Wild Words . . . Photos & Fine Art

Co-creating by heart with sandy cathcart through writers helps and art info, focusing on all things wild.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Talk about Wild! (Part I)

On my way to teach class at Pacific Bible College this week, I passed a street person who totally intrigued me. He was sitting on a stone bench, dressed in a long black cape that he held open around him as if making a small room for himself. I slowed my Explorer while traffic whipped by me.

The man’s head was bent, his long black hair stringing behind him. I wanted to stop and ask him what had bent his head like that—what weight had left him on the street.

My camera bag sat in the seat next to me. I could take a photo and paint that man and let the world know there’s danger out there . . . but not danger from the man . . . from whatever had placed him on the street in the first place.

I didn’t stop, because it would have given my husband, Cat, a heart attack. I used to stop. I used to talk with people like that. I still do, but only when someone is with me or I’m in a safer place than a storm-blackened night in the worst part of town.

It made me think of Charlie.

For twelve years, my friend, Julie, and I volunteered in the county jail. Neither of us had any kind of counseling degree, but both of us had a heart for people who were down and out. Mine came from having someone very close to me ending up suicidal in jail during the middle of the week. Policy kept me from being able to visit him until the weekend. I prayed my heart out and contacted the jail and pleaded, but they were relentless. Finally, I grabbed a police friend who had the clearance to visit the jail and give my loved one direction and hope.

Soon after, I applied for and received the same clearance.

During those years, Julie and I reached out to a lot of women and a few men, but Charlie is one neither of us will ever forget.

Julie found Charlie on the street, dying of an abscessed tooth. She hauled him to the hospital where they saved his life, but then he needed a place to heal following his hospital stay. Julie took him home. He cleaned up, got off booze, gave his life to God, and went to work at our church doing landscape. He was a handsome, intelligent, and charming Native American, looking as if he stepped out of the pages of the magazine, Cowboys and Indians.

After staying clean, inside and out, for a couple of years, he ended up back on the street.

I’ll never forget the night I saw him in the middle of the road, staggering aimlessly. I begged God to help him, to please release him from the terrible weight that threatened to obliterate him entirely.

I’ll tell you more of the story in a couple of days. It has a surprising end. At least, it was a surprise to me.

For now, I’d like to talk with you writers and artists on a personal level.

(1) Do you really “see” people? Not just the ones you know . . . but all kinds of people? Or do you dismiss the ones who look or dress differently from yourself?

(2) Do you have a heart for people? Do you care about what happened in their lives? What joys and sorrows brought them to their present circumstances?

Looking deeper, below the surface, whether through interview or imagination, will bring life to both your writing and your painting. Instead of cardboard characters or copies of photos, you’ll have characters that appeal to the deepest senses of your readers, and your paintings will draw emotion from your viewers.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received as a writer and painter, is being able to view the world from a little less selfish perspective. I’m always asking the questions, “Why?” and “What if?”

Try it. See what new characters or subjects you’ll come up with this week.


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