Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Leaving in the Rain

One of the best watercolorists working today, in our our humble opinion, is Steve Hanks. We own a framed, personally autographed, print (we could never afford an original) of his painting "Leaving in the Rain". The painting is set on the worn bricks of the platform of an older passenger rail station in the American West. A girl, perhaps 16 or 17, is sitting on a small steamer trunk and holding an umbrella to shield her from the pelting rain. She is looking away from the viewer, her gaze attracted by the bright headlight of the arriving locomotive pulling the train that will carry her to the freedom she seems so drawn to.

On the horizon, dark clouds portend more storms. The girl is wearing dress shoes when she should be in galoshes. A beautiful little brown leather case, probably a high quality antique from the girl's grandma, sits completely unprotected from the rain. It will be damaged, never be the same. One of the two latches on the steamer trunk is undone. That's how prepared the girl is for what lies ahead. That's what the adult sees, what claws at the heart of the loving parents she is determined to tear away from.

I wanted this painting, out of so many other lovely choices by the artist, for our home. I saw so much personal story in it, even more so when I learned how autobiographical it was for the artist himself. So it hangs in our living room, and we treasure it in all kinds of light.

But it's not the end of the story. "Leaving in the Rain" has a sequel. The same scene is portrayed in the sequel, only from the opposite direction. Instead of the dark clouds and storms in the direction of the arriving train, we see the dissipating wisps of rain, breaking clouds, blue sky and sunshine brightening the hills in the direction the train will go. We also see the bright smile of the girl's face. Whether naively or prophetically, she sees only sunshine and blue skies ahead. She can't stay. She must go. She will.

Someday, I hope to buy a print of the sequel. It's a bit hard to find, though, because it was never 1/10th as popular as the original "Leaving in the Rain". The sequel only makes artistic and emotional sense when seen in the context of the original.
Tragic as it sometimes is, we must also thank God for youthful optimism.

Heartbreaking as it is sometimes, we must also stand in awe of even willfulness, blindness to our own limitations... and to the grace of God that says, "Even in this, even in death, even in grief, there is a sequel. There is life. I give you my grace. And it will be OK."

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.