This month’s Bloggers for Peace Challenge from Kozo is about art. I am not artistic, but I do like to look at stuff.
“Remember, each one of us has the power to change the world. Just start thinking peace, and the message will spread quicker than you think.”~Yoko Ono
For the month of May, we will focus on art. I believe that art has the ability to transform the soul. If art can change a soul, then it can change the world. What piece of art makes you a more peaceful person?
As I was growing up we had a most wonderful next door neighbour. In fact we had two, but mostly he was at work, so I knew her better. Auntie Brown was from Aberdeen and talked in a strong Scottish accent. She was bright and cheerful and very down to earth. She had a grandson about my age, who visited occasionally and played; he kept a rabbit at his grandmother’s but it was a mean rabbit which bit, so I didn’t like it very much. My friend Joanne had rabbits and they were cuddly and much nicer.
Auntie Brown would take me out when she went to the shops, just for the company. She listened to my stories and talked about all kinds of things and taught me to make cauliflower cheese. I would often visit when I came home from school as a teenager because we could share a cup of tea, and my own house was cold and empty with my parents both out at work.
Her husband worked at the local undertaker’s. Once when I was doing a school project on trees I went to see him at work to ask about coffins, so he took me and my friend into the workshop to see the caskets in various states of completion and told us all about how they were made. Apparently elm was the best, although this was before Dutch Elm Disease put paid to that. I remember worrying about how people would be buried without enough elm trees. I was a strange and introspective child.
One day Auntie Brown saw me coming in from school and called me into her house. They were planning to emigrate to New Zealand now Mr B had retired, to be closer to their family who had moved there some time before.
“I want you to have this,” she told me in her rather high-pitched voice.
She indicated the picture on the wall. It was quite large.
“I love this picture, but it’s too big to take with me and I would like to think of it going to a good home. Your mother said she didn’t want it, but I knew you liked it…”
There was hope and desperation in her eyes, and her voice was all trembly. It was also true that I did really like the picture.
“Thank you,” I said. “I love it. It can go in my bedroom.”
And my dears, that is just where it went. My mother complained and my dad put up a nail for it and there it stayed until I got married. Then it lived with us for a long time.
It was not a high quality print, and was a little ruffled from the damp in Auntie Brown’s old Victorian terraced house. The frame was falling apart and all skewed, and the backing was warped.
I had always liked it and I loved it more as time went by. I loved it because auntie Brown had loved it and then had trusted me with it. I loved it because it reminded me of her. I loved to sit and stare into it and make up stories about what was happening off in the distance or to the side. We spent many happy hours, that picture and I, listening to music and dreaming teenage dreams and living adventures when the dull suburbs were too tedious to bear. It moved from house to house with me, hanging drunkenly in the living room or dining room, wherever there was wall space, until one day it simply became too old and tattered and worn to last anymore and we had to say goodbye.
It’s imprinted on my brain. It lives on in my memory, more clearly than some people I have known and more clearly than Auntie Brown’s face (although her voice and her love are still sharply in focus). I like the picture in a generic way because I think autumnal woodland scenes are pretty; I love it because of the people and memories it shows me, like ghost pictures within itself. When I look at it I see the trees and water, but I also see myself making cheese sauce on Auntie Brown’s cooker (always use a wooden spoon!) or sitting in her narrow garden with a tea cup and a biscuit, or walking to the shops in November fogs (hold my hand so you don’t get lost!), or shouting greetings over the six foot fence as we both went up our respective paths, or most ridiculously and desperately spooning whisky into my poor old catfish in an attempt to revive him (whisky will make him better; it makes everyone better!) or trying to make sense of Jane Porter’s “The Scottish Chiefs” (William Wallace was a great man, you know; they ought to teach you about him school, like back home!).
A picture can tell stories when words may fail. You know the quote. Sometimes we have no words for what we want to say (although I seem to have hurled quite a few in my attempt today. Yet still they don’t tell you half of it.)
Perhaps all I need to say is this: when I look at that picture I remember feeling loved, and peace is all around me.
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