I was shocked when she said it. I couldn’t believe my ears. I looked at my mother, who couldn’t hide her surprise either. What did she say? We were riding in the car together with my sister-in-law’s mother. Headed to some sort of family event that had spread to include a good portion of this small town. We were discussing the family tree. She asked about one of my mom’s brothers. Surely she couldn’t be thinking of Uncle Tom, I thought. “Oh, yes!” she continued, “he’s so handsome!”
No disrespect to my Uncle Tom. But this is not how he had been branded to me. He was the rough one. Tough one. Bold. Straight talking. Intimidating? Sure. Colorful? Indeed. And I guess, once we’re presented with something, we often stop looking, as if this were the only answer.
After the event I went home and looked at the family portrait. I guess he was handsome. Huh! I wonder if he knew. I hope so.
I love to paint birds. You might think the colorful ones offer the biggest in painting lessons, but for me, that’s not really true. The black bird is a beauty that really forces you to see. Because to create the deep richness of the black, you have to see all the other subtle colors. The blues. The grays. The taupes. And browns. There is no depth without these other colors. And with no depth, there really is no beauty.
But where does the responsibility lie? Within whom? Is it up to the person to show you their true colors? Or the viewer to see it? I suppose it’s both. And this is not a hardship – no, this is something! Because when you look, and you see it, it makes you feel special — you are allowed into all the beauty. You get to see beyond the shadowed wings of the blackbird and watch the glorious flight. You get to see beyond the expletives of your uncle’s mouth. Beyond the overalls and slight smell of cow, and think, wow, he really was handsome.
I have been flawed. I haven’t always seen what is right in front of me. But I’m learning. I’m trying to do better. Be better. And like the Blackbird song says, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly…”