Some of you might already know my degree in college was Bachelors of Science – Fine Arts. If memory serves me correctly, I think I took at least three art history classes. I always did well in these classes even though they were heavily taxing on my memorization skills. I think what made it easier for me is because I always wondered about the back story. You know there is always a back story to everything.
The Woman in the Painting was named, Anna Christina Olsen (1893-1968) who was a lifelong resident of the Cushing, Maine & a longtime friend and neighbor of Andrew Wyeth, the painter. “Christina” has a degenerative muscular disorder that took away her ability to walk by the late 1920s. She chose to forgo a wheelchair and instead, crawled around her house and grounds. The house is still there today and is a historical landmark. Wyeth is quoted to say, “The challenge for me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of life which most people would consider hopeless,” he wrote. “If in some small way I have been able in the paint to make the viewer sense that her world may be limited physically but by no means spiritually, then I have achieved what I set out to do.”
When I look at this painting as a mature adult, two things immediately jump out at me that I never really understood when I was in college.
1 HOPELESSNESS turned into DETERMINATION – Here is this woman who was dealt a hand in life that would have caused most to fold! BUT instead, she chose NOT to ALLOW her physical limitations and circumstances force her into a life of HOPELESSNESS.
I believe at some point in her life, she made the decision to CONQUER LIFE instead of allowing life to defeat HER! If this meant LOOKING FORWARD & CRAWLING on the ground and getting her hands, her clothes and body ALL DIRTY to get where she needed to go… so be it.
YES, sometimes life knocks us down along the way, and we HAVE to make the decision to either STAY DOWN & BE DEFEATED or PICK OURSELVES UP & MOVE ON…even if it means crawling through dirt to get there. Don’t FEAR the DIRT you might face along the way. It’s just DIRT & it’s TEMPORARY & CAN be washed away!
2 UNBROKEN SPIRIT – EVEN THOUGH Christine had significant physical limitations, SHE NEVER LET IT CRUSH OR LIMIT HER SPIRIT! Sometimes life blindsides us and leaves us feeling helpless & hopeless. Although we CAN NOT CONTROL everything life throws at us, WE CAN CONTROL whether or not we allow it to CRUSH our spirits.
I believe Christine came to the point where she realized that while she COULDN’T CONTROL HER PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS…SHE COULD CONTROL HER OUTLOOK AND HER THINKING. When she gave herself HOPE, she was able to live a life that reflected her INTER SELF rather than her OUTER CIRCUMSTANCES!
I know for myself that DYSLEXIA can knock you down MORE times than I or any parent would like, but we all have to CHOOSE to get back up! WE get to determine WHAT WE ARE GOING TO ALLOW TO BELIEVE. I also know that what I CHOOSE to believe for that day will be reflected in how I live out my day. We need to teach our children this lesson as well. Yes, there are limitations with dyslexia, but I guarantee you that the limitations we “THINK” we have are far greater. Let’s not FEAR the DIRT that we collect on our way with living with DYSLEXIA. That DIRT can be WASHED away.