Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Footpath in a Forest, Ferns



This painting is titled: Footpath in a Forest, Ferns. I might change it to Footpath Through the Forest, because the word through seems to convey the sense of movement. I want to walk on this winding path. We don't take along our cellphone while walking here. Levitan presents this still place, where we listen and observe.

These days we're inclined to think we're communicating well because we're talking on the phone all day. Not really. I'm thinking of the primaries leading up to last November's election - so much interrupting, talking over the other with raised voices. It happens on the television discussion panels. There's no real dialogue, each looking for the moment to spout the truth. Listen! - they get their moment and can't stop talking, because if they take a breath, someone else will steal the time.

Some years ago I spent two weeks in a little hermitage at the edge of the forest on Monte Corona in Italy. In the 1500's the Camaldolese Hermits built the beautiful monastery, surrounded by hermitages where monks lived and prayed. The Camaldolese were driven out by Napoleon and the monastery fell into disrepair until the Monastic Community of Bethlehem took possession of it. Now there are about twenty monks re-claiming the monastery and making it a center of monastic discipline and inner life. How hospitable they were, taking me into their community.

Following the Carthusian Rule of St. Bruno the monks live silent lives, talking only for necessities and during their four hour Sunday walk through the forest and meadows. During this walk (the Spatiamentum) the monks walk in pairs, rotating every half hour. Community is built that way.

So I asked the young monk, "What do you talk about for four hours, your families?" He answered, "No, we don't even know the stories of our brothers here, unless a monk chooses to share something of his family, where he's been or what he's done in his life." I laughed because the first thing an American asks of someone they've just met is, "What do you do?" So I pressed further, "Do you talk about the week's food?" He answered again, "Our food is uneventful." "So, what then?" "We talk about the ferns uncoiling, about the tree leaves coming out in succession, what birds are singing, can we identify that tree by its bark, what the are clouds telling us about the afternoon weather."

There are Americans who would like to tear up Levitan's forest path with their crashing Land Rovers or all-terrain vehicles. The message of this winding path is, Go slowly. Look! Listen! Notice that Levitan has painted only the lower part of the forest. There's so much to attend to there, we don't need to be looking up to the tree tops. Maybe that's for another walk. 

Some people are only close observers of store windows and magazine ads. Lent invites us to more: Come Easter, might I be able to identify the trees in my neighborhood by looking at the tree's bark and leaves. That would please God who has invested so much of God's imagination and creative energies into such lovely and generous diversity. 

13 comments:

  1. These paintings are great lenten tools for serious meditation. Now if I could just calm the brain from so many distractions. Yes, the noise gets louder and louder everyday. Isaak's paintings draw you into quiet places where you can go on a spiritual journey with God. I look forward to them everyday.

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  2. Levitan was a troubled man - these landscapes helped him realize some measure of tranquility. In that sense alone he is a most appropriate painter for the times we live in today.

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  3. Joanne DeGregorioMarch 6, 2017 at 11:23 AM

    This painting is telling me to find a nice walking path and go for a stroll. I would like to open myself up to what observations I may make. Not forced, but rather, I would like to see what comes to mind as I walk silently. This might be my favorite Levitan paint2and reflection thus far.

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    1. I hope you'll find a place for your walk. Even a walk in a suburban neighborhood that hasn't taken all the trees down!

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  4. Where does the path take us? We must walk through to find out. Nothing becomes of us if we don't seek answers. One must venture out and be open and aware to hear God's call.

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    1. Levitan painted paths and trails often. He was on to something.

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  5. The term I use is a simultaneous monologue. We talk AT each other, not TO each other.

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  6. This painting appears to have a 'velvety feel' but when I touched my computer screen naturally the finger left a slick smudge. I came back to reality, but like each of us wanted to walk this tranquil path. Levitan uses the shades of green more than light capture me, although this feels like early AM.

    A good movie to check out in Lent is 'Sea of Trees'. The movie, like Lent, involves a somewhat rough journey but culminates in valuable redemption. Seeing the movie is a tangible way to walk further along the path(s). Wow, thanks to Fr. S we are taking journeys with journeys! Blessed Lent...

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  7. Maybe the "velvety feel" is the soft moss we'd surely walk on or touch along this forest path. For all the paths, trails and roads Levitan painted, each is unique, offering some new insight. Grateful.

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  8. I would love to walk along that forest path, but I would want to share its beauty with someone I loved. How peacefully intimate to walk a quiet footpath soft with moss and a canopy of trees. The monks, however perplex me. How can you live with people for years and not get to know their personal stories? Can you talk about only nature ever day? It seems almost superficial.

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  9. Monks ARE perplexing to many people. They have a different vision or value. Their way of life is far and away not for everyone - nor need it be. "How can you live with people for years and not know their personal stories." Fair question; it does seem extreme, especially if we contrast it with out texting, twittering, media world wherein we can't stop talking about ourselves. "Can you talk about only nature every day? it seems almost superficial." Monks and nuns talk about only what is necessary. Clearly they and we have different ideas about "what's necessary". Tell you the truth, I can't think of anything more superficial than our world - or at least the "world" as it is lived in our own country: our television shows, the lack of depth to our news, the obsession with style, our chattering about nothing, the questions asked by interviewers - never asking WHY, our love of what we call 'small talk'. When I follow the news and hear the politicians and political spokespersons and how they superficially go on, and on, and on, and say absolutely nothing. Oh goodness, I'd walk with a monk in the woods any day. We put the emphasis on talking; monks put the emphasis on listening - interior listening.

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  10. I feel Isaak wasn't doing well when he painted this. The scene is murky, gloomy to me. When If I find myself going into this type of mood. I pray for God to lift me up to a better place. God to the rescue. It works every time.

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  11. Sometimes taking a walk alone can help us to "work things out". That you are able to say, "if I find myself going into this type of mood..." indicates the painting "works" - it's called forth a response from you.

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