Day 23. And I Really Didn’t See That Coming


“White Fire”, oil on canvas, 16×20, $225 [button link=”″ type=”big”] Buy Now[/button] SOLD

These are egrets, two of them. My new favorite bird. I love seeing them in the ditches along highways, ponds next to traffic. They are at home in the secluded swamp and the busy city. In my limited experience, they are quiet birds– hunters who stand still and watchful even when urban life rushes all around them.

I love watching egrets fly because of the graceful strength of their posture, the quickness with which they can move from one place to another. Ezra and I try to get close to them sometimes; we walk slowly and carefully, and then, in seconds, they are off, Ezra left staring, wide-eyed, awed.

I imagine that these two birds are looking for a place to stop and be still, perhaps do a little hunting, and I painted them because of the anonymous story sent in to me last week. This story took me a while. I didn’t know what to paint. I’ve been playing around with different ideas for a week now and then, yesterday, I decided I was just going to try something, stop agonizing over it. The story comes from a woman who says she wouldn’t normally participate in something like this. She says, “I am not a painter, a blogger, a musician, a poet or anything… I generally hold things I’ve been through very close to the vest. Probably to appear strong, or out of insecurity that I do not have it together, that I created a world for myself that was not perfect, or that people are too busy in their own lives to be bothered.” And then she writes about what its like to find a happy ending just when it seems like its time to give up…


I went through several years in an unbelievably painful existence. I was in a highly abusive relationship– physically, emotionally, and mentally– that I simply could not extricate myself from due to fear and threats and the overall worthlessness that a person feels when in that situation. Finally, somewhere, I found the strength to leave it and to push through the months and really even years of “punishment” I received for that decision. In trying to find the strength to stay out of that relationship, I jumped foolishly straight into another, ignoring the blaring warning signs that it this one, too, was probably not a good idea. This one was not abusive. It was unhealthy. And yet I stuck with for a very long while because the one thing I truly (and selfishly probably) appreciated about it was that it gave me what I needed to stick to my decision to remove myself from the previous, horrible, relationship that I stayed in for far too long.

After these years and this existence I was certainly not proud of, having been left feeling very broken, very hopeless, and very very alone, I finally gave myself a few months on my own.  Maybe that is not a lot of time, but, for me, it was a break in pattern. Then, out of the blue, I met someone. Someone who in fairly short order became my husband. I think it took me going through those difficult times to truly appreciate my husband. I think I would have immaturely and naively either taken him for granted or overlooked him completely had I not had those experiences. I thank God for that all the time because I have never met someone so selfless, someone so genuine, and someone so innocently honest. After years of nothing but “hard”, it all became “easy” overnight. He loves me in an unconditional kind of way, as I do him. I can be happy and silly or I can be angry and crabby. It doesn’t matter. He loves me. He doesn’t tell me all the pretty words I’ve been told in the past, that, given the abuse preceding or following them, should have tipped me off that they were meaningless. He doesn’t have to. He shows me in his actions every day. And when he does have something special to say, I am quiet and I listen. Because I know he means it, and I know it is profound. I never take that for granted. After all the times I was beaten down, told that all the tales of happiness– that’s not for you– or treated so poorly without having the confidence or strength to walk away, I had put my head down, finally pushed through, and here is where I ended up. I’m really grateful for that…

One of my happiest places is my husband’s and my camp in the Mississippi Delta. Perhaps because it’s a place that started to make me feel peaceful and content… I didn’t know how bad I was until I came through it and realized how far I had come. We would go to the camp, talking/ singing to the radio on the three hour drive. We would get there without cell phone service, a TV, or sometimes any other people. We would spend days just being together. Me taking care of him in my own little ways, and him doing the same. There is an adorable little restaurant/ general store down the road where on the occasional night there he will take me to dinner, and it’s the most perfect combination of “relatively” fine dining surrounded by nothing but people in camo. It’s also BYOB and so he laughs when I think twice and add the second bottle of wine to my ridiculously large purse. I’m not that great at painting a picture with my words. Or really painting a picture at all. But the way I felt, the way I feel there, is more than just a good day. It is a representation of a very difficult journey that has had a very happy ending. And I really didn’t see that coming….I’ll just say that for me, I have, in a way, enjoyed writing this, but more so I just can’t wait to keep living it.


So these birds? Well, they are hunting.  They are two, and they, I imagine must be happy.

Into this painting, I’ve written a poem by Mary Oliver that, had she mentioned two egrets instead of three, would have been an absolutely perfect companion to this story. But, if I’ve learned anything from your stories, it’s that very little is perfect but very often imperfection leads to joy.


Where the path closed
down and over,
  through the scumbled leaves,
    fallen branches,
through the knotted catbrier,
 I kept going.  Finally
   I could not
     save my arms
       from thorns; soon
the mosquitoes
 smelled me, hot
   and wounded, and came
     wheeling and whining.
       And that’s how I came
to the edge of the pond:
 black and empty
   except for a spindle
     of bleached reeds
at the far shore
 which, as I looked,
   wrinkled suddenly
     into three egrets – – –
a shower
 of white fire!
   Even half-asleep they had
     such faith in the world
that had made them – – –
 tilting through the water,
   unruffled, sure,
     by the laws
of their faith not logic,
 they opened their wings
   softly and stepped
     over every dark thing.

Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

September 23, 2014

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