The week or two leading up to Vera’s regular MRI’s are challenging. They are every 3 months. Before the last one, in September, I had a long night of fear, despair and tears, and finally I laid it at the mercy of, I don’t even know what to call it, God I guess. I prayed for mercy.
In the morning, I opened the front door to do a mundane package check, I’ve been filling the void with a bit too much shopping. And when I swung the door open, I startled an actual white dove, apparently just hanging out on the step. She fluttered up and away into the blue sky, wings and tail all fanned out. If was completely surreal. And I cried most of the morning.
A couple days later, we got a call from the oncology team. The MRI actually looked IMPROVED from the last one in July.
The dove is now my touchstone talisman of faith. And hope. Which in my mind have become the same thing.
I wear a little dove pendant, and I’m redecorating the kitchen with a fabric valance and wallpaper with little white doves, flowers and mushrooms. Charmingly kitschy in 70s palette of gold, orange, red and cream.
I want to remember that feeling of carthartic surrender to faith. And the stunningly immediate and clear answer I received.
I’ve found that faith, like creative inspiration, is not the elated feeling you want it to be. It’s too easy to confuse emotional intensity with the thing itself.
In creative work, you have to show up and do the work when your enthusiasm and inspiration might be low. You need to work through that and generate the heat. It seems that faith is very much the same. You need it most when you can’t hear the angels singing. You are in the dark, damp corners of your despair, and that’s when it’s necessary to actively remind yourself of the necessity of faith.
Love is similar. An active commitment, not the shiny thrill of infatuation. It’s deeper, and quieter. It’s a sort of faith. Creativity is faith. Maintaining faith requires creativity. And they are all bound up in trust and love. And courage.
And if that all sounds so abstract as to be almost meaningless, it’s because it really is too big, beyond our monkey minds to grasp. We are only given hints. And we need to be quiet and humble to hear them. That’s why the most effective way to cultivate faith and any creative pursuit is to have some kind of practice. A practice of showing up, of pushing creatively, of meditating on faith, of loving humbly and letting love overcome ego and fear. Because that’s all there really is.
I recently discovered the story of Polina Raiko via art critic Jerry Saltz rich and entertaining Instagram feed. She is a huge inspiration. After terrible difficulties and loss, she began to paint the interior of her little house at the age of 69, spending almost her entire pension on paint until her death in 2004. She created joy and connection through daily practice.
Just look at all those hopeful white doves. They are a symbol of peace, spirit, hope and perseverance.
And that is what we are trying to practice. Turning our faces to the light.