Faces on Faith: On the Horizon
Ralph and I were first drawn to the painting because of the exquisite way the artist had painted the pelicans’ wings – so realistic we almost wanted to reach out and feel the smooth, soft feathers.
We also loved the way the infant pelican was portrayed, nestling its beak into the tufts of the mother’s wings, eyes closed, peaceful and safe. Another pelican rested close by the mother and child – a mate keeping watch perhaps?
Both adult pairs of eyes seemed to penetrate the dark sky and gaze right into the eyes of the viewer.
Hues of blue, shades of gray, and the faint reddish streak of a departing sunset only added to the beautiful painting. When we learned that a teacher in the area was the artist who painted the creation, and that oil painting was a whole new venture in his life, it sealed the deal.
We purchased it and brought it home. The gallery on Pine Island even gave us a photograph of the artist at work.
We found the perfect place for the pelicans – a large wall that was crying out for something bold and dramatic. About a week later, as I was sitting quite a distance away from the painting to get the full effect, I realized I didn’t know the title.
The artist’s name was in the bottom left-hand corner but no title. Thinking simplistically that the painting was probably called “pelican something or other,” I removed it from the wall and checked the back of the canvas. There it was.
The name of this creation was “On the Horizon.”
Placing it back on its hook, I stepped back and for the first time looked beyond the three birds, across the large stretch of slate-gray sea, and focused my eyes on the horizon! What a delightful trick the artist had played on me.
The beautiful plumage, the cuddling birds, and the wary eyes of the mother had kept me in the foreground and I’d never looked beyond – to the horizon.
Of course, it’s important to live in the present – we hear it all the time. Carpe diem. But on the other hand, when are we so focused on a present situation that we don’t contemplate beyond the here-and-now?
When have we gotten so mired in a present conundrum that we miss creative possibilities on the horizon, and the dawning of a new day and new perspectives?
When have we not looked beyond ourselves and reached out in optimism and joy to something or someone new? Oscar Hammerstein always said that he couldn’t compose a song without hopeful words in it that went beyond the moment he was writing.
Even in his daily struggles, he looked toward the horizon of new possibilities and hope-filled opportunities and tried to bring thousands along with him in his music.
As we live in the present with so many transitions on our islands – especially with people we love heading north; as we care for those who struggle with serious illnesses and grieve those who died this past season; as we put untold efforts into trying to understand different perspectives on community issues; and as we deal with our own personal struggles, let us try to remember not to become so mired in our present “moments” that we don’t see those horizons of hope, compatible perspectives, and healthy compromise for the future.
“Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” (Romans 5:5)
-Ellen Sloan, Rector at St. Michael’s.