I was going through photos on my phone when I found this one that I took of my mom’s pastels. She had them all set up on a plateau in Zion and she was waiting for the light to be just right so that she could capture the sunset on the water and the rocks. I love this picture. Even though she isn’t in it, it’s so her. The way she’d found a perfect, solitary place. The sunglasses sitting on top of all of the pastels. The fact that she has a giant case of pastels that she can and does carry anywhere, to be ready when the light strikes.
It’s a romantic picture, and in my mother’s case, a true one–the artist, waiting for the light, tools at the ready, prepared for a flurry of creativity at the perfect moment.
I’ve also seen her do the work that leads up to that moment. I’ve seen her with chalky fingers, standing silently at a distance from her work, just looking. I’ve seen her blocking in the underpinnings of her painting before she starts, and I’ve seen her begin again when something didn’t work out the way she had planned. I’ve seen her making a certain face while she works, the one where you know she’s concentrating. I’ve seen her spend hours and days and weeks getting it right.
I’ve also seen her do the work in other ways. I’ve seen her cooking dinner and grading dozens of papers for her students and nursing a baby and putting kids to bed and then going to sleep herself, without having had a chance to make anything of her own that day. I’ve seen her teach other people how to draw. I’ve seen her sit down and spend an hour drawing pictures for my children, animals and people and fire engines, when she could be making something all her own. When I travel, she drives up from my hometown (which is three hours away from where I live now), puts her own work on hold, and takes care of my children. They adore her. So do I.
I’m extremely lucky to have grown up with her example–someone who loves to create, and knows how to work. I know that seeing her do both made me hope that I could do the same, in some small measure.
Thank you, Mom.