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Sunday, March 11, 2018

All Together

As I say in the intro to my book, Diary, my paintings are all done during church. This means they are all open to prophetic interpretation. When I come to the canvas I pray and ask God to speak to me and through me. I encounter him as I paint. I see colors and put them on my pallet. I see a brush and a stroke in my mind’s eye and I pick up the brush, apply the color, and stroke the canvas the way I see it. I don’t see a picture before I begin, only a stroke. And then another stroke. And then another. Layer upon layer of color, one element at a time, until an image emerges. 

A worship service may be anywhere from one to two hours long and most of my paintings are created in a single service. Realism is not a practical goal in that time frame. The objective is to communicate through the medium of art. It’s about me communicating with God, and because it’s in a public setting it’s about God communicating to others through me. When people feel a painting is speaking to them, the interpretation may rest entirely with them. It may speak differently to others at the same time. Sometimes a painting speaks only to someone else. I have no idea what it means. They’ll ask for the painting, or they’ll simply receive the message and a few weeks later I’ll be painting over that image. Sometimes a painting is a message for the whole church. The paintings I put in my book are all ones that spoke deeply to me. Whether or not they spoke to anyone else, they had meaning for me so I preserved them. 

“What meaning,” you may ask, “could a random multi colored spiral have for the artist?”

First, that’s a random multi colored BLACK LIGHT REACTIVE spiral. It contains streaks of neon and glow in the dark paint.’s cool! 

Second, colors have meaning in every culture and in Christian culture they can represent different spiritual gifts. All the gifts here are flowing together. This is the goal. Remember that Sunday School song, “when we all pull together how happy we’ll be!”

Finally, the spiral or vortex represents a portal, an opening to heaven. In Jesus’ demonstration prayer he prays, “Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

This is a representation of the Kingdom of Heaven being released in the room where I was painting and all the gifts represented, different ones in each of us, flowing together to create an amazing picture, that even shows up in the dark. That is only fully revealed in the dark! But the best part about this painting is that while I was feeling and painting the spiritual atmosphere in the room where I was at the time, the interpretation is a universal truth we can walk in all the time. We can choose to work together to bring the gifts God has given us into service demonstrating the goodness of God to humanity. We can go into dark places and bring the light of love.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Fates Worse Than Death

This painting was made right after the death of a dear matriarch in my life and in our church, Carolee Britt. Her favorite color was pink. At Christmas the very air in her house seemed pink. She died of cancer and there was a great deal of grief in our family and community. The following Sunday, as this painting began to emerge, I realized it was the party happening in heaven. We see a pink veil, the yellow fall of healing, all that confetti, and a hint of the ghostly white shadows of those who have just passed. It’s the party at the border between states of being. It’s the reason my Great Aunt Winnie, the last of her sibling to go, was angry at the doctor when she kept getting better after the he told her she would probably not survive. It’s the thing saints look forward to. 

I remember my parents on road trips telling us that there was always a party going at the border between states. Of course, we were always asleep when they crossed the state border so we never saw it. We never see this party at the border between states of being, so we forget that heaven doesn’t have a problem with death. In fact, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15

Missing from all the major political debates right now is a fundamental truth that no one wants to admit; Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

What do you expect to happen when you die? Eternity in heaven? Reincarnation? Or perhaps nothing at all? Even nothing at all is objectively better than the lives many people face. That so many persist is a testimony to the incredible power of hope. Still, thousands of people choose death every day.

Refugees fleeing war in the Middle East are willingly embarking on a voluntary death march with only the tiniest sliver of hope for a better life. 

The woman who is having an abortion has definitely imagined it, not having the physical or emotional resources to provide for two (or more since the majority of abortions are done for women who already have children) people. I brought four daughters into this world and I definitely imagined it, but I had family/community resources many women lack. 

The person trying to escape a coercive controlling relationship knows it. 

The senior confronting Alzheimer’s is imagining it. 

The person with stage 4 cancer is deciding what to do about it. 

The parent with the profoundly disabled child going bankrupt because of medical bills is living it. Stressed beyond reason and wondering how they'll care for their child as their resources slip away.

The teacher going through active shooter drills with a classroom full of students and the prepper hoarding guns and food are both practicing for it. 

The cop who has to assume all guns are real when he’s facing a teenager lives in fear of it. 

The undocumented immigrant suffering deprivation and exploitation for the sake of transplanting their family to American soil is escaping it. 

The high school senior weighing their potential earnings with a degree, against the skyrocketing cost of college, considers the possibility of debt becoming a lifetime of indentured servitude and shies away from it. 

The alcoholic/drug addict is self medicating for it. 

The military recruit is training to fight it. 

It's out there for all of us, the thing that could make life unbearable. If you can’t imagine anything worse than death, then you have lived a profoundly privileged life. 

If we as a culture acknowledged this truth we’d be punishing rapists and human traffickers the same as murders. We would defrock and disbar judges who routinely give harsher punishments to people of color or the poor than to white and/or wealthy people who commit the same crimes. Slavery, crimes against liberty, especially those committed by judges, are every bit as appalling as murder. We’d be jailing fund managers that defraud people of their retirements for the same deprivation. 

Our politicians are risking their necks right now taking money from billionaires and corporate interests to continue to allow the exploitation of workers and our environment. A day will come when the balance tips and number of workers who feel a sudden death is preferable to the slow squelching of life between menial work, poor health, and unpaid bills exceeds the number of workers who are too tired to try to change this miserable destiny. On that day the French Revolution will be eclipsed because America always does things bigger. 

You can dismiss my examples and swear that you would never agree, but until it’s your life in the balance you really can’t say. You can call suicide a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but unless we make drastic systemic changes to our government, the majority of these problems will be permanent for the people who face them. 

We’ve had this phrase “fate worse than death” in the English lexicon since at least 1741, usually in reference to rape. But when men made the laws, the punishment for consensual sodomy was worse than for raping a woman. A woman's fate was worse than death, but their rapist faced little or no punishment at all. The things the privileged makers of the law feared being done to them were punished far more harshly than the crimes they suspected they might be capable of committing. For our laws to be gender balanced, our lawmaking institutions must become gender balanced!

For those Christians who still disbelieve, even God imagined a fate for humanity worse than death, or he would not have sent his son to die instead. If you read your Bible closely you will find that God/Jesus is never bothered by death. Even when he was called to heal Lazarus and informed his friend died before he got there, he didn’t weep until he saw the grief of the living. He was not moved to tears by the death of his friend, but by the suffering of the living. Would he have raised Lazarus for his own sake? Because of his own sense of loss? That would be strange for Jesus, who knew that his friend had passed to eternal life. But he was moved, and throughout the Bible God is always moved, by the suffering of the living and the horrible things we do to each other. We need to care more about loving each other while we live.

If we are truly pro-life, rather than depriving people of their freedom to choose death, we should be doing everything in our power to make life a better choice for everyone. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Resilience in the Redwoods

The first painting in The Dark Side direction of my recently released poetry book “Diary” is called “Resilience in the Redwoods.” I’m particularly keen to share it here in my blog because the dimensions prevented me from showing all of it in the print book. I had to chose the section that looked best in that context but it meant cutting off the bottom, which shows new life emerging from the flames. This picture was painted not long after the fires that ravaged Sonoma County last October. In fact, some of them were still burning. 

The night the fires began the smell of smoke was everywhere. When I first smelled it I wondered what idiot had started their fire pit in this wind. At midnight I was out checking the tarp I’d used to cover the garage sale fodder in my driveway. I had planed to haul the leftovers off on Monday but the wind was whipping the tarp everywhere and the air was hot and eerie. I noticed it came from the east and fragments of Mary Poppins came to mind...”like somethin’ is brewin’ about to begin.” 

I tried to sleep but it was impossible. I was checking the tarp again a little later when I saw a flash like lightning. It was probably a transformer blowing but I watched in that direction for a while to be sure there was no fire. There had been Nixle alerts telling people about a fire in Napa and saying not to call 911 just because of a smoke smell. Only call if you see fire. I didn’t see fire so I went inside, but as I turned back and looked through my front window flames were leaping up behind the houses across the street. 

I ran back out and started pounding on doors. After the third house I ran into another neighbor coming the other way pounding on doors. He said nobody could get through to 911. I keep nonemergency police numbers on my cell phone so I started calling. The city police line was busy too but I finally got through to the sheriffs. It took ten minutes for firemen to arrive even though the fire house in only two blocks away so I guessed they had to come from elsewhere and they didn’t come to the neighborhood side of the fire. The field that was burning behind those houses had an auto parts store and a gas station on the other side. They came at it from that direction to prevent a possible explosion. 

I ran in to wake my husband and he joined the fight with hoses along fence lines. I had two 50’ hoses in my yard that got detached and sent across to the neighbors. Ash and embers were falling all over the neighborhood. I still had my phone in hand and when the Nixle alert came that the fire had jumped the freeway I started texting a friend in Coffee Park. A fire that could cross a six lane freeway would not be easily stopped. When Coffee Park officially evacuated I called my mother in law in an adjacent neighborhood and told her to prepare to evacuate. She lives with an older woman who has limited mobility. They were ready when they got the evacuation call. 

The fire we’d been fighting was not directly connected to the main Tubbs fire. It was one of over sixty spot fires that caught in Sonoma County that night as embers blew miles overhead and landed in dry grassy areas. It was fire weather if ever anything could be called that. It was like nothing else I’ve ever felt. When the evacuation alerts stopped coming our house ended up across the street just outside the evacuation zone and only a few blocks from the Finley Center, the first shelter to open and last to close. We sheltered in place without gas or electricity for a week. We discovered that a new icon appears up on the signal bar part of our cell phones when they’re connecting to mobile cell towers. Over 70 cell towers burned so we walked down to the Finley Center to use their WiFi to communicate with family until those mobile towers went up. We took in my mother in law and another friend when evacuations were advised in their area. 

No one went to work or to school. We knocked on over 100 doors in our neighborhood checking on everyone who had stayed. We donated everything in our fridge to the shelter as soon is the electricity went out. I knew it wasn’t coming back soon and I’d just stocked my freezer at Costco. Because we were close and it was the first day they welcomed the food. It wasn’t long after that they were so overwhelmed with donations they had to turn them away. 

I’ve never been prouder to be part of this community. The way everyone came together to get people out of shelters and into better situations was astounding. The donations poured in and then warehouse space was also donated to contain the donations until they would be needed. Bosses told their people not to worry about coming in to work for a week, they’d still get paid. Wherever possible businesses helped their employees. And those that were off work got out and volunteered. Trials reveal our character and the character of our community is amazingly generous and strong. 

A few weeks later, the kids weren’t back in school yet but I had power and gas so I could do laundry. I was putting clothes away in my room and at the bottom of the pile was my bathrobe. The one I’d been wearing as I flew across the street to pound on my neighbors doors that night. The night we’ll all mark time from for the rest of our lives. The smell of smoke on it brought everything rushing back to me. It wasn’t a normal smoke smell. The clean burn of wood smoke doesn’t bother me. This was the smell of the whole world burning. 

It brought me back vividly to that night. By 4 am the fire department had rushed off to fight another fire, thinking ours extinguished, but my husband was keeping an eye on the field because he remembered a mobile home fire that happened when he was a child where everyone had believed the fire extinguished and gone back to sleep only to have it flare up worse than before. Sure enough, around 4:30 in the morning the fire flared up again. 

When it caught a Redwood tree it would blaze up the center all in an instant, burning the dry surface material, but the fresh green out at the ends of the branches never caught. Within moments most of its fuel would be gone and it would drop again to the grass. But in that furious was...there are no words. There is only this painting to express what I saw that night, and the life on the fringes that survived, and the new growth that is coming because Redwood trees only sprout from the cones they drop after they’ve been through fire. That’s what this painting is about. The fury and the awe and the endurance. I don’t think it’s coincidental that yellow, the color that flared up the center of those trees and lit the sky, is also the color of healing in prophetic art. So, in this depiction that represents our world burning, are also the elements of healing and new life. 

As word slowly got around of who had lost everything, we found ourselves in the awkward position of carrying trauma that is bad. I wouldn’t call it survivors guilt though that tried to have its way for a moment. But we carry on because we must until everyone who has it worse is taken care of. Four months later my friends who lost it all are semi settled and moving forward, but I’m fighting stress hives. My body is reminding me of what I’ve been carrying and insisting I take better care of myself and my family now. What we went through was traumatic too and must be dealt with no matter how much worse it was for others. It’s not a competition. It’s just biology. 

But humans are like those redwoods, built for resilience. The layer of char won’t disappear, but we will slowly rebuild the veins that nurture us, we will throw up new branches in new directions because this brush with disaster has changed how we see our lives, and new growth will emerge all around us. When I was a child I stood in the burned out hollow of a Redwood tree’s base big enough to set up housekeeping. The tree went on growing for a few hundred more years and is still growing after that much destruction! It’s a picture of hope for me. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Diary of E.A.Provost

Dear Moms of the Earth;

Diary of E.A.Provost is my first full length book of poetry and art and I’m immensely pleased with it. I’ve spent the last five years unhappily fidgeting with various elements, and writing and painting more until it finally all came together in a way that makes me happy. It’s particularly hard to be happy with something so personal. I mean, as the name implies, some of these are the intimate thoughts I jotted down in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep because depression and anxiety were getting the best of me. But being real with people and connecting over those dark memories as well as the fun light memories is what helped me get through those times. Shining a light on those dark places our minds can take us so others can have hope is what makes this book worth publishing. The highs and lows of motherhood are often the greatest extremes of our lives, and they come one after the other like the waves of an unrelenting high tide. Then, the tide slows and begins to ebb and we can do productive things like publish books and shower and sleep again. Yes new mama, read on through to the other side.

As for the art...I don’t think I’ll ever think of myself as a real artist. I’m just playing with paint. When I realized that I’ve been painting for a full decade I was momentarily stunned. Of course, discovering that some of the paintings I wanted to include were lost in storage and no longer hanging on the walls of the people who had asked for them knocked a little of the wind out of my sails. But they bring me joy and the response I’m getting to them in the context of my book has been overwhelming. 

Since the art in this book was meant to evoke an raw emotional counterpoint to the poetry, I’ve left out any history or description of individual works. But, since they were created as “encounter art” during church worship times, they each have a unique history and often many layers of meaning. You can expect many of my future posts to be explanations of those individual works. If there’s one you’re particularly interested in hearing about, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to get to those first. 

In the dedication I mention that one of my daughters was my editor. That would be Ellie Provost, who I finally asked to take a crack at it after years of having no luck finding a good professional poetry editor who could handle meter. It turns out that she inherited my facility for language and her dad the drummer’s sense of rhythm, so she has a keen ability to fix the meter issues that plague me. Though she claims she doesn’t like to write poetry herself, within an hour she managed to make me love four poems I’d almost given up on. When I castigate myself for taking so long to put this book together, I have to remember to factor in the fact that I was raising my own editor. I think the results were worth it. And yes, I paid her too. 

I hope you enjoy my Diary. I’m releasing it on Valentines Day. You should buy it as a Valentine for yourself because loving yourself is essential in order to be able to love others properly. Plus, that will give you time to read it before giving it to your mom for Mother’s Day. You’re definitely going to want to pass it along to other moms, or maybe you’ll just get them their own copy. ;-) Preorder it today anywhere books are sold!

Thank you for being awesome and raising the next generation with purpose and creativity. 



Thursday, February 1, 2018

Buy My Book Here

Please forgive all the jumping up and down here. The links to buy my book in both Print and eBook format are LIVE!!!! If all my supportive fans take a moment to pre-order their copy from any bookstore or website, it will help my book hit the top seller lists for its release day, since pre-sales all count on the first day it's available. The release date is Feb. 14th. I suggest buying it as a Valentine for yourself, because loving yourself is essential to your health, and that will also give you enough time to read it before giving it to your mom for Mother's Day. You'll definitely want to pass it along, or perhaps buy a few more copies for the other moms you love.

Here are the links I know of. If you find it elsewhere please post a link in the comments and I will update this post as new links become available. It should eventually be distributed through all major and minor print retailers and most eBook retailers and libraries.

At Amazon-Print

At Barnes & Noble-Print (Currently Discounted!)

At Smashwords-eBook

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cool Moms

Today my teenagers told me I was a cool mom. Apparently there was some discussion among their peers and they couldn’t relate at all, so they told their friends about me and their friends asked to trade. When I asked what sort of things their friends complained about they told me most of it stemmed from having divorced parents. My divorced friends, I know a lot of stuff happens that you can’t always control and can’t be undone, and you’re doing your best. This isn’t for you. This is for the young parents who are in the midst of the most difficult years of their lives. You have no time and no money and no energy and your kids are sucking the life out of you right now. The last thing you have time for is your marriage. But your strong marriage is the thing that your kids need and want most. This is out of the mouths of teenagers TODAY in 2017. Choose each other every day. Talk to each other. Plan ahead how you’ll deal with the everyday challenges of parenting. Yeah, I sent the kids running to welcome daddy at the front door when they were toddlers because it was 60 seconds they weren’t clinging to me, and it made his day, but mostly because of the clinging. Do what you need to do creatively to share the load. You’ll get through this. It gets easier. The more you face it together the more you’ll have in common when it’s all over. One of the strongest bonds of all is shared trauma! Parenting together definitely qualifies. I didn’t set out to be a cool mom. I’m strict and I’m on every PTA showing up in their lives all over the place. I just wanted to be a good mom. Turns out that’s pretty cool. (They couldn’t leave it at that though. They added, “dad’s even cooler,” and something about classic rock and his taste in movies. What-ever!)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Social Media Envy

It’s interesting to me that some people see social media as problematic because of the unrealistic view it gives us of each other’s lives. Of course we all post the good stuff that happens and avoid posting the bad, but who is really under the delusion that all the other people they know have perfectly wonderful lives? 
Maybe I enjoy rejoicing with those who rejoice on social media because I assume that every positive post is a victory over something difficult. When I post something wonderful it’s generally because I’ve overcome something to get to it. For instance: I’m having fun taking my family to a theme park, after years of struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Also, I’m getting ready to publish a poetry book. It’s beautiful and I love everything in it...and I’m quaking inside for fear I’m making a fool of myself thinking my poetry is worth publishing. See how it works. The positive posts aren’t the whole picture, so when you start feeling jealous remember that every good thing came at a price. Often, we’re posting to remind ourselves of the good things we have because we struggle with insecurities too. 
If it looks like someone is living the kind of life you want to live, start working toward it. Be inspired. Don’t buy the lie our brains like to tell that we have it harder than everyone else, or we could never live like they do. We all have it hard in different ways. We’re all working to do better every single day. Rejoice with those who rejoice because your time will come too. See their posts as evidence of overcoming.