palette

photo by me, taken in Zion 2012

photo by me, taken in Zion 2012

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.

Arlene Braithwaite, my mom




+ comments (15)
  • Tasha Seegmiller
    February 26, 2013

    This seriously made me cry. What a great tribute.



  • Amelia Loken
    February 26, 2013

    This was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful mother. I have similar feelings toward my own.



  • Bridget
    February 26, 2013

    I love this post and I love your Mom! I have so many great memories of your parents also and my favorite pieces that we have in our home is one of her beautiful pastels. She is fantastic!



  • Amy
    February 26, 2013

    This gave me chills! What a beautiful tribute!



  • bandreoli
    February 26, 2013

    beautiful. just beautiful.



  • Aurelia Blue
    February 26, 2013

    Ohhhhhhh… *sigh*… What a beautiful and moving tribute to your mother. I hope my children will feel this way about their artist/teacher/writer/mother some day. <3



  • Tearese
    February 26, 2013

    I loved your moms classes when I was in college. Seriously, she was one of the best teachers there. This reminded me of our pastel classes where we went to Zion to do paintings all morning, and it was so ideal and beautiful. I’m still sad I lost one of the best drawings I did there.
    By the way, I loved the thoughts on art and creativity in Reached, it was really beautiful too.



  • Alisa Gilchrist
    February 26, 2013

    She is wonderful. How sweet of you to bring her to life for those who don’t know her. I hope she reads this.



  • Ashley R.
    February 27, 2013

    That s wonderful and sweet! :)



  • Becca
    February 27, 2013

    That’s a piece of loveliness.



  • C. M. Keller
    March 5, 2013

    What a lovely tribute to your mother! And Zion is spectacular. I only wish you could have included a photo of your mom’s work.



  • Brooke Hoopes
    March 10, 2013

    First of all, I love that palette picture. A beautiful symbol.

    Second, I love the idea of creation in so many different forms. Some days it is a creation that we choose, and then some days it is a creation that we offer to others. I think that is a wise perspective on motherhood and life.

    Beautifully written Ally.



  • Alice Beesley
    March 11, 2013

    Wonderful picture in the photo and words about your mom.



  • Laura
    March 28, 2013

    the way you’ve captured what it means to create (and the work ingrained in creation) and what selflessness looks like in real life has inspired me to approach differently those days where there isn’t time for something I want to do or where there’s a choice to do something for others when that means I won’t get to create what I want…it’s not something to be resentful about. In fact, reading about your mom made me want to be the kind of person she is. thank you.



  • Alli
    May 17, 2013

    Wow. Being able to share such feelings and emotion in such a small, yet thoughtful way really says a lot about a person. I’ve enjoyed your books from the start, but now I feel more in tune with you. :)




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