Painting to a mystery

We will begin today with something that I just wrote. (Yeah…I know…everything in my blog is “something I just wrote”…work with me on this.) At any rate…it has been quite some time since something poetic has entered my mind, and it is time to share. You are, of course, invited to stick around as well for the long-winded follow-up, where things are explained in detail. So…here you go…


She holds the relics
Faded remnants of another day
The touchstones of your being
Touch her spirit in the mystical way
The mother of Abidan

She sees the visions
Trusted to her vision to hold
Painting to a mystery
Filling pages as a story unfolds
The mother of Abidan

And you will remain alive
In the singing of her song
You will remain alive
By the mother of Abidan

She hears the voices
Distant echoes from the faraway
Called to hear their calling
Giving voice to what is given to say
The mother of Abidan

She knows the secrets
Held aside for her to behold
Whispers to the keepers
Breathing life into the stories untold
The mother of Abidan

And you will remain alive
In the singing of her song
You will remain alive
By the mother of Abidan


So, anyhow. First off, you are likely wondering how I came up with that word, “Abidan”. Hint #1: I didn’t…more on that shortly. Hint #2: If you just returned to this page after Googling “Abidan”, good on you. For returning, that is. Inasmuch as you probably have already been led astray by the results that no doubt appeared on your screen. Because the Abidan who generates the vast majority of Google hits is a Biblical character from Exodus whose name translates as “father is judge”…which has nothing at all to do with this.

You see, “Abidan” is not a person so much as a concept. In this case, it comes from the Old English – sometimes seen written as “ābīdan” – which has among its translations “remain alive”. (Perhaps not coincidentally, it is also the root of our current word “abide”.) At any rate: “Abidan”, as defined here, was used by my artist friend Donna Meyer in a work entitled “Abidan (Remain Alive)”. As a side note, this work is currently on display at the Center for the Visual Arts in Wausau, Wisconsin through the end of 2016 as part of the center’s “Roots” display. And I highly recommend that you check it out – and not just because Donna is my friend (although that counts for something on its own, y’know); I personally found it to be very intriguing on its own merits…and there are numerous other wonderful pieces of work on display by other artists as well…worth a bit of your time, in my humble opinion.

Donna’s work is a series of photographs which merge images of people and objects from the past, creating visual narratives in one’s imagination of the people who may have used these objects. As she has stated in her own words: “Even though my conclusions to these questions may be suitable to me the answers, ultimately, remain a mystery.” As I was reading her statement while looking at one of the pictures, it (perhaps subconsciously) dawned on me that this was very similar to the sense I occasionally experienced looking at photos of many of my ancestors…people of whose daily lives I knew nothing at all save for pictures in my imagination. And somehow, this resonated to my soul on a level not so much defined as felt.

And, as has happened unexpectedly from time to time, a seed of imagination was planted in my mind. I envisioned a being who “knew”. Someone who had the power to enable those long gone to “remain alive”. A mother of Abidan, if you will.

But who, exactly, might this Mother of Abidan be? Clearly, Donna – both as the literal mother of Abidan (defined as her artwork), and as the one in whose mind the narratives appear – inspired the writing, and can rightly claim the title. But, at the same time…could it also be the being as manifest in my imagination? Or could it be each of us, regardless of gender, called to help those who came before us to remain alive by relating what we know of them to those who have come after? Does one have a claim larger than the other…or can it be said that each have a full share in their own way?  Again, ultimately, a mystery.

The words that the mystery inspired are written out at the top of the page. The mystery itself belongs to each of us, each in our own way. Paint to it as you will.


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