Green Wheat Fields (1890), an oil-on-canvas rendering by the Dutch Vincent Van Gogh has inspired me, this month’s offering from my kitchen calendar; it is one of many wheat fields that Van Gogh painted during his short life, the later ones reflecting his revolutionary use of color, brushstrokes loaded with thick pigments, and the dynamic in-breaking of life into the ordinary. The viewer cannot not be involved.

Van Gogh’s lifelong obsession was to use his painting as a vehicle to unite the world of sense data, his spirituality, and his evolving art. To approach this monumental task, he relied upon the direction he received from his unconscious. So fierce was his output that people viewed him as mad. Abysmal self-care practices, depression, and drinking eventually led to psychiatric placements at St. Remy and at Auberge Ravoux where he continued painting through his open window.

But why paint numerous wheat fields, in all conditions—a whole series of them? you may ask, even two months before his death from the effects of an unsuccessful self-inflicted gunshot wound?

Life-long studies of scripture had opened Van Gogh to its psychic feeding. Through them, he grasped the metaphor of wheat as representing humanity’s cycles of life and death: a celebration of life and its diminishment, an example found in Jesus’s parable of The Sower (Mark 4:3-8).

I imagine Van Gogh muttering, “The next painting must work. I’m getting close.” But it never happened. Too painful to paint the critical canvas with its inspiring legacy for humanity, he chose to look elsewhere, in death. However, his legacy lives after him, even on kitchen calendars around the world.