renaissance

by Elizabeth de Barros

I have more dreams hanging in my closet than anywhere else. Take the teal velvet jacket with the pewter filigree buttons. Snug on first try but not unforgivably tight, its vintage feel and slashed price tag cost me a slight rise in adrenaline, while promising kindness for having rescued it from an otherwise loveless attack of thumbs at the circular rack. Plus, I needed something dressy. Those four-inch cuffs and satin floral lining confirmed this was it.

Truth is, I’ve worn it once. Second time doesn’t count. So it hangs on the rod to remind me of the nature of hopes and dreams.

Some dreams we chase, only to find out they were never meant to be. Others follow us — the ones that have no goals or direction, but stalk us and hold us hostage, reminding us that they’ve got us just one more day, if only inside the cold, locked storage unit of our minds. I’m not saying those dreams are to keep. Sometimes we need a wake up call to help us embrace reality.

But some dreams we have aren’t meant for us at all. Sure, we may carry them, give them birth even, but only to put up for adoption when time comes due. God ordains the sacrifice, as the purpose is for greater blessing.

Last week I pulled a dream out of its own form of suspended animation. Decided to give it some air, see what would give.

When I began setting up my portable French sketch box easel that had been tucked away in my closet for too many years, my youngest son instinctively knew my actions had something to do with him. “Go get some newspaper,” I said, while puzzling out the easel’s configuration. After we made an adequate floor covering, I set down two rules: “Don’t flick paint on the wall” and “Use more water than you think you’ll need.” After all, they’re water based paints. The easel drawer held my old pad of cold-pressed paper and a sizable collection of Winsor & Newton water colours: Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Antwerp Blue, Ultramarine, Permanent Sap Green, New Gamboge, Yellow Ochre, Burt Sienna, Chinese White, all pigments from a more golden age, some as yet unpierced, and a slew of high-quality brushes, largely unused.

Everything laid out before him, I said, “Go, run and fill up two cans with water!”

“And go find your smock!”

Serendipity has a way of catching people off guard. I needed a minute to dust things off.

Soothing notes of Yo-Yo Ma’s cello set the mood further. I let him be. The afternoon was both an exploration of color and an explosion of ideas. Release from the normal school day routine perhaps being my son’s greatest sense of achievement. His face beamed well into the night.

That Saturday, he attended an all-day art workshop taught by Tim Chambers to learn technique and work with acrylics. After I had picked him up, I noticed he had not only discovered the thrill of creative process but also a new dimension of himself.

Six months before he was born, my husband gave me the honor of naming him Nino Benjamin: little boy; son of my right hand — old enough now to hold a paintbrush to color in his own dreams.


For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139: 13-14


“Old World Village,”  8 x 8 acrylic on paper,  Nino DeBarros

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