Up until 2020, I thought of myself as the Angel Gabriel with my flaming sword of justice, ready to defeat evil in the world, but now I now identify with  N.C. Wyeth’s illustration Blind Pew in Treasure Island. Each day brings a new horror that I have no way of combating, even feebly. Old Blind Pew with his stick outstretched cannot combat the impending doom. The doom I wake up to at three in the morning. From the global to the apple tree that has lost a limb, I seem to have no refuge except when starting a new painting. Then all my attention is focused on the next brush stroke, next color and next decision. Better for me than meditation, painting focuses my brain to emptiness.

So. How’m I doing? I am doing as well as the tiny brown mouse surrounded by terror and yet going about its business of seeking seeds for food and soft grass for a bed, while the snake, the fox, the shrike, or the mouse trap may snap at any moment. Each day the news is worse. How can it progress to become even more dire ? The straw that breaks the camel’s back seems to be added and then added again. What to think about at this moment? Plastic in the ocean? Fires in California, The Amazon? Black Lives Matter? COVID-19? Healthcare? The courts? And now RBG? Protecting the innocent, be they black or immigrant or women? Climate change? GBLTQ rights? Paying the bills and still having food? Deforestation? The next mass murder of elephants for ivory, of birds for fun and feathers, of horses for glue, of whales for blubber, of dogs for meat? The massacre of  humans for their religion or race or just plain spite?

That I am nearly as blind as Pew and still hoping to paint doesn’t help. That I am definitely as lame as Pew is also no bonus.That I cannot march or wave banners on street corners or even drive folks to the polls is unbearable. Each day is filled with tiny steps to make something better or at least bearable. Today, it was watching my husband prune our peach trees and two young apples. We will wait through the winter for the spring to come again in glory. But how long until silent spring?

Brita Holmquist

September 19, 2020


Image at top: N.C. Wyeth, Blind Pew, illustration for R.L. Stevenson, Treasure Island, 1910 (photo: Wiki Commons).