Have you ever been mesmerized by a squirrel skittering across a plank fence, by winking stars on frigid nights, by rushing streams in shady creek beds, by cardinals’ chirrups in the morning sun? Such in-breakings suggest a realm closer than our next heartbeat. Thrust outside time, we pause, enlivened by freshness, and smile.

It is precisely this experience that Susan Vreeland captures in her novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999), the name she gives to an unaccounted canvas, created by the Dutch Neoclassic painter, Jan Vermeer, in the 1760s. And such a young girl she is! Her sun-bathed profile seized by an inner awakening, pulls her away from her mending, her hand, idle, palm up. She is elsewhere.

So what lays beyond these momentary gaps in consciousness, so unexpected, yet heartwarming, this stillness that dissolves restlessness and paradoxically opens onto bliss? How access this realm?

The author Susan Vreeland imagines the Dutch painter Vermeer speaking of such moments, “… grounded in deep beds of contemplation, the only way living things could be stilled long enough to understand them…”