You might think someone who easily imagines the realities of dreams and fairy worlds would be as fluttery and swirly as fairy dusty. Christy, my free-spirit-capturer-of-the-world-in-her-art- daughter, however is actually quite stubborn. Maybe that’s unfair. Maybe a better word would be tenacious. She will get a project in her mind and then nothing – not food, sleep, even unfolding her long legs perched under her desk or releasing her eyes from the focus of her work – will break her from what she wants, and I’d argue needs, to get down on paper. Art for her is breathing; way beyond just expressing her thoughts and ideas.
Her talents run the gamut depending on which medium she decides will work best for representing her work. Gouache for the blue howlite she painted last week.
“It’s so opaque, Mom, I couldn’t use watercolour”, she tells me.
Fine, black ink pen for drawing the details of a colouring page she created for kids (and adults) stuck at home during lock down. “A quarantine craft” her newly developed website, Gyllyflower, calls it. She wanted to load her drawings on to the page for others to download directly from the website, but when she realised the “whites didn’t match” she taught herself new editing techniques on Photoshop to fix it. As though with one of her magic wands, she painstakingly used a tool to delete the white of her drawing paper around her image so each drawing itself would “sit” properly on the pdf image and allow anyone download a fairy embedded into the paper ready to be filled with colour. It was an intricate process and I kept telling Christy it didn’t matter but, to her eye for detail and perfectionist streak, it did so she persevered until she was satisfied. I have to admit the end product is a delight to behold and fun for a little COVID mindfulness activity.
At any rate, I mention this as I am now being swept into Christy’s latest fascination – gemstones and rocks. She does go to university in a very New Age-y part of the world with her college town, Falmouth, hosting two shops which sell crystals, gemstones and such. On a student budget, Christy can’t always buy the wares of the shop so more often than not she spends free window-shopping time gazing at the amethysts, quartz and angel aura crystal. She’s been researching about all of their healing qualities and even found some studies showing “aura” photos of the stones depicting the electromagnetic field surrounding them. For Christy, gemstones are not just something soothing to hold in the palm of your hand, the stones are actually pushing good ‘ju-ju” out into the world. Christy has always believed this and is teaching herself about chakras and how the different stones and positioning of them can impact all those around them. “Burying quartz to help gardens grow” is one such task she noted to me. I am definitely no authority but as she seems enthralled I am content to learn through her about the gems and look forward to the beautiful art work which will no doubt be produced by her hand as a result of her investigations.
It got really interesting for me yesterday although when she told me how she loves to discover the science of her passions, yet she actually prefers not to have all the science to de-mystify her experience of them. She doesn’t want to lose the magic of nature. She told me, for instance, she likes hearing the details about bird migration which I’d shared with her via my listening of the In Our Time podcast however she didn’t need the scientific explanation as to the exact guesses of how and why birds fly away and return seasonally. She just liked watching them do it. We agreed it was interesting to hear the process by which scientists conduct studies and hypotheses to educate themselves and their understanding of the world as long as it doesn’t steal the joy of watching a flock form a “V” and lead the way to and from their breeding grounds. The air and car traffic noise is returning to our soundscape filling rather than muffling where the seasonal birdsong had been enchanting our mornings until recently. I hope this means the birds have found their matches and are laying, hatching and raising young ones.
Christy’s heart for and tight grasp on appreciating the value of awe is one I respect and agree with. While at the same time, I am fascinated with facts like birds weighing less than a bag of crisps (chips) annually circumventing the globe from Alaska to migrate to and from Africa. They go over oceans with no place to refuel or rest. The stamina for that journey is a wonder as is the determination to fight against all odds for what? An instinct? A habit? A future?
I would contend, with all due respect to Christy, that for me, science and mystery, indeed, science and faith can sit side by side. Like Megan (my philosopher/theologist daughter) taught me some of the most pre-eminent thinkers in the world allow that science and faith can co-exist. In their book, ‘The Anthropic Cosmological Principle’ two physicists Barrowand and Tipler, “list ten steps in the course of human evolution each of which is so improbable that before it would occur, the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and incinerated the earth. And they calculate the probability of evolution of the human genome to be somewhere between 4-180 to 110,000 and 4-360 to 110,000 so if evolution did occur, on this planet it was literally a miracle and more evidence of the existence of God.” If you don’t want to start pulling up Darwinism the astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson modelled the creation of the universe (as you do) and he worked out that Earth “may be a 1 in a 700 quintillion kind of place”. That’s the number 7 followed by 20 zeros and he worked out that of the 700 quintillion planets in our universe within the “Goldilocks” region where temperature and is just right and there’s liquid water there’s only one like Earth. Earth’s like a statistical anomaly.” Pretty cool, huh? (And you thought I only liked words – now you know what ‘quintillion’ is!) So maybe you can agree with the idea if the chances are so(times twenty ‘o’s) slim at the Earth coming into existence, maybe, just maybe some creator struck the match for the Big Bang…just saying, but I digress…
I don’t need you to cast your brain back to the beginning to find examples of an appreciation for Nature as a biologist or spiritualist. Either would find it hard to deny the beauty of Nature and whichever way you wanna play its impact on us to soothe us as a balm. On our walk yesterday discussing the crystals and bird migration, Christy and I stopped in our tracks to literally hold our breath in the sight of a peacock butterfly calmly sunning itself on a piece of wood nestled in the blackberry brambles and ferns. As we approached, sure it would take flight, Christy, ever the expert observer, noted the butterfly was making its full wingspan spread across the width of not just any piece of wood but a knocked over signpost which had rotted at the base. It was now the raft of smoothness in the harsh undergrowth of the woods perfect for the butterfly to recharge and regain energy for its next journey. Christy smiled slowly clicking the camera app of my phone on to try and capture a photo of this beauty.
“Look, Mom, it’s the delicate balance of Humans and Nature”, she said as she passed me the phone to show me the shot of the butterfly and the post.
“Isn’t beautiful?” she asked.
Now I am hoping this butterfly and post will be an echo into the world. I am hoping with all that we are contending with the echo will reverberate its message to use the good minds of our scientists and imaginers to find a cure from today’s woes like COVID and all that befall us. I am keeping the faith we have the awesome power to do so. To get the balance of us and this Earth back as beautifully, as exquisitely, as the design of a butterfly. Be well. Keep the faith. Look or pray for the magic; it’s there.