“Invitation” by Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy
 
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
 
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
 
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
 
as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine
 
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
 
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
 
do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
 
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

 

It all started with some train tracks and a bird. Ever since I saw the great blue heron in my backyard, Mary Oliver’s poem “Invitation” has lingered in my mind. I’ve tried to be mindful of it’s message as I’ve navigated my studio time the past few months. I’ve tried not to walk by without pausing. When I’ve lamented the thought of my “busy and very important day,” I’ve cleared time for stillness instead of soldiering on. I’ve quietly revisited canvases several times and am still not sure if any of them are “done,” a feeling that delights rather than frustrates me.

The whole series started with the culprit, the heron. I then turned more literally to Oliver’s poem and played around with actual yellow goldfinches on the canvas, brought out from their surfaces with the aid of some cold wax medium.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the spirit of “linger” was well established, I moved to human figures and faces, postures I hoped were either lingering or encouraging such a thing in the viewer. 

Somewhere along the way, and quite unexpectedly, I started scratching my knives into wet paint with haste. Scribble scratch came to represent the “busy and very important day” of the poem and of my psyche. It also represents an acceptance of messiness and a release from the pressures of an unattainable perfection. I loved that the scratches became an element in what was overall meant to soothe, remind, slow down, and calm. In a yoga class, the instructor often asks you to set an intention. That’s what this series is made of. A simple intention to linger, to notice, to pay attention. I am amazed, maybe dumbfounded is a better word, at what transpired from that intention– it’s far more than the 25+ paintings I’ve created. It’s my patience with the kids, an even deeper love for my husband. There’s a new and exciting opportunity lingering just around the corner, and I am certain it is at least partially one of the fruits of this intention. I’ll be sharing more on that soon.

Until then, the new paintings in this series will be available on my site August 2nd at 9am. I hope you’ll check them out and maybe even let me know what speaks to you. But more than that, I hope, that as summer somehow already finds itself with more days behind it than ahead of it, that you, too, will find a moment to heed the sacred invitation to linger– in your garden, in your thoughts, in your relationships, in your hopes, and in your art, whatever form that may take.