I named this painting “The Places We Will Go” because I was thinking of my youngest and our early bike rides together. The countless ones with him in the seat or trailer attached to my bike, then his own shaky, training wheels ones, the even shakier sans training...
I’ve been into blessings lately. Not the #blessed variety of social media where pictures of wealth, health, or beauty read like advertisements for some magical and exclusive elixir that feels just out of reach. I mean the kind we confer on one another as if to say: this is my deepest, sincerest hope for you– not your veneer, but the you that is more than appearance, circumstance or even personality.
I was first intrigued by the idea of blessings when I started following author Kate Bowler who writes them for the messier aspects of existing in a world that is both terrible and beautiful. And then I listened to a blessing by late poet John O’Donahue read on a podcast, and it seemed as though it had been written specially for the painting I’d just completed. I made a video where I painted it onto the back of the canvas.
A Challenge Proposed
I was talking with an art friend recently who was lamenting her trouble releasing her works into the world. They feel so personal, to release them so vulnerable, she said. Do you ever feel like that, she asked. No, I don’t, I answered, and then tried to explain how much I want my work to leave me, how deeply I know its imperfection and how little that makes me want to hold it back.
She proposed a challenge that I’ve not been able to stop thinking about: create something that would feel a bit tricky to share.
It finally came to me. I’ve been writing blessings lately. Mostly they are for me, hopes for myself and for those closest to me. It turns out they are the tricky, vulnerable things for me to share. I’m not as good at them as I’d hoped I’d be. They are infinitely better in my head than they are on the page.
But I want to answer my friend’s challenge and share one with you even though it feels awkward to do so.
One of my newest paintings is called “Be Still and Know” and is a rework of an old painting I had long abandoned. I changed the background and added a halo of stars. Just like that, it felt redeemed– a mere three years later.
As I looked at the new image, I couldn’t help but think of the hummingbird, known for its darting quickness, those wings that beat at 53 beats a second and how deeply I relate to her hustle. I dart from one activity or to-do list to the other and checking boxes never seems to leave any boxes checked but only creates new unchecked ones.
How beautiful and hard rest is.
How wonderfully sacred it is not to produce, achieve, or toil. And how contrary to what I once believed so irrevocably true.
So here it is, a blessing inspired by a painting that spent three years resting before it really emerged. If this blessing speaks to you in any way, it would certainly be one to me to let me know in the comments.
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Written by Denise Hopkins
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