Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Time Well Spent
Our older son, Jay, is a freshman in college and had an assignment in humanities that required him to go to the Detroit Institute of Arts and consider some specific works of art upon which he must write a paper. So last week, the Mr., Jay and myself headed out to the DIA after work for a family field trip. Mac, unfortunately, had strep throat so he missed out.
You must understand that as a rule, you can’t pry me out of my house with a crow bar after work. I’m tired and all I want to do is put on my jammies and nap until I go to bed. But when it involves your kid, your sweetie or some combination thereof; one must soldier on.
So off we went in search of the museum and pulled up in front at about 5:00 p.m. Up the front steps we walked pausing for a look at the fountains and statues out front. Peering up the old stone edifice and through the heavy glass doors. We walked into that enormous lobby with the vaulted ceilings and I was immediately glad to be there. This was no typical excursion to the MJR (our local theater) for a second-rate movie. This was a reason to go out on a Friday evening.
Jay hadn’t eaten and was starved so we started off by heading to the cafeteria for a bite to eat which was lovely and serene with soothing music in the background and marble floors under our feet. It was quite a pleasant meal.
Then it was to the galleries in search of Jay’s targets. He started off at a pretty fast clip being his mother’s son and completely focused on getting the job done. I was all for it and the Mr. kind of went on ahead to report back on where the various pieces could be found lest we waste time. Then somehow before we knew it; we had slowed down and wandered away from one another and the task at hand. The art, you see, demanded our attention. I was drawn to the bright realistic still-lifes that reminded me of paintings my grandparents had on “The Farm”. I kept scooting up closer to the paintings trying to see every detail until Jay reminded me “two feet back Mom”.
The Mr. loves the Monet collection and the thick brush strokes of the impressionists. Jay was caught by surprise when he connected his lectures to the reality and had to slow down to soak it all in.
We wandered around the galleries, to and from one another’s sides. We found the paintings and sculptures and then went back through a second time to talk about our favorites, to read the plaques and to take the time to see what we’d missed the first time through.
In the great hall while Jay was examining a particular piece and writing notes and the Mr. was reading the descriptions of the paintings I sat down on a wooden bench in that echoing gallery and leaned my head back. There on the great vaulted ceiling of that old building were amazing frescoes.
It was then I knew. The soul is hungry for substance.
I took in the tile floors and the leaded glass window panes. I ran my fingers along the old-fashioned radiators lining the walls and listened to the murmured conversations of patrons carried through the galleries. I thought about the workmen and the artists all those years ago who toiled and planned to build the Detroit Institute of Arts, of their fingerprints in the details of the place. I thought about the people who painted the murals on the ceilings and designed the mosaic tiles to create a place worthy of the art it would cradle for generations beyond them. Knowing they would be nameless, they put their hands and their hearts to substantial and beautiful work.
I looked again at plaques explaining that this painting was painted in 1846 and was amazed at the person with such gifts who saw so much more than I can see with all the advantages of my era.
I subtracted the year of a self-portrait from the year of the death of the artist and thought to myself, “I wonder if he knew he’d be gone in fifteen years. That’s so little time left.”
I need to spend more time in pursuit of substance. I need to not compartmentalize the spiritual and un-spiritual because walking through that fine old building and soaking in the hundreds of years of artistry; God’s signature was written in man’s hand.
People left behind gifts for us in architecture, paint and music. Time taken to hone a craft and leave a worthy offering behind.
A little bit of the glory of the Creator shining through his creation.
Time well-spent, for them and for me.
Thank you God, for meeting me at the Detroit Institute of Arts. And thank you for the hands and hearts of men and women who made gifts for me before I was born.
Thank you for this beautiful world.
By his breath the skies became fair, his hand pierced the gliding serpent. And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?