I sit and stare at the blank screen. Maybe this is the way it ends…just as it began. Three years ago, I sat down one night in front of a blank screen and began to write. The next thing I knew, five hundred posts had made their way to my computer screen and thence, to the Internet. Perhaps a few have landed on your screen in the process. But, no more. I sit and blink at the stark white surface, willing ideas and words to come. The elusive characters are not cooperative.
Panic hits. Perhaps the well has gone dry. There will be no more stories, no more applications.
I have been here before. There is more somewhere; I just have to dig a little deeper this time.
My mind wanders, as I contemplate the blank display in front of me . . .
My concentration is broken by a frantic skritch-skritch-skritching noise nearby. I turn my eyes away from the preacher on the stage and glance over at the young man with the buzz-cut hair. All of five years old, he is sitting with his feet tucked under his legs and a composition notebook open across his lap. The ball-point pen in his right hand is nothing more than a blur. A noisy blur, but nevertheless . . . I reach over and put my hand over his, stopping the progression of rapidly appearing lines across the blank page.
I whisper in his ear, “You know, that’s a little noisy. You can draw better if you slow down.”
The boy, who reminds me a lot of someone I once knew (I can’t quite remember who now), smiles that big impish grin and replies, not so quietly, “But Grandpa, I don’t want to draw. I want to fill up the page fast!”
The people nearby glance over, annoyed by the sudden laugh which the young artist’s grandfather is unable to stifle.
Tonight, I can’t stop my mind from pausing on that scene for a moment or two. The impatience of youth is an amusement to me from my vantage point, many years on, but it was nothing to laugh at once upon a time. There was not a moment to be lost! Adventure was waiting and every day was filled to the limit with excitement. I couldn’t wait for church to be over, or school to be out, or even for nap time to be completed. Why, I remember the time I . . .
|Painting by Margaret Kirkpatrick|
My reverie is interrupted by the intrusion of a voice that cracks as it fusses at me,
“Can you stop that racket? I declare, you kids don’t know the meaning of quiet!”
Grandma and Grandpa had parked their little Airstream trailer in our side yard a few days before and now she needed some time to create. Having five little imps around wasn’t helping. Well, quite possibly, it was only a couple of the imps who were causing the problem, but she took care of that with her authoritative manner. As she set up her easel, we watched with anticipation. Grandma was an award winning artist and we just knew there would be a completed painting within the next few moments.
Alas, it was not to be. As we watched, she began to cover the artist’s board with a layer of light-colored paint. Then, painstakingly, she began to draw, first one stroke, then another. After half an hour, there was still nothing to be seen on the board but a few lines. What a let down!
We took off to find some other pastime, something exciting like tossing rotten oranges at the passing cars. Tiring of that, we wandered back. Still nothing we could identify. It was frustrating, so eventually we gave up completely. When the tiny Airstream trailer left a week later, there was no completed painting left behind. I don’t know if she ever finished it.
A year or two after my Grandma passed away, I spent a couple of hours exploring the garage at her house in California. There were piles and piles of paintings, all in various stages of completion. Some were still in the condition which the little imp I had once been saw that week, many years previous. Others were almost complete. My mind finally began to grasp the frustration she must have felt at our lack of vision.
Good work takes time. A stroke here, a line there, and a dash of color over there. Little by little, the painting would begin to look more and more like the image she had envisaged. Patience and vision are essential attributes of the artist’s nature.
As I consider the incredible task of starting with the blank canvas and, after many hours of painstaking labor, completing a beautiful work of art which compels those viewing it to marvel, my mind is drawn to a particular painting I possess. It is one which my grandmother did finish and then gave to my family many years ago. The painting of my grandfather’s mandolin has almost no monetary value to anyone outside my family, but we wouldn’t part with it for any amount. For one thing, my Grandpa’s instrument is immortalized in it, even though the mandolin itself has deteriorated beyond recall, many years ago. But more importantly, the care, the patience, and the vision my grandmother invested into this one project allows me to keep her alive and close in my thoughts. After all, she as the artist is immortalized in this painting also.
Wow! Would you look at this? A page full of words. Just a few moments ago, it was blank; with not a thought in this writer’s mind.
I have to say that I am gratified to know that this never was the case for the blank page with which each of us started. The Artist has always had a vision for the finished painting; the patience He has shown as each line and shade has been added has been unending. There have been times, well more than once or twice, when I have grabbed the brush and, like my grandson in his haste to fill the page, scribbled indiscriminately. Perhaps you also have a stray line or two you have added in your impatience. Not to worry.
In the big picture–and it is a big, big picture–those lines will be blended in, if we yield the brush back to its proper master, the genuine Artist. From blank page to finished work of art, He has never wavered in the vision and scope of the entire composition.
Perhaps my namesake, the Apostle, said it best when he wrote, “I am confident of this one thing. He who began the good work in you will carry it through to completion.“
I don’t always understand the next sketched out lines; can’t always see the scene which is being filled in with variegated colors and shades of dark and light. I will just have to trust the Artist.
And, looking at the painting which is slowly taking shape on the canvas of my life, I will pray that the Artist is clearly visible to those who bother to look. Maybe that is your hope also.
We will have to follow Grandpa’s rule for drawing in church, though.
No scribbling allowed!
“Please be patient. God’s not finished with me yet.”
“Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee;
All things pass;
God never changes.
All that it strives for.
He who has God
Finds that he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.”
(“Poem IX”~St. Teresa of Avila~Spanish philosopher/mystic~1515-1582)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.