Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Last week, I learned I have elevated blood pressure, for all I know a fairly recent development, right on the borderline to stage 1 hypertension. Since I am clinically a healthy weight and don't smoke, stress and lack of exercise are the probable culprits. I'm trying to make lifestyle changes to avoid going on medication, and my certified-yoga-instructor sister suggested I take up yoga, which according to studies has positive impacts on blood pressure levels. Today is day 4 of my new yoga regimen. In this morning's practice (I use dvd's at home for now), during the meditation, I found myself casting for a visual image to serve as inspiration. The Van Gogh painting pictured here (click image to enlarge) popped in my head, and I think I've found the perfect inspiration image to waken me to each day.
Meditating on an image is not about "facts," but the facts for me help provide the inspiration. Vincent painted this in late Nov-early Dec 1889, while he was in the asylum at Saint-Rémy. The walled wheatfield was visible from his bedroom window, and he drew and painted it many times during the seasons of his year there. This particular painting is unusual for him because it was done specifically for an exhibition: an exposition hosted by the avant-garde artists' group Les Vingt, which would be held in Brussels in early 1890. After receiving the invitation to participate--a great honor--Vincent chose five works from his Arles and Saint-Rémy oeuvre for Theo to send, and made this one especially. Also unusual for him at this point in his career, he spent weeks on it, working and reworking it to the point he felt it perfect. "I am curious to know what you will say," he wrote to Theo. Theo replied, "[It] has poetry in it." Vincent wrote to artist friend Émile Bernard about this picture and said, "I have tried to express calmness, a great peace." Vincent believed that his painting helped him with his illness and that painting soothing pictures would soothe his mind -- self-diagnosed art therapy!
What a life-affirming result. The rising sun with its "yellow halo" (Vincent's words), the greens of the young wheat growing in the field, the undulation of the Alpilles mountains behind...the painting reminds me what it felt like in summer 2007 to stand in that very field (now a flower garden), feel the warm sun on my face, the brisk wind at my back. A day that had no stress at all, just enjoyment of the moment and the experience of travel. I am reminded with this picture that even at his most ill, Vincent tried to find hope and peace in the world around him, especially in nature. And if that's not inspiring, I don't know what is.