The Still, Good Life

The language and still life of food
Like a still life painting, three pears cuddled in my favorite green bowl. They formed a yellow circle with the rosy blush of one fruit.
           If only I could boast they came from our small orchard of six trees. Not this autumn. Perhaps drought is to blame. Although our dwarf peach yielded three mountaintop pies and a dozen pints of preserves by Labor Day, just one puny pear survived to make our mouths water. I sliced and tossed it in a butter lettuce salad with black currants and walnuts.
           So I gambled good money last week and bought three organic pears. Sometimes they don’t ripen after their continental journey—and pears bruise if you look at them the wrong way. That’s why I devoted my locally crafted pottery to them alone.  
Three days later the blushing pear called my name. The beautiful composition and color spoke of my three daughters—stories of maternal love, growth, and letting go.
I once fed my children in this home. One by one, they stepped from their circle and center of my life. As I left my mother. As my mother left my granny. And so life unwinds to the beginning of time.
In Albrecht Dürer’s “restless examination of nature”, he painted watercolor studies of fruit and created “precise drawings of flora and fauna.” I appreciate the artist’s High Renaissance subjects of the natural world.

At this place in my life, I’d rather eat fruit and arrange flowers than paint them. Yet, my three delicious pears are well consumed and have me musing. Perhaps someday I’ll resurrect my pastels and copy Mary Cassatt’s Lilacs in a Window. I’d like to capture the hues and ancestry of my mother’s heirloom lilacs transplanted to my backyard long ago. 
Cassatt’s contemporary and French Impressionist Paul Cézanne said it best, I think. “When color is richest, form is fullest.”
It was this formula that first drew my eye to the DIA’s Cherokee Roses by American artist Martin Johnson Heade. The contrast of white petals and yellow stamens resting on scarlet cloth moved me with similar quietude as my pears in a bowl.
These art experiences have come vicariously by pondering the meaning of numerous still life paintings in the DIA’s Dutch and American galleries. I’m discovering the movement, symbolism, and history within the compositions.

Dear Reader, now is apple season in Michigan. That means a drive to local orchards for cider and cinnamon doughnuts. Since our apple trees didn’t yield either, I’ll buy enough Northern Spy for several pies and crisps.
This is pure living, the real thing Cézanne painted in Still Life with Basket of Apples. “A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art,” he once said.
I remember making applesauce with my mother in our Detroit home thirty-five years ago, and know what he meant.
The still life is the good life because it is loving and lasting.