While in Ottawa this past week, I had the opportunity to see the  Van Gogh exhibition entitled "Van Gogh - Up Close," hosted at the National Gallery of Canada from May through September. As Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists, it was a real treat to see a significant collection of his work, much of which was new to me. I've put together a slideshow of pieces that I especially enjoyed, both for color, movement and theme.

There are some excellent sites on Van Gogh, if you're interested in learning more about this post-impressionist Dutch artist. (The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery, and Van Gogh Gallery are quite impressive.) At Wikipaintings you can view more than 1900(!!) paintings and sketchings produced before Van Gogh tragically died at the age of 37. I took some time to race through the 33 pages, and was impressed by the growth in artistry (the 10,000 hours mastery rule applies here) as well as the studies that show up in later work. For instance, Van Gogh is sketching "sowers" from early on,  often copying Millet, a French artist he admired. I had a sense of surprise and also of anticipation when coming upon these early pieces, as I knew they would show up several years later in his own well known works such as "Sower with Setting Sun."

By following the artwork chronologically, I also noticed that Van Gogh was taken by themes, working out his relationship to his material over a series of paintings. In addition, Van Gogh's technique went through various stages; he replaced the duller colors of his Dutch art heritage with bolder choices when he moved to France. After experimenting with pointilism (the use of dots) he expanded to longer brush strokes, ending with the curving swirls that make his Starry Night painting an iconic work.

Visiting the show, doing some more research and grabbing the images off the web made for a delightful experience. I even found some paintings I'd never seen that I wished I had seen in the show! Hope you enjoy.
Pentecost Quilt by Linda Schmidt
In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, 
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy. 
Acts 2:17,18

Eastertide ends with Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit, full of the sound of rushing wind and flames of fire. The disciples pour out into the streets, speaking in languages they do not know, so that all the ethnically diverse multitudes in Jerusalem that day could understand in their native tongue the goodness of God. And so is inaugurated the age of the Spirit, when dreams and visions pour out not only on a few select prophets, but to young, old, male and female. No longer is age, gender or race a barrier to this gift, the Spirit is available to all.
Just as the Spirit comes to a variety of people, so the ways in which the Spirit is understood are unique and individual. There is no cookie-cutter way to experience the Spirit, no magic formula. But there are ways to discern if the Spirit is at work, if the desires and nudges and sightings are the extension of our own Pentecost.

The language of the Spirit is love, the goal of the Spirit is unity among all creation. When we find ourselves acting out of kindness, experiencing peace, exercising self-restraint, this is an indication of the Spirit at work. When we embrace the freedom of forgiveness, the the sense of vocation, the expansion of our souls, we are living in the Spirit. When we reflect upon our past and see a trajectory that includes healing, growing wisdom and increased power to live out the good, we can affirm Spirit energy.

The Spirit is sent to imagine and empower the forward movement of the kingdom of God; through the Spirit we are issued the invitation and given the ability to participate in the divine community. And though the manifestations of the Spirit are many and unique, each individual flame finds its source in the unquenchable fire of God's love.
Festoon of Fruit and Flowers by Jan Davidsz De Heem

I'm in Ottawa this week , attending a conference. While on a walk yesterday I was ambushed by the smell of lilacs, which have long stopped blooming in central Pa. A small patch of lilies-of-the-valley caught my eye and I knelt down to smell once again that sweet fragrance. Oliver captures well the joy that comes through indulging your senses. Why wouldn't you want to revel in the richness of sensation? It is, indeed, a very sensible thing to do!

The  Plum Trees

by Mary Oliver

Such richness flowing
through the branches of summer and into

the body, carried inward on the five
rivers! Disorder and astonishment

rattle your thoughts and your heart
cries for rest but don’t

succumb, there’s nothing
so sensible as sensual inundation. Joy

is a taste before
it’s anything else, and the body

can lounge for hours devouring
the important moments. Listen,

the only way
to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it

into the body first, like small
wild plums.

Picnic by Thomas Hart Benton

For lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
and the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our lang;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
  - Song of Songs, 2:11-13

With Memorial Day just around the corner, picnic season is upon us. Picnicking is one of the joys of warmer weather, and having recently figured out how to entertain outdoors in our townhome, I'm anticipating a summer full of delightful gatherings - enhanced by twinkly lights and a fire pit. 

One of my favorite wedding presents (and it's been a while) was a cookbook given to us by Dan's college roommate. "The Portable Feast" (unfortunately now out of print) took picnic fare to all new heights, and the whimsical illustrations made you think that if you traveled far enough, or deep enough, you might find an unusual guest around your blanket.

The recipe below was a long-time standard. Pare it with a grilled vegetable and bulgar wheat salad and perhaps some watermelon, and voila! Just add your favorite beverage and you're set to dine in style. To make the salad, simply roast a variety of vegetables (recently I used carrots, zucchini, mushroom, onions and red peppers) with some olive oil and sea salt. After tossing with oil, put on a cookie tray in the oven at 400 until browned. (about 45 minutes). Cook bulgar wheat according to the directions and drain. Mix with veggies and toss with balsamic vinagrette if desired. The taste of just the veggies and the bulgar wheat was so good, though, that many of us didn't bother with the dressing. If you're gluten-free, you can use a rice mix (perhaps with a little boullion) instead of the bulgar wheat.

Here's the recipe for the Chicken.

Tahitian Chicken

3 whole chicken breasts, split
1/3 c terragon vinegar
1/2 c pineapple juice
1/3 c sesame oil
1 t powdered ginger
1 T soy sauce
1/2 c honey
pineapple sliced

Mix vinegar through honey  and pour over chicken. Marinade for several hours. Grill chicken either at home (and then chill to take along) or at the picnic venue. Garnish with pineapple slices. 

Art Note: I've discovered WickiPaintings.org which is an awesome place to lose yourself for hours at a time. You can search their vast database by artist, theme, or title of artist work. Finding artwork for blog posts has never been so easy!!!
Apple Trees in Blossom, in Lyme by Childe Hassam

Happy are they who have not walked
 in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful! 

Their delight is in the law of the LORD,
and they meditate on his law day and night. 

They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season,
with leaves that do not wither;
everything they do shall prosper.

Psalm 1:1-3

The word of God came to Moses on a mountaintop, full of fire and smoke and thunder. With the coming of Jesus, the "word" made flesh, we see God as one of us, only more so. Not only are we are given a model to follow, we are introduced to an elder brother who understands and offers encouragement and strength . And with the advent of the Spirit, we are allowed the privilege of moving even deeper into the heart of God - no longer even beside us, but now residing in our very souls.

Each movement of divine love, each reaching out to us, God's cherished children, comes with a desire for our flourishing, our fruitfulness. We come to realize that the streams of love continuously flow, bringing us all we need for life. Believing this truth, pondering how this love can be drawn up into our lives, and then acting upon it - these pasttimes become our delight and allow our souls to prosper in whatever they do.
Irises by Vincent Van Gogh

It's hard to imagine a more lovely May. With some recent rains the lawns are lush and green, and the creek is freshly filled. Wednesday morning I grabbed a poem and headed down to the Yellow Breeches to muse. A family of birds were chattering noisily in a hollow in the sycamore tree above me. Every time a parent would arrive, the squawking would intensify. At one point an oriole settled on a distant branch; the orange happy against the blue sky. As I headed home, a red-winged blackbird gazed at me from a signpost before launching into the sky. Like Milton, I felt blessed

Song on a May Morning
John Milton

Now the bright morning-star,  Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.

The boat studio by Claude Monet

A simple day. Living in the moment, paying attention to my spirit, choosing joy.

The Risen Christ by He, Qi

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."
(John 15:9-11) 

Last night I sat around a table with my three daughters, sharing Mother's Day dinner in a bustling Macaroni Grill. I couldn't be happier when I spend time with these amazingly wonderful young women - reflective, kind, creative, loving, silly, profound. I love them, I love what they do, I love supporting what they do and learning from them. I'm happy we're connected, that love flows freely between us. I know I'm blessed with these relationships and they fill me with joy.

When Jesus talks about staying connected to him, "abiding in him" as a branch stays connected to a vine, it's not about moral imperatives. We don't "please God" so that he won't be angry with us. Far from it. As Julian of Norwich is surprised to discover in her visions of God, never can she even catch a hint of God being angry with us. Rather, it's that living in love allows us to fully inhabit the sphere of God. and participate in the joy that comes from deep relationships bound together by a common purpose.

All through Eastertide, I've been captivated by the Henry Dyke hymn, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, set to Beethoven's Ode to Joy. Dyke picks up on John's twin themes of connectedness (in 1 John he'll refer to it as fellowship) and joy. It's the phrase from the third stanza that's been running around in my mind: "All who live in love are thine." But as I consider Jesus' words in John 15, I can imagine him saying, "All who live in love are mine, and living, working, loving together with you brings me more joy than you will ever know."

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
Henry Dyke

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
opening to the sun above. 
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
drive the dark of doubt away.  
Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day!

All thy works with joy surround thee,
earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
stars and angels sing around thee,
center of unbroken praise. 
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
flowery meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird and flowing fountain,
call us to rejoice in thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
ever blessing, ever blest,
well-spring of the joy of living,
ocean depth of happy rest! 
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
all who live in love are thine;
teach us how to love each other,
lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began;
love divine is reigning o'er us,
binding all within its span. 
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music leads us sunward,
in the triumph song of life.

Red Poppy by Georgia O'Keefe

I think I love spring so much because of the energy that it brings. In the lushness of green, where even weeds "shoot long and lovely and lush," there "lives the dearest freshness deep down things" (to quote another Hopkins poem). In spring, there's a rush of fresh life, of "juice" and "joy." We are connected in some way to that first garden, and can catch, if we listen carefully, "A strain of the earth's sweet being." 

For Hopkins, priest as well as poet, the encouragement to have and get is driven by the reality that freshness does not last. The innocence of Mayday child will soon be lost, the clarity "clouded," the sweetness "soured." And so enters the Christ - "maid's child" - to reclaim the goodness of Eden, to win back the beloved creation.
When we feel disconnected from the Garden, plodding through stale energy, mourning the loss of vitality and innocence, there is a gift to be received in the uncloyed beauty of a spring day. And the hope that one day the strain will burst into a symphony.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as spring--
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy? 
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning 
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy, 
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Since Tuesday's posts collapsed into Wednesdays, I haven't put many recipes on the web. But as I'm in the kitchen most of today with my mom cooking, I thought I'd post an easy recipe we made yesterday for dessert with some fresh rhubarb my sister sent out from her Indiana garden (different sister, different garden).

Strawberry Rhubarb Tart
1 Tart Shell (recipe follows)

1 1/2 lb rhubarb (3 cups) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1 3 oz package strawberry gelatin
1/2 pint strawberries
Whipped cream, vanilla ice cream (optional)

In 3 qt saucepan, heat rhubarb, cinnamon and 2 T water until boiling. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in gelatin until dissolved. Stir in sugar to taste. (I used 2 tablespoons). Set aside for 30 minutes while making tart. Once tart is cool, pour into pan and refrigerate. Garnish with fresh strawberries and/or whipped cream. I didn't have any whipped cream, so used a little vanilla ice cream and that was equally yummy.

Serves 8.

Tart shell:
1 c flour
1 t confectioner's sugar
1/4 t salt
1/3 c butter
2-3 T iced water.

Mix flour, sugar and salt together, then cut in 1/3 c butter until crust resembles coarse crumbs.
Add 2 to 3 T of iced water, one T at a time, until pastry just holds together.
Roll out on floured surface and place in 10 inch tart pan.
Prick pastry with fork.
Bake at 425 for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

(If this looks too complicated, use frozen pie pastry or other premade pie crust)

My best guess is that this recipe comes courtesy of a very old Good Housekeeping magazine...