searching for home…

My beautiful pictureWhen I think about my late grandfather, images of him come quickly and vividly to my mind. I see him sitting on the front porch of my grandparent’s home – surrounded by potted annuals – a cigarette between his fingers and an ashtray on the table beside him. I see him on another occasion leaning over me on that front porch as I painted the floor in typical front porch grey – he was a housepainter by trade, so there was advice concerning my technique. I remember him standing at his painting easel, also. If he was a house painter by trade, he was an artist at heart. I see him walking through the greenhouses that he and my two uncles owned and operated together, never doing much better than breaking even. I remember sitting beside him on his hospital bed, thin and weak, not too many days before he died.

My grandparents immigrated to Canada from The Netherlands, with many others, in the post World War II context. In 1951 they came as a family, my mom a 14 –year-old young woman at the time.

Whenever I think about my grandfather – whenever I think about his life and identity – there are so many rich memories. But when I think about him today I also do so in the light of words spoken about him at his funeral in 1989 – words spoken by my dad at that time. An important aspect of my grandfather’s life and identity was that he was never really at home here in Canada. From these shores he looked back on his life in The Netherlands, and there was so much he missed: Continue reading


A lesson in love – from José Sabogal and Marilynne Robinson #presence/absence

I spent a couple of hours at the Musée des Beaux-Arts today, taking in the exhibit: Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon. The exhibit traces a vast history of art and culture within Peru, with many astonishing and beautiful pieces. One that struck me was from the indigenismo movement – a painting entitled The Recruit, by José Sabogal (1926). The man is anonymous, but is a representative (for Sabogal) of the strength and independence of the indigenous people of Peru. While it seems that Sabogal was more interested in aesthetics than in portraying the difficult circumstances of indigenous peoples, his work nevertheless seems to show tremendous respect for them – and his work has been a historic factor in the inclusion of indigenous peoples within identity of Peru as a nation.


This ‘recruit’ is anonymous to me. I know little or nothing of his life or person or family or work or suffering or brokenness. And yet perhaps openness toward him is not precluded by this anonymity – love is not precluded by his distance from me.

Today I was also reading in Marilynne Robinson’s book When I was a Child I Read Books. In her essay on imagination and community she writes these words (which were brought to my mind as I looked at The Recruit):

“Presence is a great mystery, and presence in absence, which Jesus promised and has epitomized, is, at a human scale, a great reality for all of us in the course of ordinary life. I am persuaded  for the moment that this is in fact the basis of community. I would say, for the moment, that community, at least community larger than the immediate family, consists very largely of imaginative love for people we do not know or whom we know very slightly… I believe think fiction [portraiture?] may be, whatever else, an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification.”

Those in the pew (or on the chair) beside me are in many ways distant from me and unknown to me (absent in their presence), yet life in the Body of Christ means seeing him or her as beloved of God, and means an imaginative and gracious reaching out to them, whoever they are. Today, a lesson in love.