Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ellie's World

Andrew Wyeth -- Christina's World
Ever since I was a little boy I remember being entranced by Andrew Wyeth's painting, Christina's World. There was a feeling I got from looking at it that was both bittersweet and full of longing. Even today, I'm not sure what exactly that feeling was, or still is. The wheat grass is healthy, nourishing and warm. The sun is shining. There is no foreboding of danger. All is safe. And the boundaries of the world are circumscribed.

As a little boy, I didn't know by looking at the painting that Christina was handicapped, and in real life had dragged herself out into the field to get the view we see of her in the painting. I didn't perceive her limbs or pose as "twisted." This truly was her world, as she was not in a position to stray far from it. And it also came as a great shock to me when years later I saw studies Wyeth had done for the painting which showed Christina's face... the face of an old woman with many wrinkles, hardship and sadness drawn upon it.

But as a child, all I saw was a youngish (because of her long black hair?) woman looking out peacefully--I wanted to believe even happily--at her world. It is a child's view of the world. Looking back now almost half a century later at how it felt to look at this painting with the eyes of a child, I can better understand the bittersweet longing I always associated with the painting. I didn't know Christina's reality at the time, but I did know my own reality. I wanted my world to be safe, warm, sunny and nourishing. And it wasn't. I thought Christina's world was, though, and I wanted her world.

Now that I know about Christina's reality, I can more accurately imagine the conflicting ideas and emotions Wyeth was trying to convey in the painting. But to this day, when I look at the painting, I still get that feeling I needed from it as a child. I tap into a feeling of being trapped by one's circumstances, yet having to find a way to embrace them anyway and accept them peacefully.

I think I have--finally--accomplished this in my life today, and am, more often than not, at peace with my world. I don't know if Christina ever peacefully embraced her world...

My beautiful hound dog Ellie is now twelve and arthritis is beginning to show occasionally in her movements. So when I saw her lying in a Christina-like pose surveying her own "world," I couldn't help feeling grateful that although my life has been more like Christina's reality (without the physical handicaps, though), I've been able to provide for Ellie a world that is truly more in line with my childhood dreams. 

Ellie's World

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