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Reds-greens-yellows-oranges-blues gladdened my fir tree, set up in my glass-enclosed porch to keep at bay winter’s pitchy assault where nothing lives. Happily, my neighbors also enlarged this show with shimmering pinpricks outlining their homes, with pine ropes framing doorways, with candlelight warming windows, with inflatable Santas drawing wonder from young and old alike, with crèches quickening believers.

Weeks of almost unbearable darkness passed. Yet each evening, lights dazzled the fainthearted and mesmerized the seeker and nurtured the patient.

However, with the incremental whisper of daylight came the imperative to shake free from doldrums and stash away the lightshows for another year.

Nine Christmases have passed since I first dismantled this tree, each one filled with long thoughts of the mystery surrounding us. Light is never vanquished by darkness; it does return. Yet both simmer with deep lessons, moving us into the next twenty-four hours with its challenges. Staying vigilant, receptive, and grateful is critical. There’s always more to learn and we’ve plenty of help!

 

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Have you ever watched a child play with watercolors? Her brush sloshing paints upon paper affixed to an easel, her brown eyes alive with discovery, her brunette braids pirouetting upon shoulders covered by a smock? How a low hum enlivens her classroom?

 

Such was my experience at Glenridge Elementary School. However, more education distanced me from that child enlivened by riotous colors splotching butcher-block paper. Over the years she disturbed my visits to art studios, museums, galleries; she itched to pick up a brush and again create messes of color.

 

A breakthrough occurred during a recent workshop facilitated by a seasoned artist with tapered fingers. In the middle of her studio ran a long table covered with painter-cloth. Across from our six chairs were sable brushes, tins of Prang semi-moist watercolors, sheets of 140 pound weight, tubs of water, paper towels, and small sponges and salt shakers, all neatly set before us, as if invited to a banquet.

 

“Let’s consider two basic techniques used in water coloring, wet on wet and wet on dry,” the artist said, smoothing her wavy hair from her forehead. “A good place to start. I’ll demonstrate.” It looked so simple.

 

My brush limp in my hand, I sprinkled drops of water into each color in my tin, then saturated my sheet in front of me, then stroked it with red as if it were my lover. Suddenly that little child at Glenridge Elementary School grinned at me. It had been too long. Other riotous colors emerged from the tip of my brush, blending and bleeding with each other.

 

Next came the technique, wet on dry. I listened for the inner prompting. It would be a spring garden; tulips, delphinium, and narcissus emerged upon my white sheet. It felt like the first morning of creation.

 

I had been visited.

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