On one of my routine early morning walks up the Ocotillo Trail I noted a cluster of walkers standing in the trail ahead. One person raised a hand of caution and directed my attention off to the side of the trail. A night hawk, a Whip-Poor-Will, was on the ground not far from the trail. She was difficult to see, for her coloring was the same as the rocks and dirt where she nestled. Eventually when I could see her I joined the awestruck focus of the little group of reverent spectators touched by God’s amazing creation.
Day after day, I could barely wait to walk the trail. Hastily scribbled signs were stuck to the gate at the trail head: “Please leave your dogs home!” and “Keep dogs on a tight leash?”and “Bird nesting near trail.” Mother Whip-Poor-Will episodes were better than the movies. Sometimes we had to look for a long time which caused fear that she had moved away from us. Sometimes she was very close to the trail, sometimes under a bush or near her favorite rock.
One day, a friend and I stood for a very long time watching her breathe, open her eyes and close them again. Suddenly we were stunned when a tiny yellow fluff ball popped out from under her soft brown breast. The miraculous birth had taken place! The mother bird barely seemed to notice when two more tiny babies moved from her warm protection into the hazy morning light and joined in an awesome ritual of newness. For days the playful dance of the wee birds continued. We gasped as they moved farther and farther away from Mother Whip-Poor-Will. She seemed uninterested in their antics yet always ready when they ducked back under her breast for solace. Amazed and dazzled by this encounter with God’s creative force, we watched, hushed by sheer wonder.
“NEAR THE TRAIL” (mixed media)
This painting belongs to a series of art pieces I have entitled “THE GIFTS.” Most of the pieces in the series have little gift packets which contain mysterious literal gifts: passages from scripture, musical score, beautiful papers, postage stamps, medallions, quotations from life’s spiritual seekers, meaningful symbols of faith and/or tiny natural objects such as feathers, stones and shells. They are hidden from view but their mysterious presence is intended to impact the composition.
Selecting colors and textures for this piece caused a sense of worship to develop in my spirit. It’s a sensation I often experience as I work. The sensation of worship runs the gamut of emotions from doubt to exhilaration to peace and joy. Time disappeared as my focus intensified, trusting the Spirit, choosing symbols to include, deciding on shapes and brushing on the paint, for I hoped to commemorate the sacred encounter I describe above.
“NEAR THE TRAIL” has an overall shape I associate with a worshipful place, a sanctuary. Eggs often symbolize new life or new beginnings and they do for me too, along with other varieties of newness. The delicate green leaves in the upper part are an additional symbol of newness and growth.
The art piece includes a portion of Psalm 139 handwritten from my memory. It contains the question: “Where can I go from Your (God’s) Presence?” and its answer: “If I ascend to heaven, You are there and if I make my bed in the pit, You are there. Even if I take the WINGS OF THE MORNING and settle at the most remote place, YOU ARE THERE. Your hand guides me and your right hand holds me fast.”
NEAR THE TRAIL (detail of gift packet)