It was my third time visiting a local assisted living condominium to host art classes.
It has had a slow start over the summer, so I was not surprised to only see one gentleman waiting at the table.
He was a Chinese man whom I had heard the residents speak very highly of because of his masterful traditional Chinese watercolors.
I sat down and upon seeing he had an ipad with him (way to make me feel *outdated!*- we have no i-phone nor i-pad!) I asked him to show me his paintings.
He spoke no English other than a few words here and there, but he laughed delightfully when I ''oohed and ahhed" over his pieces.
He also showed me his Jade jewelry, large bracelets and a huge jade medallion of a dragon he wears inside his shirt for "health and vitality".... he speaks very little English... but this 84 year old had a twinkle in his eye when he said "vitality" ;)
His paintings done in the traditional Chinese style of vertical handmade papers with a watery ink.
His pieces were glorious and he was happily scrolling through his collection when a Chinese woman joined us at the table with a big smile; and seeing that I was looking at his work, she exclaimed with lots of hand motions: "wait here I get mine"
And off she disappeared into the building.
As we sat there looking at his pieces, one of the staff there told me that the man and woman are a couple, that it had been "love at first sight" for them and they are both painters.
Sergio and I too, had a "love at first sight 'thing'....
The woman came back and excitedly showed me several paintings in frames she had painted and also some cut out figures of painted cardboard, they reminded me of old fashioned 'paper dolls."
Suddenly, they began to speak in Chinese... and within minutes, they were scooping up my art supplies as they invited me upstairs to her apartment.
The three of us rode up the elevator as they spoke in Chinese to each other.
Stepping out of the elevator into the hall, I saw that most of the doors had some type of decoration. We walked up to a door which had Christmas decorations and Jade hangings.
Inside, all the walls were covered with their art. Art of all sizes, mostly Chinese vertical landscapes and tigers too (I found out later that tigers are his favorite theme).
They gave me a tour of her little place and told me he too, had hundreds of pieces made by both of them.
We sat down at the small table in the living room and she offered us Lychee and watermelon cubes and they turned to me and pointing at the canvases I had brought, they said "you, teach"...
I had no idea what I would teach these two accomplished watercolor artists.... I had canvases and pencils, so I handed them the supplies and as soon as they had them, they began to draw.
I have to confess that instead of *being in the moment* ... I was totally obsessing over the fact that I was not teaching them anything (!)
|St. Catherine, Patron Saint of Artists|
And as I watched, I realized that there was not much I could do... just as I, an oil painter- handle acrylics like oils, they handle acrylics like watercolor.
Lots of water.
I told myself to relax.
Let it go.
It was good enough that I was there and my presence was inspiring them to paint, they were obviously enjoying it, so I decided to join in!
I grabbed a canvas and began to paint too.
As soon as I stopped worrying about the fact that I was not teaching them anything, I began to worry about the silence.
Nobody said anything.
For a Latina... that was tough.
There was no music, no conversation... not even between them.
It took a whole hour before I was able to convince myself that it was "ok" that I was not 'teaching' and I was not 'entertaining'.... I reminded myself that the ancient practice of meditation is very much a Chinese tradition.
So I sat in silence with them.
And it was beautiful.
Before I knew it, I had not been there for only the hour I am paid for.... I had been there for close to four hours, mostly in silence, all three of us painting together.
Sergio called me as he was worried about me "missing" ... so I got up and told them I had to go home and cook dinner-- and oh my, they wanted and wanted and wanted for me to stay for dinner.
Such an incredible experience.
No language barrier.... just art and sharing.
As we said our goodbyes I hugged them "Latina style" and they bowed and gave me their blessing.
We exchanged business cards, and I then found out that not only is he a gifted artist, he used to be an attorney at Law and a Law professor in Shanghai-- which means it was under Mao (!) .... the stories he must have!
When I left, she walked me to the elevators and as we said good bye, she told me how beautiful I am and insisted I return soon, this time: "you stay for food".
I wanted to cry.
As I mourn the abandonment from my mother and siblings... All that Is/God is sending lovely people into my life to remind me that I am loved.
Some may call it *reaching* .... but I do believe that this afternoon was another gift from All that Is and my papa too... such a balm to my heart when my heart is still healing.
I am grateful, oh so grateful!
There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved:
It is God's finger on man's shoulder.
St. Catherine, patron Saint of Artists. Available here as reproduction on canvas & Paper.