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Lifelong inspiration of the canvas, Starry Night (1889) painted by the Dutch Post-Impressionist, Vincent van Gogh, finally nudged my exploration of his genius. Something about his more-than-alive colors and rough sweeping brushstrokes enliven ordinary subjects with an inner brilliance that shocks—as if channeling something of the Sacred’s energy. Simplicity, in its purest form, crowns his canvases, eight hundred of them, many produced during the last decade of his short life.

However the beauty and order he produced on his canvases fly in the face of his thirty-seven years of rejections: from his parents from birth, from three women to whom he proposed, from employers and church authorities, from Impressionistic artists, and the public’s distaste for his paintings. The Red Vineyard was the only painting that Van Gogh sold.

Despite coming from an upper middle class background, he lived and worked as a peasant. Chronic anger besieged van Gogh’s entire life, manifesting in gloominess, sadness, and melancholy, augmented by slovenliness in his person and the room he lived in. People were uneasy around him.

Only his brother Theo supported him emotionally and financially. He, alone, knew of his fluency in four languages, his voracious reading and intelligence, his gentle soul as gleaned from their shared letters.

Yet, Vincent van Gogh’s oils scintillate with a life of their own. One commentator saw Starry Night, the sweeping view of Saint-Remy-de-Provence from the barred window of his asylum just before sunrise, as the culmination of his life’s work. In his art, alone, did van Gogh find his God.

Spirit, humility, sense of color, and imagination enflesh animal subjects that emerge from the brushes of Mary Burns, watercolorist and educator. Her canvases breathe the souls of these subjects, intuited from Creator God; an uncanny lightness infuses them and quickens respect within viewers. Such has been the élan guiding her continuous development.

Originally from Itapage, Brazil, Mary studied art at the University of Brazil and taught children, from Kindergarten through the fifth grade. Recently, a serendipitous experience brought her to St. Louis where she continues watercoloring in her basement studio. Slowly, word of her expertise and respect for her renderings are drawing notice. Some have watercolors of their deceased pets, as if still alive, painted from photographs, in their homes.

For those interested in meeting this gifted artist and exploring her work, she will have a showing at The Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, located in Kirkwood, Missouri, through the month of July, Monday through Friday. You can only be enriched.

Some samples of her work that touched me:

I jolted awake around 3:30 A.M. with this dream:

Word had gotten around that I was actually dying. My doorbell rang. My phone rang. Others knocked on the opened front door and came in and made their way to my bedroom, already filled with others paying their last respects. I’m sitting up in my full bed, unsupported, wearing a T-shirt, my forearms resting on the covers. Shortness of breath prevents me from speaking clearly. My words are muddled.

This startling dream gave me considerable pause: the ravages of death in my body, witnessed by others. Other dreams have suggested end-of-life issues, each with its own lesson, but none this specific.

My first response to this morning’s dream was repulsion toward the crowds filling my bungalow and their raucous noise. Seated atop my full bed, however, you would never have known: I was all smiles and gratitude toward my well-wishers, despite shortness of breath and muddled words.

I’ve always envisioned my serene passing like a beam of sunlight slowly opening onto vistas of Quiet Beauty.

Yet, no indications of physical death appear imminent today. In view of my recent shift—letting death have its will in my body, when and how it will—this morning’s dream seems more of a call for a deeper stillness in my psyche, for a more mindful maintenance of my boundaries in the daylight world, and for communion with each remaining life breath in the time allotted me.

My gratitude for the opportunity to prepare for the greatest experience of this life knows no bounds—to enflower it with full-blown white roses that never fade.

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