In Search of Serenity

Not all those who wander are lost. J.R.R. Tolkien

I had no idea what to expect when I first volunteered at the Detroit Institute of Arts. All I knew is I needed art. High and wide galleries of it. After eight years of grooming gardens and lavender fields, I longed to lose myself within marble halls hung with painted landscapes.
Carol, my Art Buddy, provoked this desire whenever she spoke of her solitary strolls through the museum during her shift in Gallery Service. Heaven was in her voice.
After required training, I met Carol at the DIA in March 2013 for my first volunteer experience. I draped the DIA lanyard over my neck and descended the stairs into one of the most remarkable art collections in our country.
Where else in America may we escape into the innocent eyes of William Bouguereau’s “Nut Gatherers” painted in 1882? Where else may we find Evangeline’s folded hands as Samuel Richards imagined them in “Evangeline Discovering Her Affianced in the Hospital”?
I have never been disappointed when leaving that beautiful house of humanity. Even though driving I75 isn’t my ideal pastime, I’m more aware of my likeness to life portrayed throughout the ages in stone and on canvas. The reward of wandering the galleries overwhelms the cost.
True, not everyone finds tranquility in art museums. Many find peace in their workbench, sailboat or guitar. As Richardson Wright says in my beloved Gardener’s Bed-Book, “There is no one highroad to this blissful state. The ways thither cut across the rude and ugly heart of the world, through its turmoil and its noise and its bewildering complications.”
No, dear reader, two years ago I did not foresee the impact of serenity within the walls of the DIA. I breathed its air nonetheless, witnessed the steady stream of seekers climb the stairs into the Great Hall, eyes full of wonder.
Then last weekend, in the stillness of my volunteer post at the Wisteria Gates, a middle-aged man and a teenaged boy ambled the length of the Great Hall in sunlight. Tall and lanky, the boy’s autistic body and vocal language were unmistakable.
As if on a quest, the escort guided the boy through the Wisteria Gates and stood before Rivera’s murals. The teen clung to the man’s shoulder, sought his eyes. They behaved like father and son.
Later, while I relaxed in Kresge Court during my shift break, I observed the two lounging on a sofa. Head to head, the father and son drifted into sleep, the art of living perfected in their imperfection.
I felt Heaven in their quietude, a similar rest I find when standing before Evangeline’s hands clasping joy and sorrow. Joy for the sight of her long lost betrothed; sorrow for his sickness onto death.
Time and again, we wander through “turmoil and its noise and its bewildering complications” to find relief from our afflictions. Praise our Heavenly Muse! We find our cure in places, objects and people we least expect.