STOP!!!! There’s another sheep. . .

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel 2:21-23

DSCN0884
(a sheep farm on the road to Killarney / Julie Cook / 2015)

STOP THE VAN!!!!
“I can’t get a good shot while we’re moving. . .the sheep isn’t budging, you’re going to hit it!!!!!. ..”

DSCN1488
(a sheep sits contently on the road somewhere in County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And so was the almost daily drill of the journey.
Stoping and going— for here was a sheep, there was a sheep and everywhere was a sheep sheep. . .

It is the poignant reminder that throughout each of our lives we will, inevitably, find ourselves on our very own and personal road to Damascus.
Wether we are believers or not.

And depending on our own perspective, it is either joyfully or frustratingly that most of us will end up on that same road over and over again, throughout our lives, as it often seems to take more than one chance encounter for things to truly sink in.

It is a road that we ourselves have each personally carved. A road that initially appears to be leading us in the direction of our thoughts, dreams and sights. . .a course that we perhaps set long ago, affording the opportunity of venturing forth, moving forward, as we seek our supposed heart’s desire…

Yet, if the truth be told, it is a road of destiny complete with the blinding encounter so often necessary to realign a misguided path. It’s just that for some of us, we need a constant stream of “encounters” before we finally “get it” and allow things to finally sink in…

Be it mere happenstance or Divine Intervention, we are struck, knocked upside the head and thrown to the ground, blinded and overwhelmed by whatever it is that is necessary in order to get our attention, change our course, wake us up, turn us around while eventually leading us to our true and proper path.

And so this journey was not really different from any other…

Setting off I had hoped, anticipated and even expected… something—but as to what that something was, it was not clear. . .

There were the sheep…

DSCN1713

DSCN1818

DSCN1766

Those symbolic, innocent yet oddly mentally challenged creatures that have always spoken to my heart.
Gazing out the window, with my head resting on the glass, I stare mindlessly at the myriad sea of gently grazing animals as familiar words whispered through my thoughts…

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Luke 15: 1-7

Yet this idyllic gentle image, laced with with its warm sense of safety, peace and security, was suddenly jarred apart by the blinding image of sacrifice and suffering that punctuated the seemingly pastoral image of serenity with the mysterious utterance of a long ago vision which poured itself out upon my thoughts like the deeply crimson colored blood oozing from a fresh cut. . .

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,

nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Isaish 53: 7-9

At some point there was a wistful private reflection spoken aloud by simple habit as we all gazed upon a mysterious landscape… “how could any of this be seen as the mere happenstance of the collision of random particles…”

DSCN1088
(Lady’s View over the Ring of Kerry, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0960
(Somewhere along the Dingle peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0928
(somewhere along the road in County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I came seeking the wisdom buried deep in the past of what was as I strained to hear the ancient voices that lay hidden below my feet. . .

DSCN1626
(an unknown grave marker / Julie Cook / 2015)

Delightful to me to be on an island hill, on the crest of a rock,
that I might often watch the quiet sea;

That I might watch the heavy waves above the bright water,
as they chant music to their Father everlastingly.

That I might watch its smooth, bright-bordered shore, no
gloomy pastime, that I might hear the cry of the strange birds,
a pleasing sound;

That I might hear the murmur of the long waves against the
rocks, that I might hear the sound of the sea, like mourning
beside a grave;

That I might watch the splendid flocks of birds over the well-
watered sea, that I might see its mighty whales, the greatest wonder.

That I might watch its ebb and flood in their course,
that my name should be–it is a secret that I tell–“he
who turned his back upon Ireland;”

That I might have a contrite heart as I watch,
that I might repent my many sins, hard to tell;

That I might bless the Lord who rules all things,
heaven with its splendid host, earth, ebb, and flood…

Poem attributed to St Columcille (521-597 AD)

Yet it was late, when it was all almost over, with so much having been said and done, seen and savored…
Three spoken words resonated more deeply than any other morsel offered previously to my weary and worn five senses. . .

Be at Peace. . .”

And so, having fallen from my horse, stuck blind and confused—the clarity of something and someone so much more than myself has come clearly into focus—the scales having been removed from my eyes– and for the first time in what has been a lifetime, I can see…

And so it is…

“Be At Peace”

DSCN1730
(a sheep gazes out over the Atlantic among the cliffs of County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

My secret German love

IMG_0355

Call it Feng Shui, Chi, Balance, harmony or simply symmetry–
however you wish to view it or to name it, it is me and I am it.
I don’t know if I came preprogrammed this way or not,
but I am a very symmetrically oriented person.
Equally weighted and equally balanced.
None of this asymmetrical business for me.

And so it goes when I work on my own art.

I have always loved working with watercolors…
I like working with people, birds, nests, eggs, and you name it.
However, all my life I have felt that I have really wanted / needed to create
some type of opus, some sort of monumental tribute to God.

Why is that you ask?

Well, I think people who have talents and gifts—
well, they just don’t plop out of the sky.
A gift is just that—a gift…and it is something someone has given to someone else.
God has given me much, so what little I can give back…
well I’ve wanted to do it with a visual piece of art.

I’ve spent a lifetime looking at the Italian Renaissance masters,
passing later on to the Northern Renaissance…
with then the Germans and Dutch masters.
Powerful artists, who not only mastered body and mass,
but captured the epitome of emotion.
I can find myself in tears, full of emotion, while staring at various pieces.
I love the works of the Italian Caravaggio (see post What is an Icon).
Caravaggio’s Conversion of St Paul, or as it is actually known,
The Conversion on the Way to Damascus… is but one such piece.

300px-Conversion_on_the_Way_to_Damascus-Caravaggio_(c.1600-1)

The space is tight; the figures juxtaposed with precarious lines of placement
and the use of light, crucial light—
oh Caravaggio’s use of light…
Critics argue about the use of space with the horse,
Paul /Saul, the groomsman, too many legs, not enough focus on Paul, etc.
I must disagree with the “critics” as I find it powerful.
Very powerful!

It is my belief that because this is a tremendous moment in time and
that it is somewhat crammed into a tight space as the horse seems to precariously
control his mighty weight so as to not step on Paul…
who is splayed out on the ground beneath him,
as a sword is dropped to the ground, just as the stricken figure of Paul/ Saul
lies now defenseless having been struck blind…
It is because of all of this and more that seems to make this big moment even bigger.
It’s a millimoment in time that is captured… and it works—or at least works for me.
It makes me feel overwhelmed and leads me to believe that I am witnessing something that is
shattering time.
Oh those Italians——always masters of emotion——
the wonderful excess of such.

However as far as an artist who captures raw emotion with such vivid use,
there is none more so, to me, than the German Matthias Grünwald.
Who you ask?
A German, not an Italian?
All I ever talk about is my love affair with all things Italian and here I am suddenly
coming out with a secret German love?!
Yes.
I confess, a secret German love.

Unfortunately there is not much to the history books regarding Matthias.
He is a bit of an enigma.
His last name is really not his real last name.
As it seems a 17th century biographer inadvertently added Grünwald.
It is believed his name was actually Matthias Gothardt Neithardt.
He was born in Würzburg in 1480 but even that comes under question.
Who he studied under, who studied under him, all remains but a mystery.

The one thing that is not a mystery is Grünwald’s use of emotion.
We must remember that the artists of Grünwald’s time operated in a time even before
the printed word.
Images were everything;
they spoke volumes to the viewer—–their works, their paintings,
were the You Tubes of the day.
And yes, I like art that evokes emotion, passion and feelings–
why stare at something that speaks of nothing?

It is Grünwald’s Isenheim Altarpiece that, for me, evokes that tremendous emotion.
(again see the post “What is an Icon” as I’m taking from that post a tad)

crucifixion

This is one of my most favorite images of the crucifixion,
as it shows not a languid image of an intact pretty European body of Christ seemingly
floating against a cross, but rather in contrast,
it shows in graphic, vivid detail the results of a deadly beating,
a body nailed, pierced, abused, now dead body in full rigor mortis—-
the altarpiece was commissioned for a hospital in Colmar (now France but originally in Germany)
for patients with various skin afflictions (most likely plague and leprosy and St Elmo’s fire).
Hope in suffering—
resurrection form death…
Glory and victory over sin.

It is believed that Matthias may have been a plague victim and perhaps he had seen the
Black Death up close and very personally…
leading to his apparent visual knowledge of the human body in the midst of the mystery
known as death.
It is also his vision of what transpires after that death which is also worthy of attention.

It is from my appreciation of Matthias, and other artists,
who can so realistically capture the emotional dramas of human life and death,
as well as the mystical beauty often found in illuminated manuscripts,
that has lead me on my own journey of exploration of such mysterious moments
in time through my use of the visual arts.

I started working on my “spiritual” pieces about 12 years ago.
They began with the idea of the cross, ancient medieval texts,
the use of biblical languages such as Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic,
as well as the use of mysterious mystical images as teaching tools.

The latest piece is a Triptych—
hence my love and need for balance and the symbolism as captured most
respectfully in this piece for the blessed Trinity.
It is not complete.
This whole “retirement” issue threw me for a bit of a loop and the groove of my diligent
quest has been slightly sidetracked.
There is a monastery in Hulbert, Oklahoma, Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey that I wish to
eventually donate the piece to—
they are a group of Benedictine monks,
originating out of Notre-Dame de Fontgombault,
a French Abbey, which belongs to the Solesmes Congregation.
I will write a later post about St. Benedict and the Rule of Benedict—–
a wonderful standard in which to conduct ones life.
I will also showcase the monks of Clear Creek Abbey.
http://clearcreekmonks.org/

I thought that during Holy Week,
it would be fitting that I share my love of God’s idea of symmetry
(Trinity/ Triptych/tri/three) with you, my viewing friends.

IMG_0373

IMG_0372

IMG_0364

IMG_0353

IMG_0362