When I was online the other day, I came across a piece of artwork that resonated so deeply within me, it briefly took my breath away. It was so evocative that I instantly felt the sting of tears.
Not everyone would feel the same way I felt upon viewing the image. Just like I haven’t yet been emotionally touched by some of the modern artwork I’ve viewed and moved past without truly understanding its message.
Art can be deeply personal but it also serves to remind us we are not alone. The human experience, as communicated through media such as a photograph, painting, film, song or novel, is universal. I am made up of all I have seen and done, all the people who have come and gone in my life, every joy and sorrow, every harsh and tender word. I bring all this to bear when experiencing a piece of art; my reaction is mine and your reaction is yours. But even though our sensibilities might differ, great art can show us how much we are the same, our common truth.
When I saw this image, my heart both broke and soared at the same time.
I am completely undone by the truth and beauty of the image, a sweet whisper that let me know someone has felt as I now feel.
My mother is eighteen. She is going to a dance with her sister after she finishes her workday as a secretary at a law firm. She loves to dance. Maybe she will meet a handsome gentleman who will open the door for her, light her cigarette, take her elbow gently as they walk into a clear, cool night.
My mother is eighty-one. She speaks very little as she sits in her chair watching television, hands clasped together. Her joints grow stiffer each day and she uses walls, counters, the back of a chair to navigate the house so she does not lose her balance and fall.
My mother is both eighteen and eighty-one.
When I grow old, I will feel young. My spirit will skip on a schoolyard, ride a golden horse through a thick forest, and hold the smooth hand of the one I love on a midnight walk under the moonlight.
Even if my body fails me and I can no longer do the things I enjoy, when I no longer remember yesterday, I hope I at least have someone I love nearby.
A piece of Veronica, by Elvis Costello:
Is it all in that pretty little head of yours?
What goes on in that place in the dark?
Well I used to know a girl and I would have
sworn that her name was Veronica
Well she used to have a carefree mind of her
own and a delicate look in her eye
These days I’m afraid she’s not even sure if her
name is Veronica