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 AnPaint2016 copy


A painting by Anna R.
©Painting Anna R., 2015 (ask permission to use)

Reflection by Betty Luceigh
On a pre-holiday visit with my dear Aunt Ollie, I noticed a new painting on the wall behind her favorite chair. As I quietly looked, I was surprised by my heart’s response. Ollie explained it was a 90th birthday present from Anna, one of her granddaughters. Anna told Ollie the woman in green was Mother Nature grieving the loss of the dead bird she held. The more I looked at that sad face, the sadder I became.

I asked Ollie, “How old is Anna now?” She replied, “Twelve.” Gradually my sadness morphed into hope.

I subsequently asked Anna to share some information about her painting. She was originally going to enter it in a contest with an environmental theme, but then decided to give it to her Grandma instead. She used watercolors with a few other personal techniques. Mother Nature is holding a penguin dead from an oil spill but it could represent all animals. Mother Nature is grieving, as seen by the single tear, but being strong as well. Anna explained it was like when you see someone’s chin trembling and know they are very sad but trying to be strong to hold back tears.

I asked Anna, “If Mother Nature were to speak to someone looking at the painting, what would she say?” Anna’s immediate response was, “Don’t let this happen again. Let this be the last.”

I shared some of my personal responses with Anna and she reminded me, “The painting is whatever the spectator perceives.” She also seemed to want to reassure me when she said, “There are a lot of my friends, other students, teachers, people in other generations who care about the environment.” (And I personally acknowledge here Anna’s very loving parents’ influence on her environmental awareness.)

This experience with Anna’s painting made me reflect on many things. Here I am, reading and listening to great minds addressing the breadth of ecological issues, the difficulties of enacting solutions, the need for deep cultural changes, and the evolution of a new civilization. There are those who have spent their lives working for Earth, for life, for justice, for our common good. There are dedicated people, impassioned and compassionate, speaking courageously, challenging old systems. When I think of all these people, it’s easy to get self-critical and feel one has contributed so little. That is where I make my big mistake, because for me this is not a competition for who does the most for the future, it is about each of us contributing our best to the whole of life itself as it strives for its natural fulfillment. After all, one chlorophyll molecule in a leaf has participated in the life of the whole plant by humbly doing what it was gifted by Mother Nature to do.

If one child, Anna, can have the sensitivity to paint a concept of Mother Nature grieving over needless loss of life she birthed, there is hope that others in her generation will be coming forward to continue The Great Work now begun. If one child can express so clearly a broad goal to unite our efforts toward an ecological civilization, there is all the more reason for us adults never to succumb to disappointments along the way.

Thank you, Anna, for hope.