Conversation – 27 September 2021
Two young women sit together, one is listening and the other is speaking. The viewer’s gaze passes from one to the other, back and forth. This is a conversation. The one who listens sits still. Her mouth is closed, and her eyes are intently on the face of the other. Her hands lay in her lap palm up, and the speaker has laid one hand across them. The open fingers touch, but do not close around each other, a gesture which is inviting and welcoming.
The woman speaking is intent and animated. She leans in towards the listener. Her mouth is open, as she looks into the eyes of the listener. She has raised her right arm, and speaks also with her fingers. She is being precise in her gesture and in her words. She is expressing all that is on her mind at this moment.
Behind the women is a yellow wallpaper, which frames their upper bodies. The colour adds to the sense of movement of the conversation, also being used for the chair on the right. Interestingly, such coloured wallpaper became a metaphor during first-wave feminism for the silencing of women. (See Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper). But not here – this is a deep and good conversation, with quality listening and an expression of care.
This picture is Coversazione Interessante, by Federigo Zandomeneghi (1841-1917), a Venetian who spent the greatest part of his life in Paris, working along side Impressionists. He was greatly influenced by Mary Cassatt. In his later life he moved to using pastels, as here, a cheaper medium than paint.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;
1 James 1:19
You say I am repeating
Something I have said before.
I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
T S Eliot, Four Quartets 2:East Coker (III)
Loving and faithful God
in the silence help us to make space
to listen to what you want to say to us.
Enable us to be fully present with you
and one another.
Be present in the spaces between us as we listen.
We ask this in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen