Into the Light


Pakistani girl in alley

To purchase my original paintings, please visit my website here.

Clearing out my Dad’s house in preparation for selling it means being reunited with some of the paintings I did for him over the years. ( A couple of them got snapped up by my siblings!  Yay!)  I always sort of liked this one, even though it is quite different from anything I usually do.

He’d been working in Pakistan and Bangladesh, helping design irrigation and drinking well projects.  I think things have not gone well with those wells in Bangladesh in recent years. It is very sad. Anyway, he liked the people there very much. He wanted me to capture the feel of an alley in Pakistan, how the buildings loom over the young girl as she walks along. She seems unaffected, serenely striding toward the light around the bend.

How different her world is from mine, yet she has something to teach me. I can read the terrible headlines and wring my hands over the state of things, or I can set my course and stride forward, not letting myself be deflected. I cannot put out the fires in California, or stop the bulldozers in Austin, but I can avoid the consumerism that drives them.

I wish you all a serene day with lots of light streaming in 🙂

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42 thoughts on “Into the Light

  1. This is so different from what I’ve seen of your work. It’s beautiful! The light and shadows are lovely. The soft color palette is very pretty. It feels so quite there.

  2. Thank you so much, Deborah. That is very high praise. The work we do in response to someone else’s request can bring something out we didn’t know was in ourselves, can’t it?

  3. Andrew says:

    It’s a fabulous painting. I made quite a few trips to Pakistan. I got to know the work of Sadequain there. Lahore is especially fine. The people are looking lovely. People see it only through the lens of CNN.

    • I’m relieved to hear you say that, Andrew. As I was posting it I began to question my memory. Lahore, yes, that is where he stayed. He brought back lots of photographs of the people and of the architecture. Lovely cut marble screens. I learned that they place those so that evening breezes will flow through, depositing moisture from dew. It is like air-conditioning!

      • Fascinating, Andrew. I well remember the young boys bouncing along on the back of jeeps, cradling machine guns, in both Brazil and Venezuela. Some could be quite impertinent, smirking and brandishing their weapons at us. Over the years we used to tease my dad that he must actually be in the CIA or some such, as he always seemed to be in an area shortly before something dreadful happened. Iran, right before the first hostages were taken, comes to mind. Much later I learned that kidnappers loved to take American engineers, because they found them to be easy targets that tended to yield good ransoms. Thank goodness nothing like that ever happened to my dad. He would describe scenarios very much like yours, and I think he was generally protected also. I am happy that you were spared great danger. What an interesting life you’ve lived. I’m so happy to know you!

      • Andrew says:

        It was one of the joys of my work Melissa. From Peru to Pakistan. Always something new and interesting to explore. Only one country made me nervous – Saudi. I never felt at ease there. Perhaps your father was in the CIA. They always have a cover identity. But often they are ‘diplomats’ so maybe dad was an engineer after all. I would love to visit Iran. Maybe if we have peaceful times ahead…..

      • I can well imagine that Saudi made you nervous. And Iran…I read books by authors from there and their rich imagery and poetry really stirs the imagination. I hope you get the chance!

  4. This really does capture a strong sense of place and you can feel the street and the looming buildings all around. I really like it. The light around the bend is particularly compelling. Thanks for sharing!

  5. So nice, Melissa! And absolutely different as far as subject matter, but it still has the qualities of your hand to it. I am not as traveled as Andrew, so don’t have any familiarity with Pakistan or many other places. It’s always nice to see another view of things other than what the mass media tosses our way.
    I am glad to hear that your siblings value your work and admire it as do we. 🙂

  6. Gallivanta says:

    A beautiful painting, Melissa. Finding these paintings (and the associated memories) perhaps lightens the work you are doing in your father’s house. Sending warm thoughts your way.

  7. Jane says:

    I really love this picture. As another commenter said, I feel like I am there. The soft colours and the way you’ve used light and shade are beautiful. I would have this on my wall. Very sad that people have suffered there since. As you say though, at least you can help by being a careful and ethical consumer. I wish you a serene day also. 🙂

  8. I was thinking the same thing – so different from what I have seen. It’s lovely! And it’s nice to see different sides to people. I think going through our old things makes us see again some different sides of ourselves that we don’t access as much anymore.

  9. What lovely comments, Jane. Thank you!

  10. Gunta says:

    Oh! I so like the lesson in this one! What great talent you have to capture so many words (thoughts) in this wonderful picture.

  11. Beautiful painting :-)! So delightfully unexpected. I love the atmosphere you created with the light and the beige and purple hues.

    It is neat that you captured a piece of your dad’s world in a painting. My dad is also an engineer who loves to travel and experience other cultures. He grew up in rural Quebec but he has always been interested in other cultures and languages. I spent my childhood living in Africa, South America and Central America.

    • Wow, did you really? That is so cool. Where in South America were you? I lived in Brazil and Venezuela. I thought you seemed cosmopolitan 🙂 Thank you for your comments about my painting. I’m so glad I have it now.

    • So you went to high school in Caracas too? Amazing. I was only there for a short time, as my mother got sick and we had to come home. I briefly went to a high school there for ex-pats. It was a beautiful school with excellent teachers. Wouldn’t it be something if we were at the same school?

      • Sorry to hear your mother got ill. Did the return home help her health?

        I went to CIC. I liked most of my teachers. Did you stay in Brazil longer?

      • My memory of that is fuzzier, but I think we were only there for 6 months or so. My dad was there for over a year, I think. Most places he went the contract lasted for up to 2 years. In Brazil we were in a coastal town called Pelotis (I’m probably spelling that wrong). I remember beautiful gardens and tiled sidewalks. Much later I learned that Roberto Burle Marx was responsible for a lot of what we saw. Beautiful.

      • Oo, a landscape architect. Neat. I couldn’t find any of his Pelotas work in the web-o-sphere but I did find out that he designed Parque del Este in Caracas. I ended up looking at Caracas on Google Maps and realized I’d never looked at it on a map before. I just let my parents take me places! It turns out there is now a sushi restaurant a few blocks from my old high school. Back then I didn’t even know sushi existed.

      • I remember gardens there, maybe he wasn’t responsible for them?? Could be. I do love his work in other areas. It is fun to look at maps and images of Caracas now, isn’t it? I’ve often wished I’d been older when we were there, so I would have noticed more. How fun to share these experiences!

      • Wow 21 years is a long time! If feel like the girl who lived in Caracas was someone else. I definitely had different interests and saw things with different eyes. The mountains and the ocean stayed with me though and I found them again as an adult when I moved to Vancouver.

      • I know what you mean, Myriam. I feel the same way, looking back. The ocean and the mountains are calling to me as well. I’m hoping to be able to move to Whidbey Island within a year! 🙂

      • Whidbey Island! Oo, it looks so beautiful :-).

  12. shoreacres says:

    The painting is lovely, Melissa. Strangely enough, it seems a perfect representation of what it was like to clear out my mother’s apartment after her death. It was like walking into the past in some ways, and walking toward the future in others. The experience brought to mind a line from Walker Percy: “To live in the past and future is easy. To live in the present is like threading a needle.”

    That’s what I see in the painting — a woman wholly in the present, passing from the past to the future.

    Quite apart from all that, I see it as a representation of something I truly loved when abroad — the markets and souks. Just being in them was exciting, and enlivening.

    • Thank you Linda 🙂
      You have a wonderful way of expressing the feel of things. At times I have felt like time was telescoping, and the present was just a thread to cling to. I love what you see!

  13. You’ve reminded me of the weeks I spent cleaning out my father’s place on Long Island in 2002, something made harder because I was away from home. It’s a hard task, but we have to do it. There are also occasional rewards in the discovery of an unsuspected document or artifact.

    Even within the world of art, I think many of us have multiple interests. Your evocative painting of the girl walking in a narrow street in Lahore is proof that you can excel outside of your familiar focus on nature. I like the verticality of the image, which flows up from the doubly tapered form of the girl and continues rising in the façades of the buildings.

  14. I surely understand your thoughts and emotions – as I have just been selling my mother’s house. So much stuff that makes you remember years back… I love this painting, wonderful, brittle light.

    • Thank you, Otto, and I am sorry for your loss as well. In our area there are suddenly lots of old houses on the market that haven’t been available for 40 years. I think a lot of us are finding ourselves with housefuls of memories to sift through, which is a comfort to realize.

  15. Beautiful painting and words of delight… Nice to meet you here… I’m going to enjoy our friendship… Barbara x

  16. Ellen Hawley says:

    Haunting painting, and a haunting commentary on it as well.

  17. Oo, I love it that you find it haunting! thank you 🙂

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