William was a 'true' painter, even though he didn't paint.
He loved the process of mining the ingredients from the land to make the paint pigments. He dug up the cadmium for yellow, and foraged for Buckthorn berries for his greens, and burned old animal bones to charcoal to make his blacks.
But then he would just sit at his desk, staring at the jars of each of these colors on the bright windowsill. The jars glowed in the sunlight, but those beautiful hues stayed in the jars. His paintbrush stayed dry and pristine and his page stayed blank.
He liked painting once he got started, but interacting with clients, and sending emails, and talking to people at the shows, that stuff all just seemed distractions from his real passion, the colors. And for a long time, people had just felt like the wall getting in the way of him doing the real work.
So he didn't even start his paintings anymore. By age 65 he had honed his talent for 50 years, but had not produced anything in the past ten years, his most capable years.
This was like his prayer life. It stayed in his house like he did. It stayed in his mind with every email he didn't respond to.
That is until he came upon a 55 year old widow wandering in the far acres of his property.
He stomped up to her with his shotgun. "You know you're trespassing on my property, don't you?" The antagonism in his voice tried to push her away, like he did to everyone.
She was startled and replied, "I was-- I'm sorry-- I was just looking for some berries." She held out her hand. He saw the unripe Blackthorn berries in it. He knew of no other use for unripe Blackthorn berries than for making "sap green" pigment.
They realized their shared passion and Susan invited him to "trespass" into her space. She had just moved to town into the studio space above the town's thrift store. It was light-aired and wood-floored with tall windows In the corner was her easel and by the windows was a plush chair she called her prayer chair. She used her space as a gallery for her art, open to the public, all hours of the day. Even if she was in the middle of a painting, or had been sleeping, she welcomed anyone in.
William respected her art but didn't understand her love of showing her art to people who he could tell weren't going to buy any of it. Neither did he understand her passion for crafting emails. Or why she loved putting up the flyers for her shows in the town. She even found joy in the bargaining and the whole contract sending back-and-forth.
He was drawn into her, because of her love for him, which brought a new type of color into his life.
One day, after William had come back from across the street, hanging up some flyers for her, he found her chatting colorfully with a local mother and her young son, who was interested in art. On their walk back to her place William asked Susan how she put up with annoying people so much.
She turned to him, smiled, and said, "You're such an old man, William. You know what your problem is? You gotta stop looking at your pigments and start putting them on canvas. People are God's canvases. Every interaction can be a stroke of beauty." She took his arm and pulled him close. "We paint the world with God's love."
Within a week he was painting again. It was as if the art within him had incubated and color more brilliant than many people had ever seen danced across his canvases. Susan claimed they were far better than hers and became a champion of his art.
Part of his wedding day vows to her was, "I am one of your many canvases, Susan. You have covered me with your love, and have made this stubborn old man beautiful by it."
She died five years later, in his 70th year. But until he died 20 years after that he carried on her work of seeing every interaction as a canvas in which to show God's love. Every email. Every curious youngster. With every price bargaining interaction he made it a point to bring joy and grace to that buyer. More important than selling the piece, or the price he got, was the beautiful pigment he could add to their souls through it.
His funeral was attended by 762 people, and paused the town for two hours. At it the mayor stood up and said, "We're so grateful Susan drew you out and pushed you to paint again. For since that time you filled our homes with your art of . . ." He struggled for a word to capture the awe. "Of your truly heavenly colors. But this town became your canvas too, William. You've painted all of us more beautiful with the colors of God's heart in you. We are sad to lose you and your wonderful wife. But you have left God's colors in our hearts."
What is the "busywork" that you could see as the medium through which to do the real work: adding color to people's hearts?
Raw Spoon, 11-6-20