The last time I wrote about art, I reported how I’d broken my printer trying to print on paper coffee filters. Before taking the mangled machine to printer hospital, I had one last go at healing it myself. And this time I found the filter it had swallowed without trace. It was in a tight ball, jammed in a dark corner. Luckily, it came out whole. I ran the printer through its entire cleaning and maintenance programme and voilà! it made a full recovery.
The event has foreshadowed recent life events – the machinery of my life became jammed by an alien object. A few weeks ago I revisited Aylesford Priory, a beautiful, greatly spiritual place. It’s nearby and has become a favourite haunt. My husband and I had lunch in the priory’s new restaurant – a huge beamed and thatched barn – which includes a shop. There’s a large choice of books; and ceramics made in the in-house pottery.
As we went to leave the restaurant it began to rain in torrents. The heavens opened, as they say. My raincoat was in the car. My husband had his with him, so we decided he’d go back to the car for my coat. I turned back into the building and began to browse among the books; and I found myself drawn to Day by Day with St Francis, subtitled A Franciscan Breviary and edited by Gianluigi Pasquale OFM CAP. I’ve looked up the abbreviations and they stand for The Order of Capuchin Friars Minor – described as a reformed order of Franciscans.
I turned to the entry for the day, 24 May. It was a story about a visit paid to Francis by his great pal St Clare at his place in Assisi – St Mary of the Angels. They and companions were to share a meal. Actually, it occurs to me as I write that the story – of Francis and Clare eating together in a holy place – was exactly what my husband and I had just done (though neither of us are saints).
What happened to St F and St C however, when they sat down to eat, didn’t happen to us. St Francis began to speak of God and the whole company entered into such a state of rapture that the people of the towns around saw the church and the forest surrounding it glowing brightly, thought it all on fire and hurried to put it out. What they discovered was “… divine, not material fire … to demonstrate … the fire of divine love …” The source for the story is acknowledged as The Little Flowers of Saint Francis, 15; The Prophet, 590-1.
While I was reading this story, I was surprised to receive a very clear image of a fan. If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you’ll know that I’d been playing around with the fan shape as part of my ongoing Below the Line art project. (That’s how I did the damage to the printer – the coffee filters are fan-shaped).
I hadn’t, though, been thinking of my art, or fans. The rain still pounding, I pondered what connection there could be between the story and fans. I could find nothing in my subconscious. Came to mind was the expression, ‘… fan the flames …”. And it came to me that the alien object had jammed-up my spirituality and that the solution was to fan the flames of my spirituality (in the direction of love) and that this would mend my broken ‘creativity machine’.
The fan image that flared up in my conscious mind was very vivid – and simple. It was a piece of cloth in the shape of a circle and across the bottom third it was drawn together with a thread, creating folds and thus forming a fan. As soon as I could, I made one and it created a fan that was also the shape of a scallop shell – the emblem of St Jacques (St James) de Compostela, a saint with whom I have had in the past, a few adventures.
I also saw this scallop/fan in my mind’s eye with the addition of arrows at the top edge of each of the folds of the gathered cloth (the arrow is another symbol I’ve been drawn to add to the vocabulary of my Below the Line project) which will also attribute direction and focus to my fans. I was to focus on fanning the flames of my spirituality in the direction of divine love in order to heal my jammed up creativity machine.
I’m not a catholic. I bought the St Francis book and went back into the chapel and lit a candle for my gravely troubled alien object, others of my acquaintance in distress and need and for those who love, and are presently anxious for my safety and wellbeing. I bought a stained glass window sticker depicting the Dove of Peace and stuck it on my greenhouse window and later, added a beautiful stained-glass type cross. My greenhouse now resembles a little wood and glass chapel! Will my tomato plants produce divine tomatoes? Divine-tasting, at least, I hope!
On further reflection, I saw how rain had stopped me from leaving the restaurant at Aylesford Priory and turned me back into the bookshop, where I was presented with a story of fire; divine fire, interpreted to represent divine love. Divine water, divine fire, divine love. Once I’d bought the book, the rain stopped and I was allowed to proceed on my earthly way, through air re-baptised. I felt refreshed. It was, too, an encounter with the four elements on both spiritual and physical levels. The four elements are also an aspect of my Below the Line project.
How do you come by your images?