“With an apple, I will astonish Paris.” Paul Cezanne.
He painted mountains and bridges. The Sainte Victoire stood majestically in his back yard. He painted it over and over. The colors. The beauty. The ever-changing stillness. Yet, he knew, with something as simple as an apple, he could change the way people saw things. An apple. Not a mountain. An apple.
And only, as I sit, quietly, still, I too understand.
No one has time to be still anymore (if they ever did). To actually look. To see. To feel. To see an apple, a pear, for all its beauty. To hold it. To touch it. To taste it. Maybe even give it to someone, to give them a smile. To show them this beauty, and to have them see it, to have them feel it, to taste it … in this stillness, this beauty, would we not have the power to astonish? For when we stop, when we are still, and we offer someone else that peace, that presence, we are offering our hearts. Our hearts. What could be more astonishing than that?
So I sit before the pear. Before the canvas. And I wonder, will they see it? Will they really see it? Beyond the yellow and green and bruising, Will They see my heart? Do I even see it? I’m still. I feel it. I have to try.
And I paint the pear over and over, as if were the thing they climbed in victory in my back yard. I paint this tiny mountain of fruit. And each day with quiet footsteps I climb. I climb through my doubts and fears. I climb in oranges and browns and with each stroke I come closer to that quiet place. That quiet place where I know what I want to say.
When I reach it, the quiet room, the still life, I will tell you that everything will be OK. That I’ve seen it. I’ve seen yesterday, and It was so hard, and I cry. Please do not be sad. This is the gift I was given. My fruit. This tender skin of still life. This tender skin held my heart and said there is life. Still. There is still life. A nd it showed me. Tomorrow. I’ve seen tomorrow. The one you’ve worried about. The one I worried about. I’ve seen it. And it is as beautiful as the fruit I hold in my hand. I’ve seen tomorrow and I’ve watched it grow. As pure as an apple. As delicate as a peach. As delicious as all the fruits you could dream of. It is so beautiful and still. It is astonishing. It is Cezanne with a brush. It is Paris. It is heart clutched and breathless before the painting. The still life.
And so I take to the canvas again, like a prayer. I pray with each stroke of the red apple that we all can astonish. I pray this is what I won’t have to tell you. This is what you will know. In your heart. That everything is still good. Life is still good. That love is still the answer.
We can astonish each other with this love. With this kindness. With kindness so pure it glows in the fruits we are given. And they ARE given. Every day. What if we saw them? What if we gave them? What if we changed the world with just an apple? Just a heart. What could be more astonishing than that?
And still I paint. I paint a thousand apples, a thousand times a thousand pears, so you will know. Every time you see one, in this book, on the counter, at the store, hanging low from the tree, you will know, everything IS good. Everything IS beautiful. This tender, pure, life is astonishing!
Still, and again, I believe.