“That particular moment will never come again.” –Claude Monet
When I attended the wonderful exhibition of Monet paintings at the Denver Art Museum (fall 2019), I enjoyed viewing up close the originals of many of Monet’s famous paintings. He is known, in part, for painting the same scene in different light, different seasons, and from different angles. You may recall his many colorful and dreamy paintings of his water lily pond or of the haystack series (a few of which are pictured above).
“Above all I wanted to be truthful and exact,” wrote Claude Monet in 1880. “For me a landscape hardly exists at all as a landscape, because its appearance is constantly changing… You have to know how to seize just the right moment in a landscape instantaneously, because that particular moment will never come again, and you’re always wondering if the impression you got was truthful.”
Monet’s observation and intuition describes, in a way, how I feel about the seasons of life and nature. I want to live each day being present to and attentive to the subtle changes of light and shadow, color and shape. I want to let them speak to me, let God speak to me through the truth of the moment, always also watching expectantly for the possibilities of the next moment.
I feel this way about writing a poem as well. The desire to be accurate to the feelings and truth of a moment, to seize and distill it in just the right “colors” and interplay of words to give an impression that expresses truth of “that particular moment” that will never come again in the very same light but which speaks of both the imminent and the transcendent.
One year I made a practice of taking a photo of my pollinator-friendly xeriscape garden, from the same angle every month of the year, to document how it changed, and how differently it presented itself and spoke to me. Some plants come up earlier, some later. Some flowers bloom only in spring; others begin flowering in mid summer. Different species of birds visit the feeders and water bowl in different seasons. The colors of the birds’ plumage changes from duller in the winter to vivid in the spring. Light plays differently on tree leaves and pine boughs as it shines direct and bright from above or paints a golden glow from lower in the sky. One season or time of day does not tell the whole truth of the garden. Just as one visit in one setting doesn’t tell you all about a person or a group of people.
God will speak to us in all seasons and show us different perspectives about the situations, events, and people around us. Take time to consider whether (as Monet said) “the impression you got was truthful.”
I had Monet’s words and my own experiences and observations in mind when I wrote this poem:
NATURE DOESN’T LIE
Nature’s truth presents in facets, angles of
Observe in stages or you won’t know its truth.
You cannot know with
one passing click or
It doesn’t show you its whole self all at once, so
Recognition, Respect, Revealing come in
Be present to a flower, tree, or pond, and
gradually it will
be present to you
(poem excerpted from the book, Glimpsing Glory: Poems of Living & Dying, Praying & Playing, Belonging & Longing)
Photos/Art: Wikipedia/public domain