Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Day In June 1895

Look at how Levitan loves the Russian countryside, capturing miles of blue sky with a few wispy clouds. We don't see the sun but it's casting warm light everywhere: on the farmers field to the left, the birch tree's white bark, the forest beyond and the wonderful field of multi-colored flowers.

We might remember Tennessee Williams play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The story of a terribly dysfunctional southern family comprised of Big Daddy, Big Mama, brothers Brick and Gooper and their respective wives, Maggie and Mae. At one point, with the dysfunction in full flood, Big Mama says to Maggie:

You know honey...we was never a very happy family. There wasn't much joy in this house. You know how some homes are happy. I thought coming home from the clinic today, 'Now we'll be happy here.' You and Brick will live with us and have your children here. And we'll help each other be happy.

Levitan's painting, A Day in June tells me: Stephen, look at all the trouble God has gone to, to help us be happy.

There's the secret of course: happiness and helpfulness go hand in hand. I think that might just be God's first  creation-message to us. And isn't that what family is supposed to be: helping each other to be happy? And isn't that what Church should be: helping each other to be happy? And isn't that what living in the United States of America should be: helping each other to be happy? 

One of the more sensitive displays of this I've ever seen was while sitting in the dental hygienist's chair one morning. And all the while she was cleaning and polishing, others from the team kept sticking their heads into the room and asking their colleague, "Can I get you anything?" "Is there anything I can do for  you?"  "Is there something you need?"  


  1. I notice the flowers growing wild in the field, giving a sense of freedom to the scene. Inviting me to run through them and take in their scent.

  2. I like that Levitan doesn't put human subjects in his paintings. It allows me to picture myself there soaking up the surroundings and the feeling of the olace as Isaac must have done.

    1. There are only a very few Levitan paintings that show a person and even then, often seen only from a distance. The landscape speaks for itself. And in most of his paintings we can sense very clearly where we actually stand. Our vantage point.

  3. God gives us everything we need to be happy. I know I should show more gratitude for his gifts. I do my best to help others to be happy, yet there are many times when I just don't feel that happiness for myself. It feels good to know that I can make someone else's life better, and it fulfills me, but I want to feel like someone cares to. I wish I could sit in the clearing up ahead in this painting and feel the sunshine on my face and let all my cares float away to the clouds above.

  4. When I was much younger and before seminary, I confided to a priest that I felt I should be entering a religious community of hermit monks: where each monk lives in his own secluded hermitage, coming together only for Mass. He said to me, "Nah, you'd never last, after a few months you'd start to wonder if anyone even remembered you." That statement went right to a very deep interior place - could I stand not being thought of, cared about, needed, appreciated? And I also knew that ultimately the answer to the question was a spiritual one. Did I have a relationship with God deep enough to hold me? My eventual decision NOT to go to a hermit monastery was decided by a number of factors, but this question certainly played an important part.