Throughout my childhood, I learned from my mother that no matter where you are, you can find beauty. I bounced around from place to place, living in small to medium sized spaces, some nicer than others. We never were well-off and when it seemed like we’d get ahead, we’d face something terrible and end up in a place of needing handouts and perusing food shelters. No matter where we ended up though, my mom tried to make it a beautiful place.
The nicest house we had was not very big at all, but it seemed like a mansion to me. Behind the home we lived in was a wooded area with deer, squirrel, and lots of space to play. We made tree forts and explored. We wondered what kind of people had been there before us. It was a small home, but the “woods” made it seem like it was a vast place to live.
In our backyard, my mom did her best to garden. She planted strawberries and raspberries, but the chipmunks consumed all of what she planted. She grew many vegetables as well as having a flower garden. Inside the house, she saved up what little money we had to reupholster our old, shabby couch to a blue floral pattern. That couch held up for a long time. She sewed curtains, found inexpensive plates to dine from, and created a place worth living.
We never had much money, but she was artistic in her own right. She was an artist in her younger years, painting beautiful scenes. But, she gave it up after having kids. Maybe it was an expense she couldn’t afford. But, she never gave up creating. She always made every place we lived a place worth visiting. We always felt warm in her home. When I visited, I’d often comment on the simple joys of her decorating. She never “went all out” when she decorated. She had to make what she had count, so she opted for simple beauty. Maybe this is why I tend to lean more in that direction when I paint and write. I love whimsical simplicity.
My mom passed away 7 years ago and I miss the simpleness she brought to the world. She taught me that beauty doesn’t have to be in your face and brazen, but can be subtle and simple, wrapping you in love like a warm blanket. Her thoughtfulness and care for humanity and even those who treated her poorly is something I aspire toward. She was a generous soul who loved without conditions and was often misunderstood, even by her own family. But, as I grow older and plunge into art, I feel like I take her with me in every painting, every hand written note, every simple gesture. Love like that never dies. It passes on to those we love and carries them forward when we are gone.
My hope is that in creating art, a piece of her is carried forward. For she was the best art teacher I ever had, yet she never taught me to pick up a paint brush or showed me how to draw. It was in the quietness of her being that impressed me the most. So in the quiet, I grow and change and learn to be drawn out, remembering today the person who loved me when no one else did.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2