Art: A Post About Grief

Fall and the Moon of Radical Change

Thursday gratefuls: Kevin at Ionos. Both hands. Keyboards. Learned fingers. This blog. Kate. Our talk yesterday morning. Her bandages and her 02 concentrator going back home. Kep, the sweet boy. Rigel, the yipper. Orion and Venus. Follow the arc to Arcturus. The Big Dipper, follow the pointer stars to Polaris. Bright Sirius. The steady polls. The coming change. May it be radical, thorough, and lasting.

It’s good to be back. Solving the security feature, see the https/ at our url now, either created or coincided with another, bigger problem. Using up more space than my account at my webhost allows. Various attempts by myself and Kevin at Ionos were unsuccessful. Until yesterday afternoon. Sigh. Anyhow, we should be good. I realized over the dark period that I’ve been writing Ancientrails for 15 years, an anniversary that fell in February just when Gertie was dying and Covid had begun to make itself known. Distracted.

Anyhow, here’s a post I wrote in Word, then I’m going to do another for today. So, two posts today.


Art. A sad story. Ancient friend Paul Strickland named beauty as the theme for our Sunday morning. Mark Odegard included elegance, grace, and fully realized potential in his definition. Bill talked about the beauty of the human face. Tom showed a favorite piece of art, a swirly sand sculpture with gold on the inside. Paul surprised even himself I think by talking about a beautiful death. His hospice client since January died the day before.

“Truth is beauty, beauty truth, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.” Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn. Where I began.

We often go to the visual when we think of beauty and  the visual artist, the designer among us, Mark, was the most clear about it. The rest of us went in varied directions but I underlined, first, the beauty of knowledge, of theorems, of proofs, of science, mathematics. Truth is beauty.

In 2000 I became a guide at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. Guides got training for specific galleries. My first one was Latin America, I think. Then, Native America. South and Southeast Asia. In 2005 a new docent class. I was in it. All those years the MIA offered continuing education for guides and docents on Monday mornings.

We would come into the quiet museum, closed to the public on Monday’s, and listen to art historians talk about painting, sculpture, Asian art. Perhaps a curator talking about a new exhibit they planned. Or, a rearranging of the galleries in their field. Trends in art, both older and contemporary. It was wonderful. I sucked in the knowledge, filling up two five-inch-thick notebooks with sketches and notes, quotes, my own ideas. A joyous time.

But not even the best part of Mondays. The best part came after the continuing education was done. The museum allowed us to stay in the galleries if we wanted, wandering from here to there in the long rooms filled with Renaissance paintings, or Impressionists. Van Gogh. Beckman. Copley. Homer. Goya.

No one from the public. A few museum staff cleaning objects, hanging or installing new works. Otherwise. Quiet. Peaceful.

The Asian galleries drew me, a long-time fascination with the art and cultures of Asia getting fed. The Japanese tea sets, a Buddha sculpture, the Ferragana stallions in metal. Song dynasty ceramics and paintings. The lonely Taoist scholar resting by a giant waterfall.

Goya. His Dr. Arrieta. Ghosts from his past lingering in the background as he sank, exhausted from illness into the arms of his physician. Rembrandt. The Lucretia. Her blouse stained by blood from the knife of her suicide.

The wonderful colors and fanciful shapes of the Kandinsky. That haunting Francis Bacon of a pope with his mouth wide, wide open.

So much. So much. I could, and often did, stay for hours, alone.

In writing this I realize how lucky I was. Those days are with me still. But. That is not what I communicated on Sunday morning. Paul said, “You seemed to feel a longing, a yearning…”

That shocked me a little. Grief, someone suggested. Yes, it is true. I have been unable to find in my life since then, since the museum changed the day of the continuing education, since I quit in 2012, no longer willing to make the winter drive in from Andover, a way to be intimate with art.

A great sadness. I have tried various things. I look at art on the internet and good images are easy to find. I read art books, ones I bought over those years. I paint myself, in oils and in sumi-e. The quiet, the prayerful, the devotional relationship I had with objects at the MIA? No. Not available anymore.

Grief is the price of love. I grieve my lost mother, seventeen dogs, Kate’s shattered health, and, yes, I grieve those moments, those hours. Still. Probably always.



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