Still Life, Still Living

Artist Frida Khalo wrote this about a still life she created:  “I paint flowers so they will not die.” I recently visited a still life exhibit that graced the walls of a local art museum for a few months. The exhibit included “both traditional and unexpected approaches to still life” presented in “examples of still life from across the state” (from the exhibit description).  Some phrases and insights emerged for me as I viewed the exhibit and read the descriptions of the various pieces:

Passing fancies
Preserved “to do” lists from times gone by
Meal tables abandoned
Fragile splendor
Collecting? Hoarding?
Imbuing objects with values they do not possess on their own
Exotic flowers in uncommon places
Macro view of life and world.
Still life, still living.

The exhibit, along with Khalo’s quote, stirred some questions for me:

What things in our lives do we seek to remember and preserve, so that they will not die?
What things do we return to again and again, so they will not die?
What things do we sing, create, imagine, so they will not die?

The irony, for me, is that many of these things are at the same time both still lifes and still living.

This summer I discovered a new personal interest—photography—that has expanded my reflections on how elements of daily living are still lifes and still living.  With a new digital camera now with me on some of my travels, I began to see the world and its aliveness in a new way and to preserve or set apart my own still lifes of that new perspective.  The photos posted here are examples. I captured one of them while standing near my end-of-summer vegetable garden. The other was a surprise front yard “capture.” As I began to save photos from my new camera to computer files, I recalled that some of the still lifes in the art exhibit were given titles that attempt to communicate something about what the artist intended.  Alas, I am not adept at crafting insightful titles or captions, so I invite you to imagine a caption for one or both of these photographic still lifes or for your own still life. What do you hope both to preserve and to keep alive as you encounter life’s gifts and complexities.

 

 

Aria

No words were her friends, so she released her lyric-less song into the silence, a high lonesome sound.  1934.  Her world was caving in.  So she ran.  She wanted to look back but she couldn’t. 

           Fear defined her. 

Even now, all these years later, fear still nips at her heels—even though most days it feels like she’s been standing still forever. She’d heard the preacher tell about what happened when Lot’s wife looked back.

            She believed.

            So she ran.

The love that had held her, grabbed her, gripped her—that love, those hands that had reached for her with desire, first pulled and now held her away from the only world she’d ever known.  A train whistle pierced the night. Startled her as it did that night so long ago. That love, those hands, reaching to her through the window, drawing her into the darkness. They ran together.

            She ran.

No letters came to her because she had written none. She no longer belonged anywhere. She was no one and nowhere.

Not looking back meant being silent.  No one could know where they were, what kind of dishes they ate their breakfast from, how her daughter’s eyes spit Fourth of July sparks just like grandma’s.  No one could know.  She was more afraid now 30 years later than when the first 50 miles disappeared behind them in the night mist.  That’s what surprised her most of all. How the fear had grown. She wanted to look back then, but she couldn’t. Fear defined her.  So she ran.

            I never knew her.  Her name is Aria. . .