… I guess he’s an obvious choice but I haven’t yet written anything which relates to my huge passion for art and so… to stumble down a road much travelled, I introduce Mr Vincent Van Gogh. Given that the road is now more a five lane motorway, most people know a rough outline of this incredible guy’s life so I’m not going to attempt to educate the teachers. I will however, take you (briefly) down the hard shoulder and onto a side road as I explain some of the things I love about Van Gogh.
A picture of Starry Night may be one of the most common images known to man, yet, whilst alive, Van Gogh only sold ONE painting. ONE! His famous impressionist style makes his work easy to recognise and yet, Van Gogh struggled to make any impact on the public at the time… and this, I think, was what he desired more than anything: to be able to have some impact on mankind; in his case, to be a Christ like figure in the lives of those who suffered.
It’s here that I feel so connected to Van Gogh. It’s within this shell of his essence that I see a kernel of goodness that I believe is an innate part of humanity. It might be warped in some of us, driven out of others, or just never nurtured. But generally, I see a desire to better the lives of others, in many of the people I talk to. It’s not all completely altruistic… It’s a part of that desire to make an impact. An impact on everyone, or someone or ANYone. It gives us meaning.
Van Gogh’s real passion was his desire to serve the world, to show kindness and compassion to those who suffered. When the church threw him out (when he worked as a missionary in Belgium and gave away all his possessions to the poor!) he decided to impact us by showing us beauty through his art. His passion was wild and consuming, his torment, indescribable.. But he ate, drank and breathed his art. All with a desire to make an impact.
I was going to go for something more profound but really, an olive IS a pretty important thing. As I have a particular adoration for them, I did a little research.
The following fascinating facts I’m about to share will undoubtedly convince you of the Importance of Being an Olive.
Firstly, I’m willing to bet that you had no idea that the edible olive seems to have coexisted with humans since the Bronze Age. That’s around 5 to 6 thousand years. We should know each other pretty well.
Second, we’re not exactly forward in appreciating the health properties of the olive. The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health. Greasy Greeks are in good nick.
The oil of the olive (considered a fruit btw) also has a long established reputation of being sacred. Used to anoint kings in ancient times (and athletes, oddly) it was also used to burn in temples and fuelled the original Olympic torch, the ‘eternal flame’ (not the one that The Bangles referred to).
Lastly, the sanctity of the olive and its role in religious traditions is something appreciated in both Christianity and Islam, featuring 7 times in the Qur’an and countless times in The Bible. If only we could all focus on the humble olive.
I didn’t imagine I’d ever find myself writing about olives but now I’ve dipped into it, I could well go on to become the world’s leading expert, and write prolifically about this remarkable little fruit. Olives, it turns out, are a rather understated part of world history and civilisation as we know it.
That fleeting time when the wordless glory of the evening sun dashes against the bricks and the hedges, the streets and the people; firing the land with its last red breaths and, for one trembling moment, the humdrum earth of … Continue reading →
The challenge has been set at http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com
I’m not sure how it all works, this tagging posts and linking up thing, but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try on this, my not-used-very-much-at-all blog. I think I did set this one up as a writing blog. Not that my other ‘usual’ space isn’t, but the other is a bit more specific, more personal.
Asked to quote a passage that I will always associate with a beautifully crafted setting, I have to refer to American writer, John Steinbeck.
The opening paragraphs of Of Mice and Men read like poetry:
A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlightbefore reaching the narrow pool. On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees- willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool. On the sandy bank under the trees the leaves lie deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them. Rabbits come out of the brush to sit on the sand in the evening, and the damp flats are covered with the night tracks of ‘coons, and with the spread pads of dogs from the ranches, and with the split-wedge tracks of deer that come to drink in the dark.
The graceful stillness of this place is almost tangible. It makes me desperate to feel the warmth of the water, the dry heat of the dirt tracks and the cool of the Sycamore shade.
When a writer has described the natural world this tenderly, this delicately, it stirs up a sort of ache in me that I find very difficult to explain or understand. The closest I get is to compare this ache to a feeling of homesickness. The tug of something tinged with desperation and shades of sadness. Something in descriptions of the natural world makes me long to return somewhere I often haven’t been.
There are so many other examples I could give… Hemmingway creates settings to die for, and Khaled Hosseni whose ‘Then The Mountains Echoed’ I’m reading at the moment, is an incredible writer who can conjure up scenes so palpably that I can imagine the sights and smells of Afghanistan as though they are part of a memory.