Oil on Canvas
"To be an artist is to believe in life."
We are approaching June 21, which is the summer solstice. According to the author,
Joan Didion, in her 2001 memoir, Blue Nights, are the summer solstice is when "twilights turn long
and blue". The lily pond is a quintessential summer solstice scene, depicting the long summer days in all their glory. The outdoor environment overshadows the interior confines and structures of the winter months. Bright colors and light fill the air, and fragrant wisps of floral scents linger lightly in the gentle breezes of the summer air. I can hear the chirping of magical little winged beasts and the sweet song of the sparrow following in harmony. It is a magically blissful moment that is often taken for granted to last, but just as the tide washes in, it is destined to change. Named after the Greek nymph, the Water Lily symbolizes beauty that can also have a dangerous side. It’s also a symbol of unity and finding peace and balance. Buddhists symbolize rising up from the mundane world and into the spiritual one. Water lilies are also the official birth flower for July. Outside of New York Yacht Clubs Habour Court in Newport, Rhode Island, sits some of the most beautiful water lily blooms I have ever seen. The impressive bloom is larger than a man's head, and knowing the symbol of the flower and the place is both beautiful and meaningful.
The New York Yacht Club holds a Renaissance Norman-style mansion completed in 1906 for the John Nicholas Brown (commodore of the NYYC from 1952-54). Surrounding that structure are 8 acres of park-like grounds to which lies the lily pond. The function of a yacht club is to celebrate boaters and the sport of yacht racing, sailing, and cruising. How often I have looked to the great billows of sailcloth and admired the beauty, yet it has its dangers just as the water lily. In fact, a study from Rhode Island Hospital conducted in 2016 based on data from the US Coast Guard found that sailing has a higher fatality rate than American football and downhill skiing. Sailors experience fatalities at a higher rate than that in sports known for high speeds, falls, and collisions.
As I consider Didion's book again, "Blue Nights," I recognize it as a meditation on the nature of life and death, suggesting, in the work’s most famous quote, “We tell ourselves stories to live.” Didion's heroic, honest approach to aging and dying is not particularly optimistic; however, it is a cautionary tale to appreciate the moments as they lie before us. As I return to the pond once again to walk around and gaze upon its full glory, I shall savor the moment. It will not last, but it is here now before me, so I celebrate.
“During the blue nights, you think the end of the day will never come. As the blue nights draw to a close (and they will, and they do), you experience an actual chill, an apprehension of illness, at the moment you first notice: the blue light is going, the days are already shortening, the summer is gone.” ― Joan Didion, Blue Nights.