I went on a cruise through the Gulf of Mexico, down into the Caribbean, with stops in Cozumel and Belize. Now, let me point out very clearly that I am not a cruise kind of person. But a very good friend pointed out to me that this was not a typical cruise–it was a music cruise, more like a floating music festival, really, and as part of my healing process, she said I absolutely had to go. This friend, whose name is Lorna, knows me well. I trust her implicitly. So I listened, and for almost a year, we planned and made payments, and it became a reality. This would be her 9th time on the ship, so I knew I would be in good hands and she could show me the ropes.
Turns out she was right. It was an absolutely incredible experience. Some of the performing musicians were also good friends, so that made the time even more special. Along with those whose music I love and play often, I also got to hear incredible acts I’d never before seen that are now becoming favorites. And I got to have dinner with Buddy Miller, a guitarist/singer/songwriter whose album Universal United House of Prayer I absolutely adore (one of my top five favorites), and whose wife, Julie Miller, is a brilliant songwriter whose music has touched me deeply in my own life. Buddy was lovely, humble, kind, and a great conversationalist. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I got to spend talking with him, along with Lorna and her husband, Joe, and Nashville friend/singer/songwriter extraordinaire Jim Lauderdale, who made the whole occasion possible.
So, there was that.
What I didn’t expect, though, was how transformational the cruise would be for me on so very many levels. I’ve worked hard on my grief healing journey for many years, especially hard during the past year, and I knew someday some internal breakthroughs would come; I just had no idea they’d explode into being the way they did. I suppose that’s how it works, though, similar to how plant life evolves. Lots of quiet, deep, slow work under the surface, then a tentative reaching up toward the sun, and finally, a bursting of bloom that is glorious. That was me on the cruise–blooming, coming into my own, at long last finding my new voice, my new self.
Spending mornings on the balcony outside the cabin, writing, meditating, watching the water and being soothed by it before venturing forth every day, lulled me into deep healing, processing, and synthesizing. Spending time on the beach, feeling the warmth of the sun, swimming in the Caribbean — all of these were such balms to my heart and soul.
And the water! The colors captivated me. I could not stop staring at them. I have never seen ocean or sea water like that of the Gulf and the Caribbean–striations of deep indigo, turquoise, aqua, and an almost unnatural pale metallic blue/green that the ship churned up–and I was more than a bit childlike in my delight. How many hours I spent envisioning how to mix colors in a way that would depict what I saw, felt, experienced. As much as I enjoyed the music and some very special times that also opened me up further, I could not wait to get home and start painting. I needed, craved, to express what that open water did for me emotionally.
It goes beyond words. There is no way to say it with words.
I’ve been exploring abstracted works more and more to convey/process the many emotions I’ve been experiencing, as well as my internal growth and the way nature consistently plays a powerful part in giving rise to it all. This was true for the painting that made itself known the day after I returned and plunged in. I had no idea what would appear–I purposefully set about in a playful way with no set agenda, using few colors and various tools I don’t normally reach for, such as an old credit card, crumpled newspaper, a spritzer bottle, and more. I listened to moody music–in this case, John Paul White did the trick. I moved both color and the canvas around, and eventually, “Taught by Thirst” emerged. It shows not so much the colors I’d initially envisioned, but instead conveys the emotional impact the week had on me and where I’m at right now. And that’s exactly the way it should be.
I named it after Emily Dickinson’s poem, which somehow fit the many layers of meaning perfectly.