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By Laurel Pattenden

“The sunflower is mine, in a way.”

After attending the Vincent Van Gogh immersive exhibit art show, I read a book called Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman. The book was based on the numerous letters exchanged between the brothers.

Theo emotionally and financially supported his brother, Vincent, his whole adult life. The brothers were extremely close. Vincent, as most of us know, had a very tumultuous life. Living with mental illness, he often did not care or was unable to care for himself and experienced poverty, hunger and inappropriate living conditions. He would buy paint instead of food or heat.

“Normality is a paved road; it is comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.”

Vincent worked very hard and produced a very large number of paintings and drawings during his short life. He sought God, colour, nature and beauty. It was really his profound desire to produce beauty in his art that propelled him.

 “I long so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things require effort and disappointment and perseverance.”

It was as if Vincent was trying to reach out and touch beauty with his brush. Have you ever tried to touch beauty? Or captivate beauty in your heart?

We think taking a photo will help us remember, or underlining a passage in a book. (Warning: Do not do this with a library book!) But according to Vincent “It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning’”.

Autumn is a season that makes me want to touch beauty. Vincent would have approved of all the colours that come our way during our Thanksgiving season in Ontario. The variety of golds, reds, oranges and yellows that paint the trees, in our yards and parks, are available for all our eyes and hearts to drink in. The bounty of the Thanksgiving harvest is also a bounty of beauty.

The fall harvests have taken the same road in life as Vincent. Tumultuous. The tiny pumpkin seed or the fragrant apple blossom endures many perils.

 Too much rain or too little rain. Soils lacking proper nourishment. Late frost or early frost. It is a long journey to make it to an autumn harvest. The tiny seed or bud works so hard. The ripening of a tree fruit or garden vegetable is like a birthing of beauty. Do you think Vincent would agree with that statement? I think he might have.

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”

Now, I may begin to go a bit too far in my thinking here but let me know. (The worst that can happen is my column will get cancelled.) Could our autumn harvest be the same as beauty? Does harvest equal beauty?

Vincent did because he strove to paint beauty and he painted harvests. Are the things that sustain us in life an act of beauty? Definitely a yes for me!

Learning about Vincent Van Gogh can make us more aware of beauty.

“Find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful.”

 Maybe that is what our harvest season is all about. Beauty. Not getting stuck on the tumultuous road of life but reaching out to touch beauty with our hearts. Our Thanksgiving.

(Quotes in italic: Vincent Van Gogh)
(Illustration: Laurel Pattenden. NOT A VINCENT, Acryllic, 2023)

 Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.