Illuminate: Winter Solstice Recovery Gals Art Exchange

The theme for the Recovery Gals Art Exchange for the Winter Solstice was “Illuminate”. 

The definition of Illuminate according to the dictionary is: “Make something visible or bright by shining a light on it.”  I immediately thought of the moon; without it we wouldn’t be able to see the night sky, or the dark waves of the lake, or anything.  We would be in darkness.

Lightness and darkness are themes that I love exploring.  When creating this piece, I challenged myself to only use three colors, black, grey and white.  I used watercolors to paint, using archival paper, and for the other side I used gorgeous moon and astrological papers so it’s reversible, or can hang and each side has a design. I bought a gold chain from the craft store and used pliers to break it apart enough to form the chain for the mobile. I liked how the gold offset the monotone colors.

C.S. Lewis said “The shadows prove the sunshine”, and what he meant was that the shadows prove that there is a light, whether you interpret that light as God, a Higher Power, the sun, the moon, it is true – darkness can’t exist without light.

There are trillions of stars, some of them so far away and some are almost as big as half of our solar system.  Some huge stars are where our sun is, we are in the middle of it.  When you put all the stars together, it is beyond our comprehension.  All of the stars combined are a reflection, an expression and reflection of God’s glory, that there is something bigger than us all. 

The moon is a good example that we are not the only source of light. We need to look outside of ourselves. Whether that be to God, to a Higher Power, to our friends, whoever it might be.

This past year, 2020, one could say was a year of darkness.  For the obvious reasons, like the pandemic, people getting sick and dying, not being able to see our loved ones and many out of work.  We had to reimagine life without one of our strongest supports – each other.  But we got innovative.  Zoom calls became our coffee shop, we began writing letters again, and using the phone more.  We spent more time with immediate family, my 2 hour commute was now gone.  This also could mean too much time with family, too; there’s a balance.

For my family, 2020 brought some darkness.  We were fortunate in the fact that I actually got a new job during this time, and flourished in my career.  I wasn’t out of work for any period, and being a single income family, this was such a blessing.  It’s not my story to tell, but my oldest child turned to ways to cope with her depression that are dangerous and we sought help for her.  This became a darkness that I wasn’t sure I could walk through, or bear.  But, like the moon, God was there through it, and with me and my daughter, and we have not only come through it but now she is stronger for it and has new coping skills, and as a family we are stronger, too.  I had many praying for our family, and supporting us in ways that are impossible to thank with words, but I’m hoping my actions will show my thanks. These were the light bearers in my life.

My youngest child discovered during this time apart from school, society and friends, that they identified as non-binary, which means they don’t identify as female or male.  They told me that had it not been for this time alone and apart that it would have taken them longer to figure this out.  2020 shined a light on that for them.  I am so grateful for this as I would not have wanted them to live in uncertainty any longer than needed.

I also rekindled my love of turtles during this time; I had a three-toed turtle when I was younger, getting her when I was in grade school and she lived a long time, into my adulthood. When I left home at 17, I left her, too. Oh, she was in good hands, the hands of my mother who was a saint and an animal whisperer. But I did neglect her. I felt called to rescue a turtle during this time, and have ended up with not one, but two box turtles – one an Eastern who was hit by a car and has a damaged shell, and one a three-toed who was found walking the neighborhood streets with a pink “T” painted on her shell yet no one claimed her. These turtles have taught me so much about self-care, about beauty, and have made me a morning person. I can’t help but think that without the gift of sobriety, there is no way I would have rescued these turtles. Turtles are great animals, but require a lot of specifics, like temperature, humidity, nourishment, substrate. There is no way I could manage all of that before.

Looking at the blessings in 2020 is a way to shine the light on it.  Not being able to physically see so many of our family and friends has shone a light on how important those relationships are, and has strengthened those as well.  I bet 2021 will bring the strongest hugs we’ve ever seen. 

Light appears brightest when it’s dark.  When you get away from the city, when it’s really dark, you’ll see incredible lights. There is a theory that the moon’s origin came from a planet the size of Mars colliding with Earth over 4 billion years ago, and the resulting debris to form the Moon.  It is so interesting to me that something so essential could have been formed from something seen as a mistake.

The light areas of the moon are called Highlands, and the dark areas, called Maria (Latin for seas) are impact basins that were filled with lava .  So even the moon has darkness and light.  I believe everything does.

The Chapter House in York

There is a stained glass panel in the Chapter House in York, England that is made entirely of greys, blacks and white, and when the light shines through it, it is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.  This reminds me, when we let the light shine through onto our lives, the light shines through and we illuminate our lives.  sometimes we are the light keepers, and sometimes others are.  sometimes we need to rely on those special folks that are like emergency flashlights in our toolkits, and they help bring us out of the darkness. 

Here is an excerpt of a poem I wrote almost 20 years ago when I visited that cathedral as part of a scholarship I received with DePaul University.

Windows enclose me on all sides, making darkness impossible.
Grays and blacks turn to light as stars explode within me.
I walk out of the chapter house and curl up into my soul.
Grays glow through the stained glass.
Showing even shadows can shine
given time

Hoping for much lightness in the new year ahead.

I will leave you with a poem I wrote for the exchange, inspired by the moon.

The Moon

She feels the warmth on her skin
before she sees it.

Although it holds no heat, it rattles her bones.

She closes her eyes and feels it settle on her eyelids,
she imagines it devouring her, one limb at a time,
surrounded by its light, a marshmallow.

Darkness outside.

Light inside.

Instead, it is dark and the light from the moon
small as a marble in the sky.

It is enough.

Imagine where we would be without it.

Dark upon dark.
Sheets of darkness. Waterfalls
engulfing us.

She’ll take the moon,
with its changing shapes and sizes.

The moon so like her.


The moon,
and her,
are forever.

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