blue and lavendar hydrangea

photo: Creative Commons (Wikimedia: Marc Ryckaert)

Children, please come forward, and come as close as you can. We will need your eyes to see what I’m going to show, and then I want you to share what you see so everyone can hear. [Show the image of “Her Face.”] This is painted by a woman named Meinrad Craighead. It’s a painting of a memory of hers from when she was seven years old. What do you see when you look at this? [Take responses and repeat so all can hear what they probably won’t be able to see. Then, read slowly what Craighead says about this work of art, which is printed on the facing page, and reads:

 It was my seventh summer. I think everything and everyone slept that hot afternoon in Little Rock. The day, the dust, the sun were red; the roses were wide open. I lay with my dog in a cool place on the north side of my grandparents’ clapboard house. Hydrangeas flourished there. shaded from the heat. The domed blue flowers were higher than our heads. I held the dog, stroking her into sleep. But she held my gaze. I watched the dog and she watched me, a balance of equal weights. as I looked into her eyes I knew that I would never travel further than into this animal’s eyes. They were as deep, as bewildering, as unattainable as a night sky. Just as mysterious was another movement, the rush of water deep within me, the sound in my ears resounding from my breast I gazed into the dog’s eyes and I listened to the wound of the water inside and I understood: ‘this is God.”

 I spent the rest of the afternoon digging a hole. I spaded and shoveled the hold for many days until its walls collapsed, my act of worship exhausted.

 Soon after this, in an elementary school in Chicago, I came upon a photograph in a book; it was a small statue of a woman. The recognition was immediate and certain; I knew this was she whom I had heard in the water and whose face I had sought within the dog’s eyes. This discovery brought a sense of well-being and gratitude which has never diminished.

 But she had no face. She was crowned with waves of water, covering her head, overshadowing the face. It was her entire  body which spoke, her breast-belly body, a thick bulb rooted, pushing up a halo of water, the water which moved within me. i’ve been looking for her face ever since. I had then, and still have one essential prayer: “Show me your face.”

[Then share that] The title of this painting is “Her Face.”

 

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Prop: copy of the image entitled, “Her Face” by the painter Meinrad Craighead. I used a copy from the book The Mother’s Songs: Images of God the Mother. It’s also viewable on this page of the artist’s website.

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