There is so much to do—dirty laundry and dirty floors and sermons that need written and boys who have had far too much time to themselves—and I just keep finding myself standing in front of Vincent…lost in those frost-green eyes.
I didn’t know he was there. I was so tied to the da Vinci. Ginevra de' Benci.
When my friend Bill tells me she is the only da Vinci in this country—in this hemisphere, I read—I know I have to see her. I look her up and pore over words about her and feel the pull of that porcelain skin. It keeps pulling me the entire time we are in the National Museum of Natural History. The boys want to see the dinosaurs and I want to see the Hope diamond and there are hundreds and hundreds of people crawling up my back the whole time.
In the middle of all that madness Jeff looks at me and says, “Honey, get out of here. Go see some art.”
So I do. I head out alone--just a couple blocks up--feeling a little lonely as I go. As soon as I enter the National Gallery of Art an attendant asks if I need help.
“I want to see the da Vinci,” I say.
She points me in the right direction and I race, heart pounding.
As I move to the west main floor, gallery 6, I remember the first time I saw a great masterpiece—the light breathlessness and that strange urge to giggle uncontrollably. I wasn’t expecting such a dizzying head rush. I’m some older now and I’ve seen a lot of things but I feel these same emotions as I stand in front of Ginevra de' Benci. I want to touch that soft glowing skin and the guard is eying me suspiciously so the only thing left for me to do is wind my way through the rest of the museum.
That’s how I find myself looking Vincent in the eye.
I know some of his story—the madness that haunted him, the obsessive relationships and disjointed living, the meager success he saw in his painting and the failed attempts at other work. I know his health suffered and his body was frail…that others described him as ugly and dirty.
But all I see is beauty.
They say that light came slow to his style of painting—that he started out with dark, dingy colors. It’s hard to imagine when I look at his Farmhouse in Provence—when I look at La Mousmé.
At one time, he wanted to be a pastor. But later, when art called his name, he expressed his desire to serve God through his art.
"...to try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another in a picture."
I look Vincent in the eye and feel the sorrow of how life wore him out. But I know he has reached that place he spoke of in that early time. These strokes he made usher me into the Holy.
I know God calls us poema—masterpiece. He looked at humankind and He called us very good. As I stand trembling in front of this work of art created by a man, the full impact of what God has done in me—in us—falls over me. And suddenly, I am no longer looking at paintings and sculpture and architecture…I am looking at people. As I wind through Degas’ dancers and Madame Monet’s parasol—these images I have seen so many times on calendars and umbrellas—I am conscious of those who move with me and those who have moved and breathed through these works of art long before.
And isn't this what it is all about--to move through the moments together and take all this beauty in as one?
I look at these people who've come to see and listen to their strange tongues and smile at how some things aren't so different after all. I see that I am not alone.
And I see that this is good. That it is very good.
And I quietly slip out those heavy doors and find those very special poemas that belong to my heart. Over at the Air and Space Museum.