Tag Archives: Love


With a full heart

…When the sun hides
Behind a grey turmoil
Of clouds,
We will
Protect each other
From the onslaught… Continue reading


Love, Given

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…My children,
Know that
Love will always hold you
Close and deep…
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Into the Waters of Life

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…Stepping from the warm bedrock
Of family certainty
Into the swiftly flowing waters
Of another life,..
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The Month of Love?

Margaret Mair, World in our Hands, Christmas 2011, Original Art

Margaret Mair, World in our Hands, Original Art

February, I’ve read, is the month of love. A wonderful idea, warm and comforting to think about. But what kind of love, and how should we celebrate it?

Thinking of love we think of people first, of lovers and family and friends. And so we should. But what about love for the world we live in?

This earth sustains us, feeds us, gives us the water that we drink and the air we breathe. And it’s state affects us all.

Which means they are woven together, these loves. We want those we love to live in a world that is good, that they can enjoy, that sustains them. And in loving the earth we find ways to create that kind of world for them. And for those who will follow us all.

It is so strong and yet so fragile, this world. Seen from space, as the astronauts see it, it is a small blue marble whirling through the immensity of space, carrying us and all that makes life possible for us.

Down here we each see a much smaller view, circumscribed by our own horizons. We live in a smaller world within the greater, and act as our lives within that world suggest we should. When we think of the world we love, we think of the world we know.

And so our actions often seem insignificant to us.  After all we are each only one, and what effect can one person have? Yet there are so many of us that, paradoxically, it becomes more and more important what each one of us does. For the sum of our actions has a greater and greater effect.

So as you think about love I hope you will think about loving the world we share, and honoring it with thoughtfulness.  For the love of those you care about.

On Joy and Sorrow and Christmas Wishes

Margaret Mair, Nature's Cathedral, Original Art

Margaret Mair, Nature’s Cathedral, Original Art

I know what I want for Christmas. I want Love. Because with Love, Peace and Joy are possible, Respect is always there, and Sorrow becomes more bearable.

No matter what the season joy and sorrow entwine, intermingle. We find that the higher the one, the deeper the other. It’s only in times of contemplation that we look back and, weighing them, find they both have their place in our lives.

Joy comes from rising above sorrow; sorrow from losing that which has given you joy.

“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.”

So wrote Khalil Gibran in Joy and Sorrow.

As I write many of us are consumed by sorrow at the deaths of the young children in Newtown. Deaths that came before they had time to experience their full share of life, of joys and sorrows. And we hurt for the adults who died with them, and for the families and friends left behind.

Faced with such sadness, how do we find our way back to joy and not wonder at ourselves for feeling happiness again? And yet we cannot live always in sorrow – we are creatures of hope, looking forward to better things and trying to find our way to them.

Perhaps the greatest joy will come in finding ways to make this world one in which such heartrending things will not happen so easily. In contemplation we may look at the path that took us here; with thought we may learn from all that happened along the way; with hope we may find a new way forward.

I am hoping. And wishing hope and love for you.

More Than Meets the Eye…

John Everett Millais, Huguenot Lovers on St. Bartholomew's Day

John Everett Millais, Huguenot Lovers on St. Bartholomew's Day

Not everything is as it seems.

They are a young couple.  Her face is raised pleadingly to his, her hands struggle to tie a strip of white cloth around his arm.  His face is gently resolute; even as he embraces her he is pulling away the white strip she is trying to tie.  They stand in the middle of the painting, by a garden wall, plants and flowers behind them.  The light is focused on her pleading face and on their hands.  A broken flower lies at their feet.

It will not be long until their dreams are broken too.  John Everett Millais was creating an image of lovers who would soon be separated by the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.  On that day there was a terrible slaughter of French Protestants, the Huguenots, carried out in the name of the Catholic faith on the orders of Catherine de Medici.  That strip of white cloth around his arm would have told the world that the wearer was a Catholic; not consenting to wear it meant that our young Huguenot was facing death.

Even not knowing about the conflict around them you can sense that there is trouble.  Knowing makes it clear what that this painting is about more than love, it is about how religious and political division and the manipulation of fear and hatred touch that love with fear.  It show us that instant before the lovers are caught up in the conflict in spite of themselves.

It also, and deliberately, says something about Millais himself.  It reflects Millais sympathy for the Huguenot, and allows him to tell those around him that his sympathies lie with the young lovers, and by extension with the Protestants of France.

This was important because Millais had been much criticized for an earlier painting that viewers thought showed sympathy for the Catholic point of view.   In staunchly Protestant England that was something that could have a very negative effect on a painter’s career and life.

So you can see that there is far more here than first meets the eye.  Things are more than they seem, and there is more than one story behind this painting.

Is it Seduction?


William Adolphe Bouguereau, The Proposal (1872).

Bouguereau has painted an idyllic scene.  A young couple are alone.  She is spinning, but seems distracted; he is standing outside a railing, leaning toward her,  gazing at her intently.  His expression is one of – love?  Lust?  She is gently lit, hair glossy, a rose in her blouse,  seeming to glow in the light; he is in the shadows.  There is tension in the way he leans toward her, the way she bends her head and seems to listen without looking at him.

What story does the painting tell?  In Bouguereau’s first catalogue it was called Seduction.  It has also been linked to the tale of Faust and Marguerite, as told in Gounod’s opera Faust – a sad tale of a young woman seduced, abandoned and haunted.  When I first came across it it was with the title “The Proposal” – which is a very ambiguous title.

So I wonder:  is it love or lust?  Is it seduction?

Lovers Forever Young


Sir Frank Dicksee, Romeo and Juliet

In Shakespeare’s tale of Romeo and Juliet he told us a story of a young love so strong that the lovers preferred being together in death to living apart.

Here Sir Frank Dicksee catches them at the moment of parting.  It is the morning after consummating their marriage, the last moment they will be together alive.  To celebrate that moment he showed them to us young and vital, full of love and longing, lingering at that moment just before Romeo leaves.  With every detail he engages our sympathies for the doomed pair.

The painting is haunted by what we know will come.  Love will survive, but they will not.  And yet they will linger in our minds much as they are pictured here – as young, passionate and in love.  Unlike us, they will never grow old.

In Love with the Idea of Love


La Bella Mano by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Many artists depict the people they love.  Others want to show what love is or should be.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti loved ideas, including the idea of love.  He used both words and paintings to describe what he thought love should be.

He shared his ideal in La Bella Mano.  To make sure we understood Rossetti embedded many symbols of pure love, of the Virgin and of Venus, in the painting.  Once those symbols would have been obvious to those who saw them, but they are no longer obvious to many of us.

The iris and the lemon tree symbolize the Virgin, the rose the Virgin and Venus, the scalloped shell in which the personification of love washes her hands the shell from which Venus arose when she was born.

To make his ideas even clearer, he used a poem to reinforce the visual themes.  In it he speaks of hand washing hand in water as pure as that Venus sprang from, of receiving gifts as Venus did from her handmaidens, of virginal beauty.  He says this woman of beauty, love and delicate purity, descended from Venus, will wait for the ideal lover who will hold those delicate hands.

He wishes us to fall in love with the idea of a pure and beautiful love.

The poem:

O lovely hand, that thy sweet self dost lave
In that thy pure and proper element,
Whence erst the Lady of Love’s high advènt
Was born, and endless fires sprang from the
Even as her Loves to her their offerings gave,
For thee the jewelled gifts they bear; while each
Looks to those lips, of music-measured speech
The fount, and of more bliss than man may crave.
In royal wise ring-girt and bracelet-spann’d,
A flower of Venus’ own virginity,
Go shine among thy sisterly sweet band;
In maiden-minded converse delicately
Evermore white and soft; until thou be,
O hand! heart-handsel’d in a lover’s hand.

Rooted in Love

Marc Chagall loved Bella Rosenfeld.  In 1914 he came back from Paris to Vitebsk to woo and wed her.  In 1915 they married and she became integral to his art and life.

She is woven into his art.  His images of her are full of love, fantasy and romance.  He frequently shows them soaring over the mundane world around them.  Each time Chagall creates Bella’s likeness he shares the beauty he sees in and through her, his passion and their joy.

For the twenty-nine years that they were married she was his companion, his link to his roots, and his muse.  After she died unexpectedly in 1944 it took time for him to recover his desire to paint.  Then he returned to painting by creating new images of her.

Because no matter what the future held, her place in his life had to be affirmed.

Links to a couple of my favorite paintings: