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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.

Silence colors the psyche with splashes of freshness; seek its invigoration beneath noise-killers choking our planet. Once bound within cords of discipline, relish the surprises, therein, and rejoice: The Sacred is near …

This afternoon, the ducks are more than one mile from their pond-home, surrounded on three sides by the ranch homes of an extended family in my neighborhood. Everyone knows these ducks, evidently tamed for decades by the loving-kindness that surrounds them. Toddlers with their moms often stop and feed them. Opposite their fenced-enclosure, a faded yellow and black sign, “Duck Crossing,” alerts pedestrians and motorists, alike, to their presence.

Perhaps wearied by their trek, the ducks squat upon mounds of fresh grass moistened by misty rains; their two speckled companions, not photographed, are nearby, still exploring a puddle. The white duck, like a Joan of Arc, appears to lead the others on their jaunts. Then as abruptly as they began, they stop as other ducks swell the pond and mating takes off in earnest. And so it has been for the last fifteen years.

But yesterday, I heard the ducks outdid themselves, venturing onto a major thoroughfare, stopping traffic in four lanes until they waddled across, drawing quizzical smiles from most motorists.

Would that all peoples could be as free-spirited, as instinct-directed, as open-minded as our neighborhood ducks; even the black one with the limp participates fully with the others. Would that we could practice heart-acceptance, despite our differences and stop throwing around terms like, cancel culture that only feed the glaring divide among us.  

Perhaps learn to lighten up when spring waddles of ducks begin. Creator God would have it so.

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