The Story Behind “A Bridge Crossed”

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Every Sunday for the last few months, I’ve posted a photograph and lines of poetry (or musings) inspired by my  journey to London.  Sundays in London has been a cathartic experience as it has slowly lead me to a deeper understanding of why I was so driven to spend an extended period of time in a place so far from home.  My journal is filled with meandering thoughts fraught with both epiphanies and questions, while my pictures captured every nook and cranny of my surroundings, but nothing fit together for a definitive answer.  The experience as a whole was life-altering, though I could not decipher how and why.  All I knew was something deep inside of me had indelibly changed, (See Finding True North).

The lines I wrote for A Bridge Crossed began in London, but only in small fragments.  At the time, I didn’t have enough understanding to give my disjointed words a voice.  The finished poem is representative of the answer I’ve been seeking for the better part of a year.  After much contemplation and creative wandering, I know why I went to London.

Almost immediately after my return, I kept thinking, “I learned I was a lot stronger than I thought.” The only thing I couldn’t figure out what was why this mattered so much.  I already knew I was a strong person, so I let the idea sit and expand until it chose to tell me more.

Ultimately, the answer hit me in one big swoop, damn near knocking me out of my seat.  I still don’t know what triggered the thought, but I’m not one to question inspiration.  What matters is that I have my answer.  London showed me how strong I have to be to reach my dreams.  Despite being in a place  I loved, I was alone, overwhelmed, disoriented, and completely out of my element.  And there was no one to run to except myself.  I eventually found my groove and embraced every sensation, but this was a hard path to find.

Writing feels much the same way as isolating yourself in a foreign place.  Along with all of the above, there is rejection (and a lot of it), frustration, fear, and doubt.  A list like this puts a serious dent in strength and determination, sometimes to the point of giving up.  Courage doesn’t come free and strength comes at a price.  I have to be willing to endure everything that tries to knock me down.  I must remain standing no matter how difficult or demoralizing it gets.  As London showed me, being stronger than the impediment has an immense payoff for through the heavy fog there is the realization of a dream.

There is a difference between understanding what it means to be strong and knowing from experience what it is to be strong.  I can do anything and I can take a few punches, too.  Some may call me crazy for learning this lesson halfway around the world, but I honestly can think of no better place.  London got under skin from the very first moment I saw it and has never let go.  I hope it never does.

Houses of Parliament, London, June 2011, c.b.w.

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c.b. 2012

Pondering Pissarro

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With the same fervor as Monet and Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro has captured my imagination with his unique style and perspective.  He is well known for making significant contributions to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism as he influenced the likes of Renoir, Cézanne, and Van Gogh. While his accomplishments are monumental, I find myself drawn to his work because of his emphasis on finding beauty in unexpected places.  His focus on simple subjects, rather than ornate is refreshing and asks the viewer to look beyond the obvious.

Self-Portrait (1903), Camille Pissarro

In the National Gallery of London, I was mesmerized by a Pissarro painting, (The Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage, 1877), not only due to its sheer beauty, but the epiphany it brought.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to Impressionist painters, but I never fully understood why they effected me so deeply.  Monet and Van Gogh always conjure an emotional bubble that often translates into inexplicable tears, while Renoir and Degas soothe the edges of my soul with their graceful images.

While sitting on a bench at the National Gallery and soaking in Pissarro’s brush strokes, I started to ask myself why Impressionism speaks to me with so much force. At first, I mused how Impressionist paintings seem to depict what the world looks like through the rain – my favorite kind of weather.  Whether it be a field of flowers through a water-streamed window or the streets of Paris caught in a downpour, the scene is blurred and refracted.  However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was just a small part of the puzzle.  I strolled through the Impressionist wing of the museum, absorbing the likes of Monet, Renoir, and Seurat, until the answer slowly started to materialize.

These “blurry” paintings allow for imagination.  Mood and atmosphere are created by the artist, but the individual viewer gets to decide the story and the minute details.  Prior to Impressionism, the goal was to create as much realism as possible. The artist strived to portray everything with immaculate detail and gave the viewer little to do but look.  While amazing accomplishments, (and really quite beautiful) there is no room to wonder.  My creative spirit needs to play with the images I see and fill in the blanks.

Pissarro is often viewed as a father figure to Impressionism, so it seems fitting that one of  his paintings should lead to a new understanding of my admiration for the genre.  Below, I’ve put together a small slideshow that includes some of my favorite Pissarro paintings, including the painting that triggered my epiphany.

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Impressionists gave tradition a total make-over.  Free will became part of each painting with as much emphasis as color and subject matter.  The combination is intoxicating and explains why I lose myself so easily in the blurred edges of reality.

What kind of art speaks to you and why?

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All images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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c.b. 2012