Somehow an oil spill -- an iridescent patch I photographed on the ferry floor yesterday -- turned into this curious little image last night.
I don't know what it looks like to you, but to me it's a combination of an angel and our old springer spaniel, Sockeye, who died of sudden-onset spleen cancer back in the year 2000.
What's weird is the first two times I downloaded the photo to this blog, it got corrupted in transit -- not too seriously, but still not right: a lighter rectangle in a lower corner, and then, the second time, his crown was shifted to the right a bit. I've never had something like that happen before.
But then, I've never had a week like this before, either -- my inbox has been full of tragedies: not just my own friend's death, but other notes have shared news of a student dead of a heroin overdose at my daughter's school, a grandson killed skateboarding, a daughter diagnosed with cancer, a sweet young dog having to be put down because of skin cancer...
We know there are tragedies happening all the time, all over the globe. But I'm not sure I've ever seen so much, so close, in so short a period of time -- and all the victims so young. It's a bit like the piling up of earthquakes -- first Haiti, then Chile, then a little one in California... one begins to feel anxious at such times, wondering what tragedy will befall us next, and, worse still, wondering if there is some sort of multiplicative effect happening.
However goofy this image may be, I think what I want to say about it is that I am grateful for the healing power of art. I remember, years ago, when my mother-in-law was struggling with brain cancer, she told me she had decided to stop painting. We were standing in the desert, having wandered off from the Arizona resort where we were holding a last family reunion, and I had picked up an intriguing piece of what looked like driftwood (what on earth was it doing in the desert?) And I remember turning to her and asking, "How can you hope to get through this if you DON'T paint?"
She did, actually, paint one more picture before she died -- three blue jays on a wire, suspended in a field of blue; it hangs on the wall in my father-in-law's house, above his dining room table. And it is my favorite of all the works she did over the years.
I don't know: I think most of us become mute in the face of death and disease; we certainly know of children who lose the power of speech after witnessing horrific events. So perhaps art -- even at its simplest and most childish -- can be our body's way of expressing fears and hopes too fragile even for words. Are there angels? I don't know. But sometimes the thought of them -- even if they started life as dogs -- offers a grain of reassurance.
May angels -- doggie or otherwise -- bring comfort to all those near and dear to me who grieve today.