Many years ago I took a quiet vow, never revealed it to anyone; it was between the universe and me. I vowed to live my life as if I were cloistered in my home and studio.
There was no lengthy set of rules or obligations only the intent to always place god first and remember to retreat to my home as often as possible to find him/her there. It has been a marvelous past 20 years.
The vow I made was a covenant to be faithful to a new desire to paint icons and turn away a bit more from the world in general.
The nature revelation
The idea of becoming and iconographer was never a desire of mine, those first experiences with the paint and image surprised me with each encounter. Revelation is when something is seen brightly and understood by the recipient.There was very little understanding as I began, but now I see it has all been unfolding in Gods time while I dedicated hours in the studio.
One of my greatest revelations was realizing the earth I paint with is the medium and source of spiritual life for me. Colored Dust! The nature of icon painting is making what is invisible visible.
Pushing around small particles of sand to create divine image is still the main reason I find this process and technique so deep and rich. Spiritual practice means nothing if it does not transform our love and awareness of grace in everything you do.
Who is the soul mate?
I have asked God numerous times why I was picked for this, my character and attitude is disorderly and rebellious, why give me a desire to fit into a tradition which honors conformity? I have by default a natural inclination to talking and laughing, not to mention I have been known to be irreverent. Perhaps therein lies the humor in Gods story, he designed us, each with a unique recipe of ingredients with no idea what might happen. We are asked to be like children, what could be more unpredictable? So I paint and play, invent and test the limits of tradition while realizing it is love and beauty which moves the world. God is the only real soul mate and constant unconditional friend and icon painting has been the vehicle for me discovering that relationship.
I retreat each day to work and reflect; hiding myself each time I pick up a brush or mix paint. I get still and quiet, easing my way into a silent journey. After 20 years of creating icons I find myself in an unexpected dilemma.
I am satisfied with the large volume of work but the God given desire to paint is changing. More and more I find myself asking why I should paint one more image and am I ready to stop and forever rest in the blank white surface of a new icon.
The end! I wonder how hermits live the mystery, the part which rests in the invisible where no new “things” become visible. I yearn to stay in the invisible unknowing and just be. I can’t find a way to stay there though, so I begin to paint again by default. Maybe humans are designed to create.
I have a small sign on my blackboard in the studio, it says, God = uncreated potential. I am always trying to remember it is all given and what I do with it is not necessarily important.
Icon painting is a Sacrament
Sacraments are an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace. Others say sacraments are expressions of what God loves. Either way the work of painting divine image is mystical as well as sacramental.
I show up every day to slug my way through something which I will never fully understand and regretfully, it will never be the beautiful offering I want it to be. My sister repeatedly said, Mary Jane it is not about the icon it is about Love of God. So harsh really, my ego and pride is at stake, yet where sacrament is concerned it is not about the priest or the one who officiates but rather the effect it has on the participants.