Simplicity

color collages

I am preparing for a Lent series using collage. Each week I will facilitate the group in contemplative prayer, which we will do through creating individual collages and then asking questions about what we chose and why and how it came together. I love this kind of prayer and am always excited to see what surprises will surface. On the final week, we will also walk a labyrinth together and use the collages as prayer points along the way. The collage themes begin with a general sense of “I love that!” to the more specific “who am I (to be)?” so this is a self-discovery process and something of a discernment process in vocational calling, discovering who I am called to be as a person.

As part of that prep, for the people who may miss a week, I am taking myself and my daughter through the same process, preparing collages for each week so that there will be samples and extras. The collages above are from the first week: “Colors that inspire.” I would ask my participants to make only one collage, but I (ever the overachiever) made two (because the multi-tasker in me is also using the collage series as a project for my doctorate and I couldn’t do just one per week).

Logistics aside, this has been fun. My daughter and I get to enjoy time together and everyone benefits. I love it when that happens.

I did the reddish one first – and it is pretty cliche for me: the deep red, the circles: these are found in many of my artistic imaging exercises. I did have one other thought while I was working on that one: I felt that it needed a focal point, and I found a picture of a woman’s profile and I placed it in the upper left corner, as though she was looking at the pot lid, but there was something about her presence there that made me uneasy. It looked good, and I “liked” it, but it made the space too crowded. She became too much of a focal point: with her in there, the image became all about her. I was feeling the peace of the more simple circle, keeping the jumble of items (pumpkins and onions) at the bottom and leaving the top to be free of encumbrance. In a way, the fuss at the bottom makes the beauty of the top possible. I see this as a great metaphor for my work as a pastor/spiritual director and artist: all that training, all that planning, all that behind-the-scenes work makes the part that people see seem effortless and simple and makes it possible for them to be free to benefit from that work rather than get bogged down in seeing my interior scaffolding. They don’t have to be distracted by the nuts and bolts that hold it together.

The lilac and yellow picture surprised me because although I had picked out a lot of purple pictures (most of them were not this soft pastel, they were heavy deep purples), they no longer called to me when I started putting things together. The bird was a late entry but she became the imperative focal point. It is interesting to me that this piece shares the busy-on-the-bottom, simple-on-the-top feeling. Perhaps, though, in this one, I have to do the busy grunt work in order to get onto that path, which leads to the freedom and simplicity of that sky. Then I have to ask if the bird is a sentinel or a harbinger? I love birds, but I don’t usually find them inviting. Indeed, this bird has its back to the path. However, I feel like I could still get on the path – but perhaps slipping behind the bird rather than in front of it. I’m not the sort to skulk about behind people’s backs, but I am the sort who looks for unconventional solutions. The road less traveled is certainly the one I am more likely – and interested – in taking. It is as though the bird is in the way of getting to the path and to the peace that lies beyond. In that case, I must ask myself: what is it in my life that is in the way of peace?

Interestingly, I have been wrestling lately with myself (the voice of myself from my past – who I used to be –  has been accusing me of things) about believing what I want to believe rather than what is real or true. There has been a lot of guilt and shame involved. My spiritual director said something rather profound about that: “if there’s guilt and shame, it’s not of God.” But that voice from the past is so loud! And it made so much sense back then (the bird is beautiful, after all). So what do I do when the judgmental part of me has no choice to but to point the finger of guilt at me? How do I let go of that?

Perhaps I need to remind myself that the bird is sitting in darkness. It is on the path of peace that day is dawning. Also, the beauty of the bird is in its object-ness. It is a limited thing, limited to its own self. The beauty in the stillness of the path and peace is in the sky: unlimited, expansive, open.

 

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