I love that we call ourselves The Master's Artist. We're writers, yes, but we approach the page as painter to canvas, musician to instrument, dancer to stage. Words are our colors, our notes, the wings on our feet. They're more than mere meaning. They rise and fall like waves, inviting hearts to beat in time with the story they tell. Words matter. Immensely.
How do I know this? Just look at zucchini.
Because God is an artist. And He loves to delight us.
We, however, are busy and preoccupied. When we shop, we keep our eyes on prices. When we cook, we want shortcuts. We become so accustomed to fast food that we eat without tasting--our minds already focused on whatever happens next. We forget the aroma of fresh rosemary or roasted garlic, the flavor of caramelized onions or sautéed mushrooms. And if we're not careful, the same attitude homogenizes our writing. It becomes formulaic. French-fried. Our taste buds adjust, and we convince ourselves that we're satisfied. Then one day we flip open a book and discover a feast. An exquisite metaphor or a perfectly turned phrase invites us to slow down and savor every bite. Like a fine wine, we roll the words over our tongue and feel ourselves physically relax.
Art informs art. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our writing is to push away from the table and go work up a good appetite. You may not be a painter, musician, or dancer, but you can grab your camera and head to the nearest grocery store. Or stroll down a city street and capture the nuanced tones of copper patina and old brick. Suddenly you'll find yourself noticing the reflection of a street lamp on rain-soaked pavement, or the way one red umbrella shines with a joy that a sea of black ones cannot extinguish. You'll delight over the curve of a bell pepper's stem or the cobbled rind of a cantaloupe. Choose to view the ordinary with new eyes. Spend a little time with color and texture, light and line. Chances are you'll see much more than you're looking for.
When I pulled out my camera in Kroger and started snapping shots of red-leaf lettuce, the produce manager walked over and asked if he could help me with anything. I told him why I wanted the pictures, and he not only gave his blessing, he said he was honored I'd chosen his department. He offered to straighten the displays, but I said that wouldn't be necessary. "When I walk into the produce section, I feel like I'm entering an art gallery," I explained.
His smile said much more than his quiet "thank you," and I realized I'd never made the connection before. The arrangement of bins, the explosion of color, the mirrors and angles--all by design. I'd been so enamored with the art, I'd forgotten there must be an artist. Or an under-artist, maybe? I mean, God made the fruit. The manager took what he'd been given and created beauty.
And isn't that the job of any artist? Everything we have is a gift from God--our intellect, talents, resources, ideas. The beauty we create is our gift to Him.
I've heard writers say, if the writing is too beautiful, it distracts from the story. I will never understand that sentiment. If the writing isn't beautiful, I don't have time for the story. Life is short and its moments meant to be fully lived. I don't want to waste my calories or my reading hours.
Fifteen focused minutes in the produce section freshened my perspective in more ways than I imagined. May we develop a palate for beauty, and the culinary skills needed to create it--whether we're arranging words on a page, or zucchini on a plate.
For more photographs of the Kroger Art Gallery, click here.
Jeanne Damoff participates in the arts with glee. If she's not writing, she may be creating choreography for musicals, playing piano and singing in her church praise band, snapping photographs, or sketching a portrait. She also loves to laugh. (Points, people! Earn them.) You can find her here at The Master's Artist on alternating Thursdays or at her website, personal blog, or photo blog. (You know you want to.)