Oil on panel, 9×12″ (larger)
On Sunday I painted at the small, historic Alhambra Cemetery in Martinez, where we had an amazing view of marshes and Benicia across the Carquinez Straits. An elderly Japanese church group and their pastor were holding a memorial service for the fallen soldiers buried there but didn’t mind us painting among the graves. Since the residents were buried between 1851 to 1999, I’m sure they “fell” in many different wars.
I hate all the euphemisms used about war that gloss over the the sacrifices and suffering. The two that particularly irk me are “in harm’s way” and “fallen” soldiers.
When I hear politicians talking about soldiers “in harms way” I can’t help but thinking, “Yeah, and you sent them there!” “In harms’ way” is in passive voice which removes all responsibility from the phrase. It sounds as if they just ended up there by accident, like “I was taking a walk and found myself on Harms Way when I meant to be on Walnut Way.”
The same is true of “fallen soldiers.” No verb or anyone taking responsibility there either. The soldier just accidentally wandered onto Harms Way and then, Oops, down he fell.
When my son Cody was in Kindergarten he desperately wanted a G.I. Joe lunch box. We were walking through the supermarket and he saw them on the shelf and started whining and begging for one. I grabbed the plastic box, showed him the explosive picture on the cover and began ranting: “You see this? That’s a bomb going off! You see this G.I. Joe guy? That bomb is about to kill him and tear him to shreds! That guy has a mommy and his mommy is going to cry and cry forever because her little boy got blown up by a bomb. And no, I’m not going to buy you a lunch box with a picture of someone’s little boy getting killed on it!”
I still have my “War is not health for children and other living things” pendant and poster from the Viet Nam war, which destroyed so many of the boys I knew in high school. I feel such sadness and compassion for the soldiers and their families whose lives are being destroyed by our current war.
This isn’t meant to be a political blog so I’ll stop my rant by offering a prayer for peace and for healing for all those who are suffering because of war, regardless of which war or what side they’re on.
About the painting and the site: To get into the cemetery you have to first stop by the the Martinez police department to pick up the key to the entry gate which is kept locked. Although I ran out of time and hadn’t fully developed the bottom 1/3 of the painting, the sky, or the water, my other plein air group members said they liked it as is and to leave it, so I did. What interested me about the scene and what I wanted to paint was the pinky-golden hills and I was actually happy with the way they turned out — a first for me and hills.
I’m learning to appreciate and treasure the smallest passages that succeed in my paintings, even if the painting as a whole doesn’t work. They give me hope and a glimpse of successful days to come.