I was watching Bones yesterday. I watched “The Diamond in the Rough” episode.
Angela’s character was undergoing a crisis. She had woken up, and suddenly realized that she had been doing a job for years that “was not even close” to what she had wanted to do.
Angela’s passion is art; I don’t share her passion, I am not great at appreciating paintings for anything more than beautiful, amazing pieces of human creativity.
So when Angela came back into work from taking her son to the museum and had this conversation, I was on the side of her boss, Cam (and this is not verbatim, but is close, I can’t remember the colors specifically):
A discontented Angela said: “I could only look at Mrs. Henry White for 20 minutes.”
Cam: “Wait, you looked at one painting for twenty minutes?”
Angela: “John Singer Sargent used a palette of “something” black, vermillion, “something blue”, and “another color”, just for the skin. Do you think you could take all that in after just 20 minutes?”
I don’t think I could.
That made me think. I read really fast, and sometimes I skim. Later, I realize how much I missed when I take the time to read it out loud. I never like when I see how much I didn’t take in. And when I try to just “enjoy nature” or something like that, I have way too much body and brain energy to stop for long.
Paintings get a passing glance or a solid 3 second look. With that amount of time, I would never have thought that her arm had been painted using anything more than skin colored paint. But painting became fascinating, all of a sudden, when I thought of it through the context of Angela’s comment. “What can you see in this that you wouldn’t see at a first glance?”
As I took a walk that evening, I stopped down by creek. Looking around, I realized I was in one of those complex ecosystems I read about in biology – a wetland. An unassuming-to-behold, but complex mix of, species essential to life.
I thought of Angela’s multi-pallette ‘arms’. If I had given myself a piece of that wetland, before I read about wetlands, I would have thought it is a soggy piece of possibly mosquito-ridden land, with plants growing out of it.
Now that I know about the bugs in the dirt, the mold on the tree roots, the roots holding the rich mud in place, birds, insects, and many species of plant life all working together to create a filtering nourishment system; a soggy patch of land is not the same.
God, and John Sargent Singer (and many other painters, I’m sure), created amazing art, but made them with so much care and delicacy, that you can hardly tell all of the ingredients that went into it.
I won’t turn into a content meditator just yet, but it definitely gives me something to think about. It gives me a “Where’s Wally” kind of thing. What can you see now?
Maybe I can spend just another moment looking for that “color” that I didn’t see in my first look.