speaks a great deal about your appreciation and knowledge of exquisite art.

    Your story about the title “Shedding Daylight” was also very comprehensive and interesting. I wonder where you get so much information.

    Good Night,

    Omar.-

    P.S. It’s now 10:21 p.m. in Panama City, Panama. It’s time to go and visit the “Land of Nod.”

    • Omar,

      Here’s an interesting tidbit – we’re in the same time zone. I’d never thought about it, but when I saw your mention of the time last night I looked and sure enough – we’re separated north and south, not east or west.

      Some day when you have a few minutes, you might enjoy doing an image search using GC Myers – you’ll see that, despite the abundance of bright colors, he’s done quite different paintings that are equally interesting. Some of my favorites are from 2010, where design takes pride of place over color.

      Actually, I know very little about art beyond the basics. My talent (if talent it is) seems to lie in seeing connections between seemingly disparate things. When I saw Gary’s untitled painting, it took only a second for me to see that tree in the cemetery. Sometimes I imagine my mind as a kaleidoscope. It’s filled with little bits of information. When someone or something gives it a twist – voila! A new pattern emerges.

      As for the source of all those bits of information, it’s just another version of the “three Rs” – reading, research and really-trying-to-keep-my-eyes-open!

      Linda

      • Following up on your realization that (at least until Standard Time returns) the clock reads the same in Texas as in Panama, I’ll add that most people in our country have a mental map of this hemisphere (if they have one at all) that puts South America directly below North America. But Mexico and Central America run for the most part diagonally, with the result that the westernmost parts of South America are below the easternmost parts of North America. The eastern edge of South America is two time zones further east than Maine and Nova Scotia. That jutting so far east into the Atlantic Ocean is what enabled the Portuguese explorer Cabral to bump into Brazil after he sailed to the west of the usual Portuguese route around Africa.

        • You’re exactly right about that diagonal layout, but I don’t think I’d noticed it until I began sailing. Bumping into land masses is a great aid to increasing geographical knowledge, even if you’re just puddling around in the Gulf of Mexico.

          Geography’s another of those areas of study that’s fallen by the wayside. A couple of weeks ago, another blogger introduced me to this “Know Your States” game. I discovered that, for me, all of the northeast is pretty much a blank space that might as well be marked with one of those signs says something like “Here be dragons”. And plunking Kansas into the middle of a blank continent isn’t as easy as you’d think. But it’s lots of fun. – and I’ve finally figured out the Delmarva penninsula.

          As for Cabral – interesting that his family’s Coat of Arms has two purple goats. I wonder what Gelett Burgess would make of that?

          Linda

  6. Those words at the end are beautiful, Linda. I appreciate the back story you tell so lyrically behind that painting’s title. Congratulations.

    • nikkipolani,

      It was hard to get the backstory “right”, but it seemed worth the effort. I’m glad you appreciated it. I do suspect much of this was lying near the surface, since I’ve been aware that just a year ago I traveled north with Mom for her burial – in that same cemetery where we had our conversation about Dylan Thomas.

      I’m still amused that the friends she was reminiscing over and among whom she’s now buried all were members of my parents’ bridge club. Somehow they decided it would be a good thing to buy their plots together. Mom was the last, and I couldn’t help thinking when I went back to that cemetery, “Well – now they finally have all the tables full!”

      Linda

  7. Linda– Thanks so much for the kind words on my work but, even more, thank you for filling in the backstory of your title so beautifully. Knowing how you came to “Shedding Daylight” gives it so much more depth and makes me even more appreciative of it. Many thanks.

    • Gary,

      The pleasure’s all mine. This is one of those times I really enjoy the discipline of a blog and the opportunities it presents. Having a title is one thing. Knowing how it emerged is another. But telling the tale in a way that makes it accessible to others is something else.

      As Nathaniel Hawthorne so famously said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” And as you surely know, there’s not much difference between a blank page and that blank canvas at the top of this one.

      Enjoy your show at the Kada!

      Linda

  8. Myers has an interesting, almost “stained glass” style, with his white houses with red roofs and his red chair. I wonder if there is a red chair in his studio.

    I like your little poem at the end of the post, especially the lines about “shedding.” I smiled at the photo of the chair in the cemetery. There should be more places to sit in cemetaries — it’s like they’ll let you lie there but not sit! My 90 year old dad is also fading, even as your mother did. It seems as if he’s slowly dissolving away, becoming frailer, thinner, more fragile.

    • WOL,

      Some of his work is almost like stained glass. I’ve wondered from time to time if being from an area filled with glass studios has affected his perspective. I’ve never asked him that – it would be an interesting question. There’s a good bit of variety to his work. Like every painter, I suppose, he has his “periods” when other colors, other ways of visualizing, other subjects come into sharper focus.

      I love that little snippet of verse. As soon as I came up with the title, I realized it could be the title of a poem. In fact, I think I said so at the time – but I may have just thought it.

      We’re coming up to All Souls soon – the high holiday of sitting around in cemeteries. I meant to get down to Galveston last year but missed it – I will this year, too. Ah, well. Speaking of lying down instead of sitting – have you ever heard of Old Man Bailey, down on Bailey’s Prairie? He wanted to be buried standing up – another story to chase down.

      Mom was 93 when she died – I think I remember your dad is 90 or more. I think the transparency is more obvious in truly old people. Mom used to say she was going to be like the Cheshire Cat. She’d slowly disappear until there was nothing left but a grin.

      Linda

  9. Congratulations on being honored in this way! I visited the artist’s site and was quite taken by Archaeology: Formed in the Past. There is so much detail in that piece, as in The Internal Landscape. You’re right, the hills, streams, paths, the red roofs and bright yellow sun do seem to have a mola-like effect.

    The former painting made me think of another dichotomy: El Greco’s El entierro del Conde de Orgaz, a view of the terrestrial and celestial life. Yet the latter made me think of a village scene in Mexico at Valle de Bravo. Interesting how this artist from New York makes me think of Spanish influences.

    I am so happy for you that your crafted words will be tied to that one piece you gave so much thought to.

    Thank you for your poem, too. It comes at an interesting time.

    • Georgette,

      I’m glad you liked the archaeology piece. He has an extensive series of those paintings, and they vary quite a bit. It’s easy to get caught up in all the little bits – not at all unlike digging in our mother’s cedar chests!

      I took another look at the El Greco, and the first thing I noticed is the division between heaven and earth – that seems very much related to the archaeology paintings with their division between what lies buried and is accessible above ground. In the process, I came across this interesting blog post about the protection of El Greco’s painting in wartime.

      I think you’d enjoy looking at Lisa Brunetti’s work. She comments here as zeebra designs – you can see her mola series here.

      I really am thrilled to have my words connected to such a wonderful image, and it was a good experience for me to sort out my own feelings about some of this. I still haven’t figured out quite how to write about some of the events surrounding Mom’s internment, but that’s a different kind of post, cheerful if not downright humorous. After all, what’s not to love about a gravedigger who can’t stand machinery and uses his own self to measure the size of a grave?!

      Linda

  10. I do love his art as well. Such vibrancy! Your momma shed daylight; apparently she didn’t tear it off but greeted the evening with grace. How moving and inspiring.

    • Snoring Dog Studio,

      Your art’s quite different in some ways, but I do see the same immediacy and directness in your work as I do in Gary’s paintings. From my non-artist’s perspective, it’s all magic. I was pretty excited when I carved a passable squirrel from a bar of Ivory soap in grade school, but to actually paint? My goodness.

      It’s been instructive for me to follow him for another reason. Much of what he does, I like. Some I would hang on my wall in a minute, and some I wouldn’t carry home if you gave it to me. Once I began to realize that, I began to worry much less about my own writing. I came to the realization that a few people would like most of it, some would really relate to this or that, and some would think I’m the most boring writer on the planet. C’est la vie.

      Mom had her days, but we were among the lucky ones – she wanted to stay at home, and we managed it until the very end. It was a far more gracious end than she’d ever hoped for, and for that I’m grateful beyond words.

      Linda

      • I dearly hope, Linda, that I can have my parents be with their family at the end. We’ve all agreed that they must pass at home. I want to be able to hug them before their journey begins.

        • That’s why we need to hug them now. We just never know when the journey will begin.

  11. I do love this post with its gentle allusions to the fragility of life and its inevitable transitions. Recently I visited my parents so that I could take my dad to a tour of Cape Canaveral Light. During my visit my parents informed me that they had just prepaid for their funerals and showed me all the paperwork. Each visit, I can see time accelerating and would have preferred to keep my head in the sand a bit longer on that particular preparation. But, even though I have amazement that something so advanced as a human being actually has to die, I’d rather it be from a point of readiness than resistance when the time is right.

    The solitary red leaf though reminds me of O’Henry’s last leaf painted so someone could let go their willingness to float away and instead hang onto life with tenacity. But, then, that was not the right time to extinguish the light.

    What wonderful lines of poetry you’ve used to counter Thomas’. So wonderful in fact, they should be developed into a larger work! A masterpiece in the making!

    • Judy,

      There’s nothing quite like carrying on a quarrel with a long-dead poet! I suppose those “shoulds” and “oughts” in Thomas’ poem are part of my objection, but I’ve had about all the rage I can stand of late, and don’t think offering rage as a solution to anything is particularly helpful.

      Thomas’ perspective certainly has insinuated itself into our culture. There was a children’s book a few years ago called “The Little Yellow Leaf”, written by Carin Berger. The story is simple – a yellow leaf is reluctant to leave its tree, until a red leaf comes along, entices it away, and they both float off on the breeze.

      The reviewer for the New York Times (David Barringer) then asked, “Now what?” He offered several alternate endings before concluding, “Life is brief and bittersweet. Nature can only be deferred, not denied. Like any good children’s allegory, this book invites a variety of interpretations. Whatever ending you envision, do not go gently into that good fall. Rage, rage, against the dying of the leaf.”

      It’s clever, but terribly adult and not very appealing.

      I remember my own resistance when Mom began talking about how she wanted things handled after her death. She was ready to begin confronting some realities long before I was – but she was so healthy for so many decades it was hard to imagine she’d ever die.

      O.Henry’s story is wonderful, and I can see how the leaf would remind you of it. Amazing that such a simple object can become a symbol both of letting go and hanging on.

      Linda

  12. This is a beautiful post. I love your writing. From that wonderful artwork and your hand in it, to your mother and her “waiting.” I just love the images you paint.

    • Teresa Evangeline,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll find a chair in your woods as well as a bicycle. If you do, I suggest you just have a little sit-down, as the old-timers would say, and wait for whatever gifts the world brings you next. I suspect there are a good many still out there, waiting to be delivered.

      Words can make pretty good paint, can’t they? Even we finger-painters can have a lot of fun!

      Linda

  13. I’ve been to Horseheads!! Our company has a location there & I visited it a number of years ago. I LOVED it – felt right at home. It reminded me a lot of my piedmont home in NC.

    And I love his paintings – I can see how his surroundings might influence them. And I’m so excited that you won & now own a small painting of your own. That alone would have been a fun read, but your explanation of the winning title – well. It is exactly how I have imagined my own end – rage is just so exhausting. Why NOT go gentle… Lovely lovely lovely. Thank you.

    • The Bug,

      I just found out another of my blog friends lived in Elmira/Horseheads for some time. In fact, her children were born there. Amazing. A place I’ve never heard of, and people with connections to it are popping up all over the place.

      You’re so right about rage being exhausting. Anger’s one thing. We all get angry. When I was a kid, I knew that even God got angry – the thunder was a heavenly door getting slammed! But anger comes and goes – rage requires real effort to maintain. Some people seem to enjoy being enraged all the time. I don’t have much taste for it. Besides, if we keep getting our blood pressure up on a regular basis, we could be hastening the end we’re so upset about!

      I’m with you – gentle is the way to go. Thanks so much for they “lovelies” – they put a smile on my face.

      Linda

  14. I very much liked Shedding Daylight, Mr. Myers’ art piece and your thought process and memories that went into the name. Beautiful, both!

    • montucky,

      Thank you so much. This surely is the season of shedding in your part of the world – leaves, needles, even an early snow. It’s all part of life. Learning to accept it is the trick, I think.

      Linda

  15. “Shedding Daylight” is a perfect title for the painting. I like Gary’s paintings. I’m going to check out his blog.

    Love your segway to your Mom sitting on her chair on the verandah.

    I wept when I read

    “my mother became as fragile as an autumn leaf”

    “Her way of of leave-taking, quiet as a falling leaf and gentle as the day’s last light, required nothing more than a chair and companionship.”

    My mom too.
    Is it only one year?
    The silence is so silent
    It seems much longer

    • dearrosie,

      It is only a year. In a way, it seems much longer. On the other hand, there still are times I forget that she’s gone, or think it surely must have been only last month.

      It’s funny-strange that Gary’s contest came along at just this time. I’ve been holding some notes about the Dylan Thomas poem and other things in a file as a semi-draft, but I just couldn’t make it work. Now, it has.

      I was thinking about the events you have at your museum, where employees share their art. I like that, just as I like the opportunities to follow artists on their blogs. It doesn’t make creativity any less mysterious, but it certainly makes it more approachable. I do think you’ll enjoy Gary’s blog.

      I’ve been thinking a bit about your experience with El Camino de Santiago, my sailing and our moms’ journeys. The spirit shapes the journey, for sure.

      Linda

  16. I don’t know what other titles people suggested, but yours is certainly inspired and apt. I’m glad it also inspired this thoughtful post.

    • Steve,

      You know this piece has been simmering for a long time – even before I asked about using your photo of “The Last Ray” with it. The O.Henry story got jettisoned in the process, along with “The Little Yellow Leaf” – and a good bit more.

      It does tickle me now to wonder – who’s to say that “the last ray” and “shedding daylight” aren’t connected?

      The whole experience sent me digging around for some notes I made from an interview done with John Mellencamp on NPR. It must have been in 2008 or 2009, when I was so new to all this I didn’t keep very good notes. But I certainly recognized the truth in his words then, and they’ve been proven now.

      Mellencamp says, “The best songs are just given to me… because I’ve thought about the topic so much, it just assembles itself in my mind. A phrase, a word, starts me off down the track…”

      I thought at the time, it’s as though the mind is made up of tiny, locked rooms, each filled with something wonderful.

      The word or phrase isn’t the room, and it isn’t the “something wonderful”. It’s the key that unlocks the room to reveal the treasure – I guess Gary’s painting was the key.

      Linda

  17. Linda,

    I had been meaning to visit your blog for months. There was a time when we said our hellos through our blogs, but that time somehow slipped away.

    I feel grateful that I visited today, when this post of yours is the first to read (for I’d have read the first one). Another thing I am grateful for is the reminder that you are a beautiful writer.

    And Gary Myers is ‘my kind’ of a painter. Shedding Daylight is beautiful — the painting, as well as the title (as for the history behind its naming, it is beautiful, too).

    The reason I have used beautiful so many times is because, well, beautiful is what it all is!

    • Priya,

      And what’s most beautiful of all is to see you here! Not only that, I’ve already discovered you have two new blogs. I was following your previous blog in my reader, but you somehow disappeared. In any event, all is well – now you’re here.

      I found a couple of posts at your new site that made me laugh out loud – but I’ll re-read those and add my comment over there.

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my writing – and I’m glad you liked the paintings. I’m not surprised – vibrant colors are very much a part of your world. In fact, when I saw the film “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, I thought of you. It was filmed in Rajasthan – it’s not Goa, but it’s quite nice!

      I’m just so happy to see you. It will be fun to catch up with you – it seems there have been some changes in your life!

      Linda

  18. So lovely! The painting, your title, the thought behind it, winning, all of it. Congratulations, Linda!
    ~ Lynda

    • Lynda.

      While you’ve been raising beds and plotting crop rotation, I’ve been tending my little word-garden. I’m glad you like what emerged – it’s just another of those marvelous experiences that proves you don’t have to eat cheetos, have a dozen fake identities and live in your parents’ basement to enjoy the internet! ;)

      Linda

      • Oh you do make me laugh, and yes, so true! I am so glad we are friends, Linda.

  19. Those paintings are so appealing. What is it that makes them so? Your title (and the poem, which I assume is yours?) are perfect, perfect. I’m curious how your mother knew, so many years before it “mattered,” if I’m reading this correctly, that Dylan Thomas was wrong. Fascinating.

    • Susan,

      Here’s another painting that’s a precursor to the red roofs – one of my favorites, called Babette’s Feast. It’s just entrancing, and quite different. It reminds me of Wyeth, actually.

      I’m glad you like the title. I certainly do, and I’m glad Gary did, too.
      And yes, the snippet of verse is mine.

      I think Mom’s view of Thomas’ poem can be explained simply enough. By the time we were walking together in graveyards and reminiscing about such things, she’d seen enough difficult leave-takings to know she didn’t want one for herself. Her mother died when she was sixteen. Two of the sisters she raised died early, and I never knew them. My dad died of bone cancer, three months after his diagnosis, in 1981, and she lived alone for thirty years after that.

      Even some of the old friends who surround she and dad in the cemetery had some very difficult leave-takings. One or two did rage, according to the stories, and I’m sure that helped shape her view of things.

      Beyond that, she simply had come to a place many people discover – she was tired of living. Since everyone in her family had died early, she was sure she would, too. Then, the decades started clicking off: sixty, seventy, eighty. By the time she hit ninety, she was a little perturbed. “Phooey!” she said. “You’re very nice, dear, but all my friends and most of my family are gone, and I’m ready to follow along.” Finally, at ninety-three, she did.

      It’s no wonder I have such a skewed understanding of what constitutes “old”!

      Linda

  20. This is wonderful, Linda. You chose the perfect name for the painting and congrats on winning. The paintings are beautiful.

    Dad continues to rage on. When I believe I see a glimmer of acceptance, it fades so quickly I wonder if I imagined it. I wish for him a peaceful end, but who knows what will be. I can hardly believe it’s been a year since your mother’s leave-taking.

    • Bella Rum,

      It was tremendous fun to participate in the naming, and tremendously satisfying to have my title chosen. The things we never imagine happening are often the most enjoyable memorable. (Enjoyable applies here, but I suddenly was thinking about your floor and etc.)

      Don’t you think that often, with people like my mom and your dad, they often keep going because that’s what they’ve done all their lives? It’s almost a habit – things happened, but they’d pick themselves up and go on. That isn’t always pleasant, but if you keep doing it, you toughen up. Sometimes, you toughen up a lot.

      It’s hard to believe all the changes in the past year or so. You’ve had more than I have. At least some of them have been good – now you have those munchkins nearby to help you note the passing of time!

      Linda

  21. As of late, there’s been much inner reflection on life, mortality, and the here beyond as a dear friend’s life ended shortly just last week, unexpectedly, though a relief. So your post is poignant for me, makes me more reflective, and also makes me sad all at the same time. Although I think naming a piece of art and winning a prize to boot is just the coolest blog contest prize ever!

    • BW,

      I’m sorry to hear about your friend. There’s something about a life cut short that’s painful in a different way than loss of someone who’s lived a long and fruitful life. One of my neighbors – younger than me, I think – has been struggling with cancer treatments for at least a year. I just saw her yesterday for the first time in about four months and was shocked by how thin and frail she’s become – but at least she’s home from the hospital now, despite having to make daily trips there. I must say, her situation has left me reflective more than a few times.

      The older I get, the happier I am to take pleasure in smaller things – like those crabs you cooked up for us, finally being able to open the windows, and a wonderful new painting to look at. You’re right – these life-prizes are the coolest ever!

      Linda

  22. Delighted to discover this painter – it is very mola like in design and soul. The paintings seem glow with some some Spanish/ Latin American feel ..as well as Van Gogh and Gauguin?

    But that red chair, now that speaks to something in the human spirit, many old cemeteries had places to sit and ponder…sometimes the old/small town ones have odd chairs relatives/spouses have brought – it used to be considered an “outing” to visit and weed around graves – kept that family connection through generations…now lost with the flat stones so easy to mow around?

    Congrats on finding the perfect title for that tree and chair piece. (Curious: can you see yourself as the tree and your mom the chair? It fits?) Funny how things happen.(Do not have too much fun there – it’s raining and hotter here! Will have to catch up with you – maybe before you start rambling?)

    • phil,

      These paintings do have that vibrancy and color reminiscent of many native cultures around the world. On the other hand, over the years Gary’s traveled a number of paths, some of which evoke quite different associations. As for the chair and the tree – no, I can’t say that I see Mom and me in that one – at least not as the objects. What I know is that if she and I wandered into that painting, she’d be telling me to dust the cobwebs off that chair.

      When I was growing up, Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day, and it was assumed that everyone would come to the cemeteries to trim, cut grass, and generally make things pretty for the holiday. And of course All Souls’ is around the corner – another occasion for community involvement with those who’ve gone before.

      I really don’t like the so-called “Memorial Gardens” that either have no stones or identical stones, and which are absolutely uniform in appearance. I’ve never done research about their development, but they certainly seem to be a case of “as in life, so in death”.

      Personally, I think I’d like a wildly grieving angel on my tombstone, with a brush in her hand and the inscription, “She Varnished From Our Sight”. That makes me smile.

      Linda

      • That’s the perfect angel! (must make note)
        I remember Decoration Day. Went to a lot of rural graveyards and pulled weeds as a kid.
        Laughed at your saying your mom would be saying to brush the cobwebs – mine would also be holding it tilted up on one leg shaking the scorpions and ants off. I don’t know – somehow the tree waving way up in the sky is you…your mom more solidly grounded..even if the chair might be fragile. It was a red chair…the hidden personality of women of that era – anger, or passion or fight or strength or whimsy like the Cheshire cat’s grin.
        The painting looked like an accumulation of the world – seem logical he traveled.

        • Oh! I just remembered. That photo of the tree and the chair at Fairview is the one I was after when I stumbled into the fireants. Your mom didn’t get there soon enough to get rid of the ants. Who says we don’t suffer for our art?

          There’s a little Spanish cemetery outside Comfort that just is amazing. I wish I could get over there for All Souls, too. Weather-resistant flowers never looked so good! (Now that I think of it, weather-resistant flowers may mean there will be photo taking opportunities that last until Thanksgiving. Or longer.)

          • I can see the wheels turning from here.

          • “Who says we don’t suffer for our art? ” No nature photographer in Texas would ever claim not to suffer for the sake of art. I still have a visible fire ant bite from a week ago. I notice more fire ant nests than ever before, alas, although chiggers are still proving to be the greater nuisance.

            • A truth which makes me appreciate your photos even more!

  23. As with all of your blogs, I have read this one several times, and I’ve enjoyed the wonderful comments and your replies. Each time I return, I seem to focus on a different aspect of what you have written. Tonight, for example, I spent a wondrous hour reading about mola – lovely!

    But the thought that has clung to the edges of my consciousness all week is “Waiting.” Every day I talk to my 91-year-old mother on the phone for 80-90 minutes, and the conversations have become difficult for me. I think “waiting” may be the key for understanding why I’m struggling with our conversations. I’m used to being pragmatic and productive, so I tend to sift through the chatter to try to detect problems that I should solve. But perhaps there aren’t many problems – maybe she’s just inviting me to chatter on the phone as a way of sitting with her for a while as she waits. Hmmmm.

    Your last lines are lovely.

    • NumberWise,

      I think that’s terrifically insightful on your part – the thought that your phone calls with your mom are a different variety of the experience called “waiting”. And how well I remember the struggle I had over time to adjust to my own mother’s lessening interest in “doing things”. Ever so slowly, her desire to attend meetings of clubs she’d always enjoyed, to go shopping and so on, began to fade.

      Physical decline was a factor, of course. Sometimes it seemed more trouble than it was worth to get ready to go out. But there was emotional withdrawal, too – or perhaps better to say a narrowing of interest. She stopped watching the news quite so closely, and set aside half of the newspaper without even looking at it. She just wasn’t interested in the larger world – she had her own new concerns.

      I suppose it’s a reminder that all of us live in our own worlds and have a certain impulse to resist when someone tried to impose their world on us, even with the best of intentions. But that’s another conversation for another day. ;)

      Linda

  24. This is very moving. To your comfort, I think your mother was wise, maybe for herself, but I feel she must have you in mind, that she gently eased her way out with ‘readiness’ and ‘non-resistance’. I think that’s a most loving favour a parent could have done for her child. Faith can be most comforting in a time like this. I’d be fearful to see someone rage against the dying of the light. That’s a real anxiety I have… I think you know what I mean.

    • Arti,

      I know there were times when Mom was concerned about becoming a burden, and more than a few times she commented on how much easier things would be for me once she was gone. Still, that came earlier. As time passed and her world constricted, I’m not sure that mattered so much to her any more. It wasn’t that she didn’t care about me, it’s that she was done worrying about much of anything. Or so it seemed. Who really knows?

      I do understand that anxiety about a rage-filled end. There was a patient during Mom’s last hospitalization who seemed so angry and miserable. It was a constant struggle for the staff and family to cope – I counted my blessings every day. I think it’s the Episcopal prayer book that includes a prayer for a “quiet and peaceful death”. Anyone who’s seen the opposite understands the importance of its inclusion.

      Linda

  25. Congratulations on choosing the winning title. I too would have given you the laurel!

    I like this artist, unknown to me until your post, there is something strong and definite about his work which speaks to me.

    As always, I can only say how impressive I find your writing, you follow through from the beginning of a thought to the end with admirable clarity and a deft touch in choosing your words.

    I love Thomas’ poem in spite of its furious anger. He died when relatively young and perhaps the poem was a foretaste of the way of his own death.

    • friko,

      I like those words – “strong and definite”. I think they apply beautifully. Gary’s one of those hidden treasures – hidden, at least, in terms of the wider world, though I gather he’s very well known in parts of the country.

      It astonishes me when I ponder how many hidden artists, musicians, writers and poets there must be who are quite talented but laboring in relative obscurity. That’s one of the greatest values of the internet, I think – it allows us to bump up against people we’d otherwise know nothing about. Musically, Susan’s blog is a perfect example – we not only can read about the new musicans, we can listen to them. What a wonder!

      It’s strange. I have almost unlimited admiration for Thomas’ poem in terms of its structure and for the way he packs so much emotion and experience into so few words. My aversion is much like my mother’s, I suppose. I’ve seen so much rage in my time that I almost instinctively reject any counsel toward it. Anger is one thing – in my time, I’ve been an Olympic-caliber door slammer. But anger fades. Rage requires effort, nurture. There are invitations to rage all around us, and I prefer to turn away.

      My mother would love your comment that I “follow through from the beginning of a thought to the end”. When I was growing up, she always was chiding me that I needed to learn to “follow through” with things. She usually was referring to room-cleaning and school projects, but I know she’d take your comment as proof that all her nagging paid off. ;)

      Linda

  26. Linda, I’m so delighted for you that your title was picked for this piece of art, after reading the rest of your post I can see how perfect it is.

    And I’m delighted for me, too, because now I’m introduced to this wonderful artist and his work! Two of my favorite things, trees and empty chairs, the red makes it even better.

    As I read thru some of the comments here, I have to say that I agree with how awesome your writing is, I enjoy your style so much and will visit often.

    • Susan,

      Isn’t it interesting which objects in the world capture our attention and affection? For me, it’s windows and doors. For you, trees and empty chairs do it – no wonder that you respond to Gary’s work!

      One of the things that intrigues me about titles is how the search for one often changes our view of whatever’s being named. We’re forced to look at it differently, to consider its heart. Beyond that, it seems to me a good title is very much a doorway, an entryway into the art. Having the right one is important, because it sets up some preconceptions, shapes the viewer’s experience.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, and you know you’re always welcome. I’ll look forward to your visits!

      Linda

  27. My wife and I both love to spend time strolling throughout cemeteries. It is a touch stone for me on the brevity of life. Also appreciate your description of your mom as she got older. My parents are both pushing 80/ still enjoying life to the full / dad still farms and mom loves to be out and about….the trick is learning how to not go nuts when you’re no longer able to do so.

    • DM,

      When you’ve had a parent who’s lived well past ninety, your view of age skews just a bit – to me, your folks are mere youngsters! I’m so glad they’re still active and enjoying life. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

      But you’re exactly right. Once the various “early warning signs” begin cropping up, attitude is everything. I have a friend whose brother was a roofer – until he hit about sixty. Then, he gave it up – he just didn’t trust himself on roofs any more. He moped about for a while, and then started a handyman service. He’s got more work – and is having more fun – than he’s had in decades. I suspect he’ll still be working at eighty.

      I’m heading north next week, but just couldn’t find a way to include Iowa in this trip. I guess it will be next spring before I make it – I’ll have to get my apples elsewhere!

      Linda

      • I appreciate your wisdom Linda! Thanks for thinking about us…that would be fun to meet you in person..you never know when the winds of providence might blow in this direction. We have a B and B (actually being more to be just a “B” (ie..we provide the bed and send people to town if they want a full breakfast) :-) anyway, you have a standing invite to stay w/ us if you ever do get to the area. DM

        • One never knows. If it happens, I’ll swap you some Texas pecans for an Iowa apple!

  28. Linda,

    Congratulations on finding “just the right word”s for visual art, too!

    Since you and I lost our moms within a couple of months, reading about your mom and how you said goodbye will always be part of the experience of saying goodbye to my own mother. During the last conversation I had with her, she told me that she could live in this world or the next; she just didn’t want to be trying to do both.

    Claudia

    • Claudia,

      It’s amazing, really – I never think about Mom’s death without thinking of you, Rosie and Martha, who lost her Mom some months earlier but blogged about it with amazing wisdom and candor.

      Your mother was a wise woman. The last thing Mom wanted was to live in “limbo” in a nursing home – not quite alive and not quite dead. The irony is that, despite her professed willingness to “let go”, she could fight just as strongly to live. One of her last nurses said my dear mother was the only one she’d ever seen take off all of her monitors and IVs, climb out of bed and head for the door, bag of candy in hand. It seems she was going home – until the nurses saw the blank monitor and came running. ;)

      Linda

  29. Oh wow, Linda, what a grabber writing expression for this post. The ending tugged my heart and your writing waxing poetic and soulful. Autumn is soulful.

    Congratulations! What a wonderful honor your title submission was selected! I haven’t heard of Gary Myers, and so thank you for this post! I just love his amazing artwork. The red chair reminds me of a story when my daughter was a wee child.

    Indeed: “The Red Chair has been turned inward, inviting contemplation of qualities which can be found only within ourselves.”

    I definitely want to check-out Gary Myers.

    Beautiful poem, Linda.

    • Anna,

      You’ll like Gary’s work. Not only that, if you follow him you’ll find wonderful musings on creativity and occasional “finds” from the world of photography and folk art. Gary was the one who pointed me to the photo of the French lad, Henri Groulx, with his rooster – and you know where that led!

      His red chair always evokes my first grade classroom. We had very similar little wooden chairs – red, yellow and blue. My favorite time of day was when we put them in our reading circle and devoted ourselves to Dick, Jane and Spot. Funny that I remember the chairs better than the books.

      I’m glad you liked the poem. Autumn is filled with beauty, melancholy and nostalgia, but it’s still my favorite season, and like so many transplants to the south, I spend a lot of time looking for its signs.

      Linda

  30. I believe it will be my task to give your mind a gentle little twist every now and then.

    • Gerry,

      That’s fine by me. What good’s a kaleidoscope mind if someone doesn’t set the bits moving now and then?!

      Linda

  31. How exciting! It’s a very particular pleasure, I’m sure, to be a part of an artist’s work that you admire. I haven’t heard of Gary Myers before, and I’m thankful I know of him now: his paintings are moving.

    • Emily,

      He does in paint what you often speak of in terms of words, evoking a strong sense of “place”. It may not be a specific place – he’s not a 19th century landscape painter, after all – but often it’s a place we recognize.

      I certainly am pleased to have been “included” in this way. There are rewards to following a living artist who’s willing to talk about the creative process that goes far beyond “liking” this or that painting. There are truths about creativity that cross the boundaries of specific disciplines.

      Linda

  32. Interesting weave in this post. Colorful in both words and artwork. And when I saw there were 74 comments, I had to steal 75 to say Happy Birthday and enjoy your trip into autumn.

    • Gary,

      Oh, thanks so much for the good wishes! I’m looking forward to seeing a little autumn color. I hear Oklahoma is about to reach peak color – we’ll see. These things are iffy, and a good rainstorm can put all the predictions to shame.

      In any event, color is good – in paintings, nature, words. If nothing else, I figure we always can count on our good old Chinese tallow and the sumac to spiff things up!

      Linda

  33. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed the second and third painting and would love to have either of those in my home.

    • The Good Greatsby,

      So nice to have you stop by – thanks for leaving a word.

      Those paintings are splendid, aren’t they? It amazes me that such relatively small paintings can be so strong, have such presence. They’re like visual haiku, and I’m sure would wear well over time.

      Linda

  34. Thank you Linda for leading me to this beautiful post of yours. I love the sight of this large chair in the cemetery. Sitting there, remembering those who have left and silently talking to them feels good to me.
    I also loved reading about your mother at the Autumn of her life. Her gentle way of leave-taking… so beautifully expressed and felt.
    “Shading Daylight” is a lovely title for Gary Myers’ painting, congratulations. Gorgeous reds !

    • Isa,

      While I’ve often commented about the mola-like quality of some of Gary’s fields and such, it’s also occurred to me that, with their bold color patches, strong lines and interesting composition, his paintings would make beautiful quilts. We just had the big quilt show here in Houston, and I certainly can imagine one of these paintings turned into fabric and hung with the best.

      And yes, isn’t a cemetery comforting? On the way back from my trip to visit family, I stopped in Oklahoma to visit one which has a section dedicated to circus performers. It’s quite interesting, and especially interesting was a video I found of a fellow who already has his stone there, nicely inscribed, exactly the way he wants it. He goes out there from time to time and visits his own gravestone – a variation that seems just slightly strange at first, but gets more appealing the more I hear him talk about it.

      And by the way – since coming home and doing some research, I’ve also learned the story of two baby elephants who escaped and ran lose across the Oklahoma countryside for 18 days before being safely captured. Their names? Lilly and Isa! More about them later.

      Linda


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