Just a few days ago I returned from a short trip to the beautiful town of Sulmona in Abruzzo. The experience was incredibly rich and warm (thanks to my amazing host and new friend Novelia) and I am hard at work on writing a blog post (soon to be published) about this amazing slice of paradise here in Italy. While I enjoyed many things in Sulmona, it was impossible to really scratch the surface with all the area has to offer. One thing, in particular, at the top of my list for my return trip is to do a “walk about” with a local shepherd. Novelia already has made calls and is working on possibilities to make this happen. What an artist/photographer’s dream to be able to camp out with and walk the sheep herder’s paths!
As I contemplate and look forward to such an experience, I remembered this watercolor that I painted several years ago, called The Caretaker. I love painting this, not only because of the unique perspective and composition, but because of the theme of a shepherd looking after his flock. I believe I inherited my fascination with flocks of sheep and goats from my highly influential artist mother, who frequently made them the subjects of her paintings.
I am drawn to the theme of the shepherd and his sheep, also because of the metaphorical meanings of having a benevolent force in my life that always is looking out for me, and always on my side.
I’m anything but conservative or fundamental in my spiritual beliefs, but my soul does respond to images and metaphors that become inspiring companions when fear shows up in my life. Currently, I am reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, and she speaks, quiet effectively, to how fear can stop creative pursuits in their tracks. She doesn’t reserve the concept of creativity for artists. She speaks to creating a life that allows a person to express their unique gifts and ideas. This resonates with me as an artist and writer who, all too frequently, can let the voice of fear talk me out of plunging ahead with a project. Ms. Gilbert wisely counsels each of us to not fight our fears, but to allow them to coexist. However, she advises not to let fear have a say or a voice in how we proceed.
As a person who has altered his life dramatically, these sage words of advice also come in handy. Leaving the security of the known can invite some pretty big catcalls from the voice of fear.
But, back to the imagery of the shepherd and his flock. When I am in the throes of fear, and when I am questioning my path forward, I go back to something old and fundamental to my basic belief about the universe. That is the 23rd Psalm. Those of you who know me well, know that I normally don’t quote scripture, and that I’m more apt to quote other mystical teachings from the likes of Buddha, Rumi, and Kahlil Gibran. For me, the 23rd Psalm, is the ultimate reminder and blanket of assurance that “all will be well.” For me it is one of the best and most effective mantras to help me release my grasp of control, and to allow myself to be held by something much bigger. I easily could substitute “She” or “The Force” for “He”. I believe Divine Force is genderless, but here I love going back to this psalm in its original form.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul…
To see this and other paintings, be sure to visit my online gallery.