Friday, February 19, 2021

Glimpses of Beauty

I have shared little contact with my parents for twenty years, and I've had no contact with them at all for the past eight. We agreed to part because I did not become who they hoped I would be, and my life that my husband built together differs from theirs. They believe that I have the power to change who I am, though I don't know that my life is wrong or evil. Another part boils down to my rejection of televangelists along with some of what they teach. My parents also question whether I'm fit for heaven, but I suspect that they allowed fear to borrow their voice to speak its torments. I know that we love one another deeply, and that makes the situation that much more sad

.From time to time, unexpected ideas catch my attention and set me thinking about my parents. I'm not sure what reminded me about an engineer that my surveyor father worked with before I was born, but I'd always heard about how remarkable my parents thought he was. It seemed that there was nothing that this mythical man could not do, and he devoted much of his free time to creating works of art. 

A few of his wood cut prints donned the walls in my grandparents' and parents' home. His trained pilot wife traveled with him, just as my mom traveled with my father. The two men worked together to carve new paths through yet untouched territories in the mountains of Appalachia. My parents settled not far from the Poconos where they raised me, and their friends moved to California to build their lives and family.

Every month, for thirty years, my mother sent money to them, looking forward to the day when they could pay the going rate for one of his paintings to call their own. In the beginning, I believed that it helped them carve out a place in the art community in San Jose. Every year, Mom also purchased scented soaps to send at Christmastime, as it was one of few indulgences that this starving artist's wife allowed herself during the early years. Those soaps played a role that seemed as important as the nativity that my grandfather made from a wooden dynamite box that he'd brought home from his job in the coal mines of Western Pennsylvania.

I had not thought about the couple in years, but some circuit of memories had to vibrate for a bit before I recalled their names. I didn't have much time to study the oil painting that their amazing friend created for them of the evening sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. It wasn't long after the painting took its place in my parents' home that our relationship became strained and our visits few. When the familiar name popped back into my head as I drifted off to sleep, it seemed so strange that I had ever forgotten it. I grabbed my laptop as its glow pierced the dark of night as I quickly found the website.


My eyes filled with tears when I found an online gallery featuring watercolors of Colorado City and Short Creek. I suddenly felt that despite the distance that spanned between us, we were all connected somehow. I love my parents so much, and someone they loved very much loved Short Creek's unique beauty and captured it in a work of art. My parents suddenly didn't feel quite so far away.


I thought of the pictures that Christine Marie Katas has taken of Ms. Norma and how many times I've suspected that she gives great hugs. Her face glows with kindness in a way that my own mother's does, and I think that she is a mother who loves her children well. I felt whole and happy for a moment, and the sadness that I carry because of my mother's absence faded.

I felt connected to many loving and beloved people in my life -- past and present and present and absent. I bathed in gratitude for all those who touch my life with beauty and those who see that beauty. My heart is full of love for people I know in some sense, though I have not yet met them. Others who I know well and love, I must love from a distance and through recalled joys of days past.  

What is more beautiful to me than those who can see the beauty in others that so many other people too often miss? How beautiful it is for me to see and touch those people through painted glimpses of Short Creek.

If you wish to learn more about the obstacles that the women of Short Creek face as they raise their children in a changing community and to learn more about their specific needs, please visit Voices for Dignity.