Suddenly, the little studio boy, lost in admiration with Courbet’s creation, becomes the focal point for me. Momentarily, the myriad of characters become insignificant. I wonder what his name was? What did he grow up to be? I wish he could turn round and look at me.
I am reminded of the moment when I was looking through the window of the back porch of our Georgian home in Beaumaris. I was three years old. In fact, I also remember that I was, simultaneously, observing myself doing ‘the looking’ – through the window with a vista down to the bottom of the garden. But I was also looking up at the sky.
Today, that little boy is also looking up at a huge canvas of European culture since 1855 … over a century and a half. He is no longer blind to the illusions of adulthood, having witnessed the truth of living in our world. And yet he is still able – in some mysterious way – to hang on to and taste the innocence of childhood.
I had a dream a year or so ago that took me back to that moment when all that existed was the green grass and the blue sky. I am ‘of the earth’ and when I look up into the heavens, it too is ‘of the earth’. Gazing into infinity means looking into the depth of the mystery of the earth, and not some abstract and idealised beyond.
It’s the same as when I look into the eyes of the people I am truly able to make contact … and connect with.
(More musings from the ‘little studio boy’ to follow …)
Meanwhile, I still have the green grass and the blue sky … as Rilke keeps on reminding me …
Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that (she) who began it all
can feel you when (she) reaches for you.