Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"What big eyes you have"

 Through my mother's eyes
Watercolour on watercolour paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
I can still hear my mother's voice acting out all
the voices in Little Red Riding Hood.
"But grandmother what big eyes you have"
"All the better to see you with my dear," said the wolf
my mother would growl in a low, gruff voice,
then switch easily to Red Riding Hood's high,
little girl tone.  I picked up the love of literature
from my mother, who enjoyed reading
bedtime stories to us, and put her heart and
soul into it.

My mother is going blind, and after a hard
work schedule like the one most teachers
face at the end of a term when I feel at all like
complaining, I remember her.  My mother's
courage and strength are a marvel to me.
And the gift of sight, plus a passion for
art, seem even more of a blessing, after
spending a weekend with my mother who
sees that gift diminishing.

My father was the artist in my parents' marriage,
but my mother taught me to see, and to love
what I'm seeing.  This fall when I talked to
her about discussions I was having with my
students about the power of the imagination
she quoted most of Wordsworth's
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud to me and
ended with this final verse:

"For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils." 

Tonight I'm showing you a quick sketch
I did of the two of us.  It isn't
an accurate portrait, but has the feeling
I was trying to capture.  I may do a more
finished painting of this subject later.
Meanwhile I am more than grateful for
my mother, and for the eyesight she's
trained me to have.

Have a loving-what-you-see day.



what a beautiful tribute!

belindadelpesco.com said...

Wonderful and poignant post, my friend. I celebrate the gift of sight, and today, I'll be thinking about the articulate use of words & poets, and keen-eyed-family members who help us remember how precious LOOKING can be. Bear hugs to you.

Liza Hirst said...

What a wonderful, loving picture and post, Barbara! I am very sorry for your mother - it must be unbearable to realize what's happening. I have a close, elderly friend who has gone blind and thus is nearly condemned to
inactivity, which is very hard for a formerly active person.
Love the poem, too. Take care and have a nice Christmas time.

Kim Rempel said...

very well spoken. And I would love to see you do another work of you and your Mom. What a treasure!

cohen labelle said...

Barbara, your mother’s loss of sight may be even harder on you than it is on her. But she has an incredible inner life, an astounding memory for poetry – in that sense she sees in a profound way, perhaps better even than many of us with so called flawless sight.
Sometimes I think of the blind writer and poet, Ved Mehta who used to write for the new Yorker. His descriptions were so powerful that you forgot that he couldn’t see. He had lost his sight as a young child in India from meningitis. And his father was a doctor – but was helpless to prevent his subsequent blindness.
I’ve gone off the track but want to say that I love your beautiful, double portrait of yourself and your mother because it is so emotionally charged.
love, Marcia

Anonymous said...

What a sublimely lovely post Barbara. Your mother would be so proud to read it. The poem she recited to you is so touching. my goodness, i have missed your posts.sweet watercolour portrait capturing your mother/daughter connection.

Sheila Vaughan said...

A nice thought Barbara. I am so grateful always for my gift of sight. My mum also does not see as well these days (she is 91). I appreciate her more and more as time goes on. Seems sad if we dwell on it and the sometimes "angst" ridden rebellious early teenage years. I am sure they know now how much we appreciate them. The painting is wonderful because it shows that.

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks so much. I'm glad you like it.

XO Barbara

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Belinda,

Thank you. I also celebrate it and you are one of the reasons I do. I love your work, and you generosity in sharing how you make it.

One day we will meet and Bear hugs right back at you.


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Liza,

There is a blind woman in our neighbourhood who takes her dog on long walks. So blindness doesn't necessarily mean inactivity, but I think going blind after living a sighted life is hard on people. My mother's life has been determined in part by sight. She lives by a river so that she can see the sailboats and the beautiful blue hills in the distance. What she sees has held her up in very hard times. I do feel for her.

Merry Christmas to you Liza, and Happy New Year. Drop in and see us sometime. It's a short flight from London.


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Kim,

Thank you, I may do that sometime.
It takes a particular mood. Right now the week is stuffed with parties, and then travel. So we'll see.

Merry Christmas. Here's to meeting again in 2012.

XO Barbara

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Marcia,

Thank you for your kindness as always. I'm pretty sure that this is just one more challenge in my mother's challenging life, and one I wish she didn't have to handle. She is brave and strong, and can surely use whatever pleasure comes her way. Seeing things has been one of those pleasures. So this is definitely a major loss.



Barbara Muir said...

Hi Sally,

I love poetry, but do not have a photographic memory. My mother does. She seems to remember every poem she ever studied, or loved. Sometimes she'll quote a line, and I'll look it up thinking I can challenge her on who wrote it, and while I read the poem silently, she recites the whole thing perfectly. And incredible memory.

Merry Christmas Sally,

XO Barbara

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Sheila,

Thank you so much. As a mother myself, I think that we live in the present, except for fond memories. Sometimes even the things your children did that annoyed you in the past seem funny in the present day. I was a cranky teenager I'm sure, but for the most part a good girl. I do know that my mother loves me, and we talk almost every day. But as a person whose life revolves around trying to see more, I am acutely aware of how hard it must be to see less and less.

I love your work, but then you know that. Merry Christmas.

XO Barbara

Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at: barbara.muir@sympatico.ca
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!