Monday, May 15, 2006

The Ever-Changing Face Of The Familiar

Or, Why Repetitious Actions Are Not Repeatable

I love the paintings of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, and in particular those of Monet and Cézanne. Both artists would paint favourite subject matter over and over again – Monet because he was obsessed with capturing the moment, the way in which changing light transformed the same view into a completely different one; Cézanne because he was obsessed with the solidity of form, which changes with every slight change in the angle from which it is viewed [if they were around today, Monet might make the ‘skins,’ or visible surface, of websites; Cézanne, the code structure underpinning the functionality]. Whether by a change in light, or of perspective, what was physically in front of them did not matter as much as what they saw.

It might not compare with Monet’s garden at Giverny, but I can always spend time standing at the kitchen door, looking out on the little garden of our rented house. I took these photos today, in the rain, under a flat grey sky. It might not look like much to you, but I see the gooseberry bush and the redcurrant bush behind it, both just coming into fruit; the two apple trees beyond them, both in blossom, the further one chocked by ivy; the ivy-covered shed at the far end; the bluebells unfurling along the path. It might not look like much, but it is beautiful, in its own way.

And as I look, I think about my friends, my community: the way their faces are transformed by light, or shade; by joy, or sorrow…the underlying solid planes of their character; that endure, or at least change more slowly. You can learn a thing or two about friendship, and about pastoral care, from looking at – I mean really looking at – a garden; or an Impressionist painting.

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