Monday, October 26, 2009

About Trusting Delight




c. 2008, Sukie Curtis, Backyard in Summer, oil on gessoed paper, 6.5"x6.5"

I never did get around to explaining how I came by the title of this blog, Trusting Delight. And I think it's time to do so.

In a strange way this topic also belongs over my newer blog, Freedom Diaries,  because the practice of trusting delight is a significant part of my road to freedom. Perhaps it's one of the strongest, clearest links between the two and why I sometimes get mixed up about what belongs where.

(Which of course causes me to wonder if they are, or should be, one and the same blog. But I recently read that it's a great idea for artists to blog about their work, and I thought: "Aha!! Trusting Delight could become the blog about my painting and other visual art, while Freedom Diaries remains the story about my journey, present as well as past.)

Anyway, back to trusting delight.

It happened this way: I'd been given a small piece of gessoed paper to use for a homework assignment for the plein air (that's fancy French art talk for painting outside) landscape painting class that I took last summer. I don't remember the precise assignment, but I believe we were simply encouraged to play around freely (my favorite kind of assignment!) with our paint and the paper, since gessoed paper was a new surface for most of us.

I took my paints, the paper, and my trusty folding French easel out to the backyard, which is where I did a lot of painting last summer (hence the large number of paintings featuring trees and a wooden fence). I was about to discover that gessoed paper is a rather slippery, skiddy surface compared to gessoed canvas, for instance. A paint-laden brush really slides around a lot, which some find disconcerting, and it can feel pretty out of control and messy for a while.

It was a gorgeous early summer day with plenty of sunshine and a pleasant breeze. There was stuff growing in the garden, the trees were in full leaf by then, casting intriguing shadows across the lawn, onto the fence, and through my neighbor's grove of trees.

The wind stirred the branches and caused the light to flicker and dance, and I was ecstatic. I worked pretty fast, mixing colors and swiping my brush across the paper, moving so quickly in fact that I couldn't really say how I decided to paint what I did. I was simply painting by the seat of my pants (ha ha! I actually typed "by the seat of my paints"!!).

I was trusting my novice painter's intuitive sense, though if I'd had any such thoughts of doing any such thing, I can assure you I would have gotten tied in knots. "I don't know how to trust my intuition," I can almost hear myself whine. But thankfully, I didn't go down that road that day!

Because the paper was small, around 6 by 6 inches, I finished in a matter of minutes (really can't say how many, since I was blissfully oblivious of time). And I looked at what I had done, and I loved it!

And almost immediately the thought came to me that I was simply "chasing the light" around the backyard with my paints and brushes.

Now it just so happens that in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that.... oops. Wrong story. Let me try that again.

It just so happens that in those days I was actively wracking my brain to come up with a name for my soon to be launched blog. And when that phrase "chasing the light" arose in my mind, I said, "That's it! I'll call my blog 'Chasing Delight'!"

But when I thought more about it, "Chasing Delight" felt a bit too manic for what I had in mind, and possibly even too suggestive that I could be chasing delight yet never actually finding it or catching up to it. And that was definitely not what I wanted to convey.

I tweaked some more, emailed my friend Sarah some more, and settled on "Trusting Delight" instead of "Chasing Delight".

Just when in this process I remembered St. Augustine I can't now recall. Believe me, I wasn't expecting to find inspiration for my blog title from any of the so called "church fathers", and particularly not that one, whom I credit, rightly or wrongly, with developing the lovely concept of original sin. He wasn't big on sex, either.

But long ago I read and took to heart a beautiful line that Augustine (354 - 430) once wrote in an essay about music. I like to imagine that he wrote this before he spent his energy cooking up original sin. For that matter, maybe he even wrote this before he converted to Christianity!

In any case, here's Augustine's line that lies behind my blog's title: "Delight is as it were the weight of the soul; for delight orders the soul."

Delight orders the soul. And I am, dare I say it?, delight's willing practitioner, doing my best to order my life and my soul by trusting delight.

(To be continued, for sure. Because that word "orders" has an interestingly familiar ring to it, especially when traveling with its ecclesiastical companion, "holy".)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great read today!

writemama said...

I enjoyed hearing about the unraveling.......lovely.

Sukie Curtis said...

Thanks for the comments, both!

Jan said...

You're a NOVICE painter, Sukie? I know your concentration on your art is new, but I'm amazed to learn it's a new practice! Your art has the grace and confidence of a life-long artist. And the freshness of what we call "beginner's mind" in the Zen racket -- just another good name for "trusting delight!"