There's a painting right above the table where my roommate's computer rests. It's also my roommate's painting. I think one of her relatives got it for her at an art sale. It's a rather large panoramic sort of painting, if the adjective "panoramic" can even be applied to paintings. I don't know because I pretty much stink at all forms of visual art, and therefore never had the desire to learn about adjectives that can be applied to paintings.
The painting is mostly a muted blue, which is why I like it, though my roommate insists that it used to be much brighter and the colors must have faded over time. I really like the faded quality, though. It's peaceful. It's unassuming. It just IS.
The first thing I notice about the painting, other than the lovely mellow shades of blue, are two figures standing slightly to the left of the center. One of the figures is a lady in an old-fashioned white dress and bonnet. The dress has a blue sash, and she is shading herself beneath an open parasol. Next to her is a shorter figure, a girl in a white dress with a pink sash. She also has a bonnet, but no parasol. The pair of them are standing amongst a lovely overgrowth of muted green and white wildflowers. These wildflowers are on the shore of a river, and an arched stone bridge is in the not-too-far distance. There are two swans swimming near to the opposite shore of the river. The woman and girl are looking out over this river, and they appear to either be looking at the swans or at the bridge (their faces are not visible). Overhead is a sky that my roommate says once was pink and orange and blue. Now it's mostly a very pale blue, gray, and white, with clouds that look as though they are about to bring forth rain. There are also trees, covered by a mist that was either intentional or caused by the fading of the artist's original colors.
I wish I could paint sometimes, but I can't, so I don't. I'm not an art critic, either, and honestly, this painting probably isn't anything spectacular. But I like it. I like looking at the woman and child, wondering who they might be. The most obvious assumption would be that the woman and girl are a mother and daughter, out looking at the bridge, perhaps waiting for the child's father to come home. Perhaps it's an older sister and a younger sister out for a stroll along the river bank. Maybe the woman is a governess who never married, who loves the child she teaches as if she were her own daughter. She sees that it is about to rain, but she allows the little girl to tarry, knowing the child delights in seeing the swans.
I like this painting very much. I don't look at it too often; I probably don't even notice it most days. But sometimes I just look up and it's there waiting for me to wonder about it. I guess sometimes that seems like a waste of time when there's so much going on around us. Art, writing, theater, music--are these things wastes of time?
The world is a practical place filled with practical things. It's only Wednesday, and I've already had a full week. It's going to get fuller. Between the jobs and the carpools and the meetings and trying to feed the kids and get in exercise and plan my meals for the next day and setting aside time for prayer and Bible reading, it's hard to think about anything besides the practical stuff.
Maybe that's why we need the impractical.
Sometimes, the practical doesn't leave a lot of room for the impractical. I'm not even a wife or mom, so I can't imagine the urgency of actually living with other people who make constant demands on my time. Still, my time is valuable. I don't always make good decisions with the time I have, but then there are the times when I just don't seem to HAVE time to make any decisions with.
But on my way to work this morning I was listening to this song about praising God and being mindful of Him throughout the day. At the climax of the song, this beautiful bird just swooped down directly above and in front of my car. It almost swooped low enough for me to hit it, and I could see the fear in its eyes. Indeed, for a split second, I saw that bird very clearly. I saw its gray feathers spread wide as it tried to regain control of its plummet. I saw its small beak open slightly as it released an even smaller cry. I saw its tiny, black eye focused on me, on the ground, on the car, on the heavens. Yes, there was fear in that bird's eye. There was also joy. The wind gloriously caught its wings and lifted it up, just as it was about to splatter all over my windshield. It flew away, unharmed, and I believe both of us soared.
That all happened in less than a second.
And then life kept going.
And I figure that sometimes you have to grab those impractical moments when you can. If you blink, you might miss them. But there are other times when you have to just force in those impractical times whenever you can, even when the practical schedule isn't impractical-friendly.
I barely have time this week to even keep up with myself. The practical things keep demanding my attention, and I'm tempted to just chuck all the impractical things out the window. But just because writing might not be a practical thing to do, at least not compared to the immediate need of making sure the kids I watch get dinner, it doesn't mean I shouldn't make some time for it. This blog isn't a waste of time. Writing isn't a waste of time. Playing my songs on the guitar for a few minutes isn't a waste of time. Getting temporarily lost inside a painting isn't a waste of time. These are the little impractical moments that allow me to mute the colors of my sometimes all too vividly bright life. In these moments, I don't have to worry about being a good worker, a good nanny, a good child care provider, a good teacher, a good friend, or a good whatever.
I can just be.