Sunday, October 28, 2012

Connecting the Dots

When I was little I LOVED connect-the-dots pictures. It was like magic to see a thing or person take shape as I drew a line from 1-2-3. Ah! There was Casper the Ghost or a wishing well or Bambi! The key to unlocking the picture was a bit of knowledge—being able to read the numbers. Without an intellectual investment it was all random dots on a page. The result of my efforts was hardly great art but, for me, was rewarding in another way. I “got” what the creator of the page was trying to convey.

This past weekend it was my joy to spend time in Washington DC with Evan. Steve and I drove down on Thursday and came home late yesterday afternoon. We got to see his new apartment on M Street, we ate wonderful food at an Ethiopian restaurant with him, we visited with our beloved, much-missed son—it felt like connecting the dots to reveal a picture of his whereabouts, his comings and goings these days.  

Evan, a wonderful host, asked what we’d like to do while in the capital. I heard that there was a production of Conference of the Birds at the Folger Shakespeare Library, based on a 12th century poem by the Sufi poet Attar, and was intrigued. This poem depicts a journey of the birds in search of a king. Led by the Hoopoe, they traversed a desert and seven valleys to find the Simurgh, their monarch. The play was a journey of discovery for the audience as the feathered travelers moved forward, beset by trials and distractions. Together we sought enlightenment—who was this mysterious king? When would we arrive, and what would we find when we did? Dot by connected dot, we worked with the actors to create a picture: in the end, a mirror. The birds—and we—discovered that the king—that God—was one with us.

At the National Gallery of Art currently, there is a major retrospective of the work of artist Roy Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein’s trademark was—dots. You’ve probably seen his work: comic book characters (with captions) writ large, myriad tiny dots of color making up the faces just as pictures are created in newspapers. But this exhibit also displayed other sides of Roy’s art: clever still lifes, serene Chinese-style landscapes. Almost always, dots were used to produce his artistic reality. We strolled through the galleries in wonder, viewing huge canvases splashed in primary colors juxtaposed with small, keenly observed pieces. All dotted manifestations of Lichtenstein’s genius. 

We returned home last evening, so so happy to have enjoyed this DC weekend with Evan. And as I resumed my Oreland life, I vowed to continue connecting the dots…the minute specks that make up our bodies, our surroundings, the tiny tiny things that, together, make up our vast universe. The dots that really link us all, if we take a moment to notice. We are part of all there is. And we are part of God.

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