Dita Parker

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Love actually

I attended the best kind of wedding last weekend, one that looked exactly like the happy couple; it could not have been anyone else's ceremony. It was a large gathering of family and friends ages zero to eighty something, and not a stiff upper lip in the house, just a sweet day that had us sighing and crying and a fun night that saw us laughing and smiling.

I've known the groom for twenty years, watched him grow from where-shall-I go-what-shall-I-do to a seaman to the dashing sea captain he is today. (I kid you not, even the guys had to admit he looked awesome in that uniform.) I've known the bride for far less than that, but one thing is evident and makes me sooo happy for him: a fun-loving, life-loving, adventurous man has found someone who'll have no trouble keeping up with him. Alas, the last of the Mohicans has been tamed. Actually, his friends could not be happier that it is so.

It was good seeing people I don't see too often in person. As much as I appreciate modern technology (and a decent waterproof mascara) and all the ways in which I can keep up with friends all over the world (I wish I'd had that in my early youth) it will never ever be the same as hugging someone, sitting down for a chat, shimmying the night away on the dance floor, looking them in the eye and telling them I have truly missed you, kissing someone and wishing them every happiness.

All in all, it was a very life-affirming weekend, and the world being what it is, life being what it is, there are never enough of those. Then again, why should happiness be the anomaly and the rest the norm? Why is happiness so often followed by some measure of guilt, or fear? Survivor guilt, fear of loss. Because nothing lasts forever? What if you chose happiness, love, life, light? Because nothing lasts forever. Could you take it?

I saw the Carl Larsson exhibition at the Finnish National Gallery, a broad selection of definitive works and rare gems alike. I'd seen his art in books and posters and postcards, more often than not depictions of hearth and home, days in the sun, children at play, the great outdoors, flowers, self-portraits, his chin held high, a mischievous grin on his lips, light light light. What I didn't know was how much of a muse, how tremendous an enabler, how deeply loved and how talented in her own right his wife Karin was. I knew nothing about his humble beginnings or the defeats he encountered late in life and in his career. I hadn't seen the book illustrations he'd done, dark, detailed, morose even, so unlike anything he painted in his dear Sundborn, the images the mind's eye sees when you hear the name Carl Larsson.

I had no idea all that light came from a very dark place, a place his friend August Strindberg accused Larsson of turning his back on so he could paint travesties of life and living, an accusation that led to a falling out and left Larsson hurting. Because the man knew his shadows. They followed him all his life. They're all over his art, small details you catch on your tenth or twentieth viewing; when did that get there? But he made a conscious decision to stand with his face to the sun. The shadow still stood there. Of course he knew that, but turning his back on all that light would have left him with nothing but that shadow and that's where he would have disappeared, engulfed by things that were just as much a part of him as everything the sun had touched.

Why is it more honest, more true to life, more genuine to stand in the dark? Why is it naive, false, desperate, hopeless, to opt for the light? Because there are apt to be disappointments? Well, duh. I submit to you that it is much easier to give in to depressed thoughts, expect failure and fail yourself than to keep up hope, press on, and save yourself. So don't tell me to take off the rose-colored glasses. You first with the crap goggles.

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