Sometimes when we see things from a distance, we see things more clearly. Like the view of a mountain from another mountain across a whole valley between. But sometimes, when we view things from afar, we miss something vital. Sometimes we need to lean in closer, for the details to fill in the bigger picture, and bring a clarity to what we perceive. A step back. A step forward. Both can illuminate, but differently.
In a forgettable hotel room in Kerala, this painting sat above the bed. When I first glanced at it I saw – danger. Dark sinister shadows leaned in menacingly towards two shrunken figures who were huddled above the gnawing fiery depths. Forced by some cruel fate to cross the chasm that threatened to engulf them in apocalyptic chaos on a bridge of tinder, ripe for ignition and certain death.
I put down my case and turned on the fan that creaked out at an awkward kilter swirling the heat around enough to suck some of the sweat form the nape of my neck. A little closer, and I saw in the painting that the hellish abyss was actually a river, spilling over rocks, alive and cool, and the menacing shadows were actually a home with a tree growing outside.
I crawled onto the bed, suddenly aware of my exhaustion. Before I lay down, I took one final look, this time up close. How strange. The huddled figures were not huddled at all, but standing erect with quiet dignity, a mother and child perhaps, watching the brilliance of an evening sunset. They weren’t even trying to cross the bridge. They were fine exactly where they were. The whole image had changed from one of terror to one of peace. In three viewings the raging abyss had become the peace of home.