Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Alley 1892-3

Along this Lenten-Way we've considered a number of Levitan's paths, trails and roads. They are symbolic of the life-path we each walk: the lessons life has taught me, the people I've met, the places I've visited, the books I've read, my decisions and choices, the crises I've navigated, the dreams, inspirations, insights and ideas. 

While surveying my life-path there are moments I'll be tempted to label as regrets. But as I've said elsewhere, I think we should use that word sparingly - God can be encountered most wonderfully in the regrets. Peter, all tied up in the sad regret of his having denied knowing Jesus, meets him in the depths of forgiveness and friendship on the Easter morning beach. John 21: 4-17

This gospel scene isn't just about Peter, but as much about myself: God, rushing to me in my ignorance, immaturity, brashness, mistaken haste, reactive fear. 

Maybe The Alley isn't the best translation for the painting's title. Rather, notice that the path here passes through a tunnel of living trees. Perhaps The Tunnel would be a better title.

Tunnels can appear in dreams as a passageway fraught with dangers and fears. A tunnel can be a secret place. Most people have at least one kept secret: a secret fear of rejection, a confidence that's been entrusted, perhaps some serious error I haven't come up for (yet). Our first life-experience is to pass through a tunnel to get born. 

But Levitan's tunnel is green, alive and shaded. It's a wide path,  so I needn't feel claustrophobic. And perhaps best of all, way down at the far end is an opening of blue sky - blue being the color of divinity. 

Someone might say, "Oh, this is the path to heaven." I'd say it's much more than that. All along the life-way I want to keep my inner eye on the divine presence: reassuring, beautiful, inviting, encouraging. In every moment, God is here, like the mother who pulls in her anguished child so close, right up against her. 

Actually, in case we think the divine is to be encountered just at the end of our long life-road, a kind of reward for good behaviour, Levitan has got the blue of divinity bouncing off the bark of the trees inside the tree-tunnel. Nature itself sparkles with divinity. 


  1. I love this painting. I want to walk the path slowly towards the opening while taking in the little bounces of light along the way, making every minute count for something. Nothing wasted.

  2. Yes, even the ground is alive with light.

  3. I understand why he called this path an alley or why it seems like a tunnel, for the trees are so thick, one cannot wander off. It is rather a direct route to the end. Maybe it represents the lack of choices one can feel as they travel their life path. That their journey is predetermined and as long as you don't try to break through the trees, you will be happy and find divinity.

  4. Light overcomes the shadows in this painting. There is no fear as long as we believe in God's love.

  5. This painting brings to my mind, The Road to Emmaus. One of my favorites. You never know where you will encounter Jesus. Levitan's paintings trigger an awareness of things left behind, good or bad but then an awakening to self- improvement. You help in this direction with books, music and prayer. What beautiful birds!

  6. Road to Emmaus. We'll hear it at Mass shortly. Lovely association. Blessed Holy Week.