People ask me where I get ideas for my column. I always tell them that it comes from my own life; sometimes, it is a word or a sentence that jumps off the page. When it happens, I start thinking and asking what it means.
Such an idea came when I read about Jules Breton, a 19th century French realist painter known for his French countryside and his traditional methods.
This sentence intrigued me: “In 1880 Vincent Van Gogh walked 85 miles to Courrieres to pay a visit to Breton, whom he greatly admired, but he turned back, put off by Breton’s high wall.”
What was Breton’s high wall that would so confound Van Gogh to the point that he would turn around and go back?
Breton was a member of the French salon, a prestige position, highly educated, friends with and influenced by several of the realist painters including Francois Bonvin and Gustaave Brion. Van Gogh, an impressionist, struggled outside the prominent circle of traditional art and was never invited to be a part of a salon. Was that the high wall that Van Gogh could not and didn’t want to climb over? Possibly his rebellion was against the art establishment. Maybe his own freedom of expression turned him away.
Did Breton know that an artist by the name of Van Gogh who admired him was outside his wall? If so, would Breton have left his stately position and come through his own wall to great him?
Have our walls turned away angels? Probably!
What are the walls we erect that keep us from doing what we would like to do or should be doing? To be sure, if I had walked 85 miles, I would not have turned back until I got what I went after. I would stay there until I got it, wall or no wall. But funny, I have walked more than 85 miles in my lifetime with walls that I couldn’t jump over. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, but I didn’t even know they were walls. Only by what I know and have learned to be the truth today, have the walls come down one stone at a time.
I love the poem, “The Mending Wall,” by Robert Frost. It asks the question, “Who doesn’t love a wall?”
Is it winter that doesn’t love a wall and tears it down, or the careless hunters who jump over it? But every spring, neighbors on both side of the wall meet to pick up the boulders and build it back again just as their fathers did before them. One neighbor asks the other. Why do we build the wall? We have no cattle to keep in or keep out, one of us has orchards and the other pine and there is no need for the wall. But the other neighbor contends it is what their fathers did so he continues to build the wall with no thought. So every year when spring comes, neighbors meet to build the wall and every year the one neighbor asks, “Why are we building the wall?”
I wonder if that is what we do. We love our walls. They keep us in and others out. They give us a sense of territorial power and loyalty to family. We are not apt to tear down what brings us security and comfort even if it is false.
Many walls are formed in our head early and stay with us a lifetime. We protect them because we think that’s just the way it is. Until one day we have the courage to ask ourselves, “Why do we believe the things we do and why are we willing to stay bounded?
Artists and writers are vulnerable by the nature of what we do so often we feel we need walls to protect us. But we do not need walls, we need boundaries. Boundaries come from an inner knowing and discretion. When others come into our space, with boundaries we have the confidence to say “no!” and feel no guilt. We know that we have the right to choose.
So, my friends, take courage and pull down those walls which hold you bound that keep you from living in freedom. Start working on your boundaries, it is a life time adventure.
The final brushstroke: Tear down your walls, set boundaries.
I asked for comments for The Dark Horse in the Winner’s Circle. This is a comment from one of my good friends who has walked with me through the years of The King’s Choice.
Betty, My Friend:
Of course you know that I would have a comment on this article. So, here goes. Race horses in my opinion are the most elegant of all animals especially when they are in a race. The way their hind legs move with such grace as they run on the track. So tonight as I sit here reading this article I think of just that.
The grace is within all which you write as you pen what is in your heart! Do all who read it appreciate your gracefulness? I suppose not. Another friend of yours is right in speaking about prominence.
The Dark Horse is obscure only to those who have no vision of its grace for if they could see it they would bet on it and the world would take note. The King’s Choice is one of your best writings!
It is full of Passion! Purpose! And Expectancy! Only those who have special seats in the SUITE area have the proper view of the horse’s excellence.
The final brushstroke is awesome. How many times have you and I and many others picked up a book written years ago and the value of its excellence is still there. Who knows who will one day read The Kings Choice.
So keep coming up to the gate. For you trained with the best. Keep right on straining your neck, and let those shouts ring out for the inside track runners. For your day will come if not today. Your words speak loud and clear, just keep writing.
“Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.” — Stephen R. Covey, author and speaker.