Vincent and Kelcey

When I was in 5th grade, Mrs. Roberts took us, her class, to The Seattle Art Museum.  It was my first visit to an Art Museum.  Featured were the Paintings and drawings of Vincent Van Gogh.  I had no idea in my excitement over this “field trip” how this visit would change me forever. 

My parents were not patrons of the Arts.  They were hard working, hard drinking “children” of the Great Depression.  They had a lot of guilt and shame to give.  That was the way of things then. 

We had no books in our house, save the huge and old Webster’s Dictionary, which I read over and over as a child.  When my parents went to their card parties where they both got drunk as skunks, if there were a set of encyclopedias, there you would find me–going through them ravenous for knowledge  and understanding of this wide wide world. I could be seen and not heard.   You didn’t ask to borrow a volume of someone’s encyclopedia.   That gaping hole where say the U,V,W volume would occupy–the missing tome would be  just  too much. 

If there were no encyclopedias, I would find the old upright piano in a dark basement corner.  There I would sit alone in the dark for  hours, picking out melodies I could hear in my head… Not seen and not heard. 

When Mrs. Roberts took us to meet Vincent, I wept.  I was so taken by his paintings and so in awe for his ability to create such beauty and still  be so internally tortured, that I wept.  I must have recognized a kindred soul in Vincent.  I must have felt he knew me.  Or I knew him.  The awe I felt in that museum full of paintings and wonder was another reason I had wept, no doubt.

We aren’t talking quiet tears.  We are talking break-down loud, uncontrolable sobbing cries.   Since I was the only child in the class who had collapsed into such a state,  it must have been an unusual scene for such a field trip.  I remember being so taken and so breathless, and so very sad.  And yet I remember even at that young age that I wept for joy too.

I had money for one small poster and a few art postcards.   I think Mrs. Roberts understood why I wept.  She put her arm around me and said gently I had to choose my poster and postcards, as it was time to go back to class.  She held me up.  She patiently walked me over to the tiny gift store to the bin of posters.  She held my hand.  I wanted all the posters.  But I was compelled to buy one of Vincent’s self portraits.  Not a choice you’d think a young girl would make.  The postcards were of flowers.  The famous sunflowers still life that Vincent wanted reproduced and sold for pennies to the poor that they might have some sun in their homes.  And I bought  a postcard of one of a cherry branch in blossom in a vase. 

Vincent’s self-portrait stayed on my bedroom wall for the rest of my childhood.  The small postcards of his flowers lived atop the desk where I did my homework.  My only world where I could be recognized was at school.  Does it surprse you I was a straight A student?

It took me five years (when at 16 I got my driver’s license) to become a fixture at the Seattle Art Museum.   Back then,  SAM  was located at Volunteer Park, one of Seattle’s most glorious parks– in my opinion.   I came to know all of the paintings in the permanent collection and all of the Asian jade carvings.  The ancient buddhas and Shivas–everything.  There is a huge old brick circular water tower at the Park.  You could climb it’s winding stair case and walk around the circumference at the top and see the city below atthe four points of the compass and inbetween.   I am going one day to sketch the old SAM museum architecture, and to draw that old water tower.  One day…

I’m doing a trial of the drug of choice for mood stability for  bipolar now.  I can’t really say I am depressed.  Being finally off antidpressants altogether  to end the endless rapid cycling which was driving me nuts, I find that I am in a sort of limbo.  Not unlike the moody downs that anyone might  experience this time of year, except that I am right now as a little girl, weeping at every turn day or night at the sheer nobility of the human Spirit. 

I was so depressed all my life, and of course no one knew what it was nor what to do, if  anything,  in my parent’s generation.  At least my parents didn’t know.   There are lots of us aging boomers who are still uncovering a way to “be–” having made it through a childhood in the 50s;  having made it through the 60’s and 70s and 80s.  Having survived  somehow the many many encounters with a deep desire to die.  

But, nowdidn’t I say  this is about Vincent, and about my daughter?  My daughter, Kelcey, who is now 22,  brings me gifts all the time.  I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who accepts and makes a point of “getting it” about the bipolar as Kelcey does–with one other exception–a dear dear friend who saved both Kelcey’s and my lives). Kelce has her areas and her fears that compell her to have to “not get it”  at times, but then don’t we all?  

Fortunately when she needed me most, the rapid cycling hadn’t set in yet.  Aside from her being who she is–so courageous and bright in spite of a huge plateful of challenges herself…  Aside from the gift she herself is to me… this brave Soul brings me gifts beyond measure every single day.  Many of her gifts are tangible tokens, well thought out and so sweet…and the other gifts…well another time perhaps in another blog entry in another pre-dawn moment.

Putting the notion of receiving gifts into perspective:  She is a gift from God to me. She is not mine…she belongs to herself and to this crazy world.   If it is true, and I hope it is, that we choose our next life, including our parents, then there can be no other explanation of how I came to conceive my daughter, how she came to be in my life.  And it goes the other way.  As much as judgemental observers might judge–it doesn’t matter.  I know now that I was the the right mother for her to have chosen. 

Here but for the grace of Goddess, God, The Force, The Source; go I. 

Back to Vincent.  Back to Kelcey.  My daughter is beginning her life in the wide wide world…  and I am so grateful that she hasn’t so far shown any indications of bipolar.  She is an amazing Spirit, like I said, she always brings me gifts.  Two such gifts recently were a documentary of Vincent Van Gogh’s short life narrated by Christopher Reeve. ( The other gift from the library is the Cosmos series.  Another story for another time.)  

I just watched the short documentary on Vincent.   After having been up for two days and then sleeping finally from 3 pm to 3 am.   All at once I was that young girl, encountering myself at 22, my daughter, and “my” Vincent. 

Encountering my Self.  Encountering the feelings  in the gut…feelings that sit there forever like stones…(even though the mind will say they are no longer there deep in the shadows of a soul.)  Cold stones that rise up into the throat and that break apart…explode, and are released in sobs.  Released.  In sobs perhaps, or in music, in poetry; in art…  In kindnesses in a smile, or in a hopeful glance in a young Christopher Reeve’s face. 

I said this is about Vincent and about Kelcey.  It is.  And yet, of course… it is about you, and it is about Christopher, and it is about me.

This cold stone which has risen this morning is now warm and wet with my tears.  I will paint a picture on its dark surface.  A picture that sings out:   beauty does arise from suffering and despair.  This is the way of things.

 

Vincent (Starry Starry Night)

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colours on the snowy linen land

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen
They did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds and violet haze
Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue
Colours changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artists’ loving hand

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen
They did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now

For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you Vincent
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you

Like the strangers that you’ve met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen
They’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will…

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~ by dancingwind on Tuesday, October 24, 2006.

3 Responses to “Vincent and Kelcey”

  1. Nice… Starry Night means something very unique to me too, though something altogether different from your story. I love your poem about it.

    I had a friend, co-worker, that I was going to the Netherlands with for a conference. Someone that I cared very much for, but in an unspoken way, as we were both married. The day after we got there, he dragged my jet-lagged self up to go to a strange game park in the middle of the country where a former President and his wife had assembled a sculpture garden in the forest, and a Van Gogh collection in the house. Starry Night was there, and it was amazing. There were many other strange and wonderful encounters that day as we explored the world these two unique people had created.

    My friend died not long after as a young man of pancreatic cancer, too early in every way. He missed seeing his two-year-old boy grow up, and I miss him, and we miss his abilities in our work – one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever met. So now I always think of this trip and him, a suspended moment in time, when I see Starry Night. – Teresa

  2. The song, “Vincent”, was written by Don McLean for a friend who had committed suicide – it’s a song that touches so many of us, I feel it had to be channeled – or maybe we are just all kindred spirits? I’ve also heard that children who were abused always pick stars as their favorite pictures and drawings – I wonder why that is? In any case, I’m enjoying your blog – you’re a beautiful writer.

  3. Thanks Teresa and Arielle for reading my blog.

    Teresa, Your special connection to the painting is a tender one. Do you know the song I copied at the end? Have you heard it sung? Arielle identifies it in her comment here. I should have credited it when I posted it. Am behind in blogging and blog reading…but wait…isn’t being “behind” is in the eye of the beholder? ok ok am so like totally totally not behind. 🙂

    Arielle, Thank you for your comments. I know what you mean about that song. It makes me shiver every time I hear it. Music–the language of Spirit and the spheres. Your reminded me of something I’ve recently learned from two different sources–that children who were abused are very psychic and drawn to the Spiritual and metaphysical all their lives. True for me.

    One of the sources was Joe Magonagle who is considered to be the foremost Remote Viewer on the planet. He has severe PTSD from being in VietNam and also had a very traumatic and abusive childhood–his parents were both alcoholics. I had not heard this about being more psychic before, but it makes a particular kind of sense to me.

    If we really are all kindreds and/or have had shared past (or even future) lives together, then the quantum mechanics I’ve been studying makes so much sense on the “group consciousness” level. What did Jung call it? Was it the “collective unconscious?”

    Love,
    dancingwind

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