If I Can Dream

by Daniel Ambrose on February 5, 2017

Undeniable beauty exists in our world. It permeates our lives, flourishes in our joyous moments, and shimmers in our suffering like an aurora borealis dancing in a frozen winter sky.

Beauty can be a pathway to transcendence. Authentic beauty is the divine voice of hope.

“This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty like truth, brings joy to the human heart…” Second Vatican Council

As we slide into the second month of 2017, I am writing this as a man, once a husband, always a father, a brother, son and loyal friend. A man graced with a gift, a gift that came with responsibilities and great sacrifices.

Last year, I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. My mind is half-shot and I’ll forget em’ anyway.

Instead, I will carry on; learning to be a better painter, writer, yogi and future partner. Learning to be a better steward of this planet, learning to be a kinder man. And I’ll go on dreaming. The world needs it’s dreamers, it’s artist healers, its witnesses to beauty. It needs you, to dream and make your dreams come true.

In authentic beauty I find hope, peace and joy. This is what I will be seeking and bringing to you in the future.

When I was a child of eleven, Elvis Presley sang the song in this video. It was two months after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

There was fear, pain and despair in the world. Elvis’s handler, the Colonel did not want him to sing it. He said, “this ain’t Elvis’ kind of song.” Elvis told him, “I’d like to try it, man.” Those in the recording studio said, Elvis sang with so much emotion his three backup singers had tears running down their faces.

Beauty too, is a feeling.

In 2017, I offer up my intentions of happiness, good health, peace in your life for you and those you love. Thank you for your support of my art. I honor the divine light in you. Always remember… just being you is a gift.

May we all be kind to each other, and create a more beautiful world.

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Long Ago and Faraway

by Daniel Ambrose on January 29, 2017

Long Ago and Faraway, egg tempera painting of clouds over the ocean by daniel ambrose

Long Ago and Faraway, egg tempera painting.

It is dark when I wake this morning. Thinking it’s still early, I pull the covers up around me. Wonder what time it is?  Should I try to go back to sleep, or just get up and start painting?

Oh yeah… it’s Sunday.

I roll over and grab my phone, squinting at the bright screen. 8:40 a.m. Huh!? Impossible! I’m usually awake hours earlier.

I slide out of bed and go to the window and pull back the curtains. Dark gray, wet, cold. Well, now half the morning’s shot.

I need coffee.

Downstairs in my studio, cradling my coffee, I think about going to yoga, about going to Mass, about painting, about America.

Two hours pass.

Now I’ve missed Mass and yoga. Maybe I should start painting. I’m hungry. I can’t paint if I’m thinking about being hungry. There’s no food in the house.

Dang it!… Those synapses still aren’t firing. I need more coffee.

Today would be a good day to light a fire, cook something slow and satisfying, cozy up and watch movies or read. Except I no longer have a fireplace, or her. The refrigerator is bare too.

Puppy, my cat, crawls out of his little basket house under my easel and starts talking to me for attention. I give him his pill, pushing it deep in his mouth and hoping he doesn’t bite me again. I dread doing it every morning, because I know he doesn’t like taking it, and he bites hard. But he hasn’t had a seizure since he started taking medicine. I comb a few mats out of his fur and he rubs his head against the comb.

We’re good now.

Okay, I’m starting to move. Yoga six day’s a week is catching up to me. I get dressed and slip on my brown leather jacket. I love the two day’s a year it gets cold enough to wear it.

I decide to go to an open house at a new yoga studio. I meet some new people, and get a free chair massage from a registered nurse. We talk about the healing power of touch.

It’s almost 2 p.m and now I’m hungry. I go to Starbucks and order a black coffee and a cinnamon-raisin bagel.

The sun comes out.

I go to the beach and sit on the seawall, drinking my coffee, soaking up the sun in the cool air, watching the spray blow back over the waves.

Was it only two Sunday’s ago I sat in this same spot? Time is moving fast, each day seems to pass like drifting clouds. Each day, forming, taking shape, changing color and meaning. Each day passing through the ocean of our lives.

Was it only two Sunday’s ago when the sky turned aqua, over a darkening sea. White waves turned lilac and the clouds turned pink in the setting sun. A faint moon had appeared in the deepening blue.

Was it really that long ago, I was that child, watching the Apollo rocket flame over this very ocean? And later, sitting in the living room of that house on that dirt road, gathered with my family around the television. We watched as ghostly gray images of American men walked on this very moon.

How it all seems so long ago, and faraway.

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Timeless, egg tempera painting of roseate spoonbill in southern river by Daniel Ambrose

Timeless, egg tempera painting by Daniel Ambrose

Viktor Frankl was an esteemed Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist practicing in Germany during the Nazi’s rise to power. He, along with his wife and parents were deported to the concentration camps. His wife and family died in the camps but somehow he survived.

When the war ended he wrote a candid autobiography, Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, he illuminated moments of fateful grace, and described the virtues that gave him the will to survive and find meaning in his experience.

How was he able to find meaning in the avalanche of  horror? He narrowed it down, centering his book around three things: love, work and suffering.

And in several passages, he also exalted the beauty of art and nature.

Frankl and his fellow human beings were robbed of every identifying aspect of their former lives. Stripped of everything they owned and loved, they were physically, psychologically and spiritually tortured. Each carried the thought—I will be next. I will be killed.

And yet, in the midst of this human tragedy; this nightmare abyss of ugliness, somehow these soul ravaged humans found moments of grace and beauty.

Frankl writes of several transcendent experiences:

“As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become more intense. He also experienced the beauty of art and nature like never before. Under their influence he sometimes even forgot his own frightful circumstances”

He continues in another inspiring passage when he describes the effect a sunset had on one of the prisoners:

One evening, when we were already resting on the floor of our hut, dead tired, soup bowls in hand, a fellow prisoner rushed in and asked us to run out to the assembly grounds and see the wonderful sunset. Standing outside we saw sinister clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive with clouds of ever-changing shapes and colors, from steel blue to blood red. The desolate grey mud huts provided a sharp contrast, while the puddles on the muddy ground reflected the glowing sky. Then, after minutes of moving silence, one prisoner said to another, “How beautiful the world could be…”

Hope. I hear the universal hope of humanity in this prisoners words. “How beautiful the world could be…”

Witnessing and sharing the awesome beauty of art and nature is the primal, universal experience bonding we humans. It transcends all that divide us. We become united in the profound bond of hope and beauty when we immerse or selves in the soaring glory of nature’s timeless beauty.

The beauty of nature embodies the nature of beauty toward all humans. Yes, we need tangible things like shelter, food and clothing for our body comfort. But for our soul’s sake, for that intangible trait that gives us hope and inspiration, we need Beauty, Love, Art in all its forms, as much as we need open natural places of clean water and wildlife. These things are worthy of honor, celebration and our protection too, so vital for nurturing our spirits as well as insuring our survival.

Sometimes I feel insignificant in my views, my continually coming back to soulful ideas of love and beauty, beating against the wind of mighty, secular powers. But humans were ingrained with a spiritual bent for whatever reason. However we define it, we either lean toward it or away from it.

In their darkness, Viktor Frankl and the other prisoners craved to see the timeless beauty of nature. Getting a glimpse of a magnificent sunset, a pink sunrise reflected in a puddle surrounded by cold, gray mud, or the jewel-like blossom of tiny green leaves in spring, uplifted the spirits of the prisoners. For a moment their despairing minds were transported from their bleak circumstances.

It is profitable for behemoth powers to create fear and dissent among us. But it does not profit me. It robs me of hope, and trains me to fear people who do not share my views. Instead I seek to find our common ground. The miracle of nature is such a pathway of light.

I need voices like Viktor Frankl to remind me what is meaningful and true. Finding passages in his book about nature, inspires and encourages me to dig deeper into my own work as a painter of natural beauty. Society needs the voices of its artists and healers. It needs all of our collective voices speaking encouraging words of kindness, tolerance and hope.

As I worked on my painting, Timeless, I thought of this passage. It reminds me to think on these timeless things:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8

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