a week of journeying

I am re-reading Luci Shaw’s book, Breath for the Bones, because I was invited to take part in a church youth group experience exploring the work of an artist.  I wanted to help the young people think about how art and faith connect.  Shaw poses two questions in the forward of her book, “How does faith inform art?” and “How can art animate faith?”  I love these questions and have been pondering them now for a month.

In her chapter on metaphor, Shaw writes: “Truth is a touchy topic, a daunting word….Because of its disconcerting abstraction, its largeness and inscrutability, we must choose symbols to make it seem more manageable, more concrete, more complete, more than simply propositional.” p. 40

Here are a few vignettes about a week punctuated by metaphor helping me think about truth:

The Sunday before last I finished a delightful book titled The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating: A memoir, written by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, who became bed-ridden for a time by a strange viral illness.  The unwelcome gift of a land snail became a surprising metaphor for the author as she educated herself about this small guest during her convalescence.  June rains have brought these amber colored creatures with their “Cinnabon” shells to my own sidewalks and now that I know more about them, I find myself stooping in puddles to contemplate what they might teach me.

On Wednesday I decided at the last minute to attend our mid-week church service.  I hopped on my bike and journeyed safely over side walks through the 5 o’clock traffic to arrive a bit breathless but  just in time.  As I sidled into a pew and took a breath to calm myself I noticed the communion table was lined with ceramic mugs of every shape, size and color – and a few were broken.  Songs and liturgy about clay and potters and vessels themed the evening.  After the service I sat for awhile on the stair with a friend’s daughter. She is a special needs girl adopted from Guatemala.  I asked her which ceramic piece she had chosen to identify with that night. She pointed to a broken cup and although she is difficult to understand, I listened carefully as she explained why.  Metaphor speaks to even the youngest among us. I rode my bike slowly home thinking over our conversation.

Sunday came around again along with the parable of the sower and the mustard seed.  In his desire to challenge us to listen with new insight to this well known story, our pastor shared that the idea of planting a mustard seed was actually akin to us planting Scotch Broom in our back yards – a weed recently deemed noxious by our state.  He carried the metaphor further by asking us to compare ourselves to “dumb weeds” – those that grow tall and showy but with shallow roots or to “smart weeds” – those that grow close to the ground with deep and permeating roots. A group of us gathered afterwards to share our response to the service;  the power of the various metaphors supported these people with disparate backgrounds to communicate ideas and feelings with each other.

Later, I finally attended the youth meeting I mention above. Together we watched a video of the Scottish Eco-artist, Andy Goldsworthy, work his magic on a landscape.  While only a few of these students considered themselves artists, they were each involved in some hobby or activity and were able to relate to Goldsworthy’s expertise and enterprise.  Shooting hoops, playing the cello, acting in plays all demand a kind of skill which they could equate to creating art. These thoughtful students shared their perceptions on his work and pondered the questions I presented from  Luci Shaw’s book.  Once again, metaphor opened windows to wonder and understanding.

I’m almost done with the fabric art piece I started a few months ago.  It is a metaphorical piece but it is still working on me – so I will wait to write and share about  it.

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8 responses to “a week of journeying

  • gardenlearning

    Thanks for sharing your journey into art and metaphor. Art is what helps us to see and make sense of our world. The art of writing as well as all the other art forms always helps us to understand just a little bit more about the world and the people we live with.

  • Laura LA

    What a wonderful journey you describe. Your pastor’s midweek service reminds me of a friend’s recent Facebook post about valuing the scars (inspired by a Japanese tradition of inlaying cracks in pottery with gold). Some of our scars are visible, some not, but all contribute to who we are journeying to be and so are valuable for that.
    Thanks for sharing a bit of your week.

  • LInda Baie (@LBaie)

    I enjoyed hearing the connections you are making while examining art and metaphor in all kinds of ways. The most interesting to me is that some of what you are thinking about is that art is synthesizing, no matter what activity, whether visual or not. That can mean new ways of thinking as well, right? Really thoughtful post, Amelia.

  • Bev

    You had a full week – lots of food for thought. Sounds like very interesting reading as well. Thanks for sharing.

  • pamelahodges

    I find myself stooping in puddles to contemplate what they might teach me.

    Your post is full of wonderful images. I am with you breathless as you sidle into your pew. I am choosing my coffee mug with a broken handle and I am sitting in with the students as you discuss the book about art and metaphor. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your week.

  • writekimwrite

    Really liked the Shaw quote and your writing has got me thinking about metaphors. They do help me to think more deeply about things that are otherwise almost too overwhelming to contemplate. Thank you for giving some examples from your week. Powerful thoughts.

  • Maureen Ingram

    What a beautiful week you have had – and such beautiful reflections that you have shared. I loved your image of the communion table with the broken pottery pieces, and your acknowledgement “Metaphor speaks to even the youngest among us.” So, so true. Thank you for this very spiritual piece.

  • fireflytrails

    Reading this led me to think about how powerful metaphors are. I sometimes think that is the only way to truly understand something new – to relate it to something known. Then that leads to new insights. Your piece contains so many good thoughts. I have reread it and pondered on it many times. It also led me to examine your art and poems on your other blog. Those are amazing. I am still pondering them. Thank you for sharing the depth of your thoughts. Such inspiration. Always.

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