Vincent van Gogh and the Oncoming Fall

With September beginning, you may as well know: I adore fall, my favorite season of the year. I think it is the truest to itself, the most honest and inviting, the one that reveals everything about itself but you have to look once then twice to see it all.

I love the crisp air that seems to move through you, becoming a part of you. The sharp air you take into your lungs and feel it settling in, slowly warming up to you. I love the leaves of fall, the colors that slowly seep from the crunchy points, transforming before my eyes into something lifeless yet gorgeous – a paradox of beauty. Warm golden hues for a season of empty branches and gray skies.

I think fall is nature showing off with a sly grin. In a season of endings, nature reaches into the cupboard and selects a new palette of the just the right colors, winks at us from behind his artist easel, and says “Watch me carefully. Watch me create something beautiful.” And so he does, with a childlike glee, tempting us to love him with the colors and scents and promises that come with a new season. We fall for him, tripping over our feet to keep up with the magic he weaves around us, to appreciate the fleeting beauty before it fades into nothing.

My soul is crafted from that lingering autumn magic; my heart is stitched together with threads dyed the colors of the golden leaves and cloud-filled skies. My eyes are the deep chocolate brown of a much craved cup of hot cocoa, and my hair hints at the swirling leaves, reddish strands that peek out when they are feeling adventurous. My too-pale cheeks flush under a crisp breeze, chilled yet alive.

And I am borne of the emptiness of the tree branches. The dreariness of the skies. The fragile edge of the trampled leaves. A threatening darkness that calls itself “Depression” and leaves pain in its wake. Each of those feelings lurks in my fingertips, the corner of my would-be smile, the cracks around my heart. Each comes forth to be worn and felt in their own season. A tortured beauty. I feel often like the leaf being carelessly tossed about in the wind, nowhere to land but nowhere to go. Forever searching until it has lost its way.

Anytime I think of fall, my mind drifts to Vincent van Gogh and his deep, rich palette of autumn colors that seemed to melt into each other. I think of the artist who took a simple brush and simple colors and created for the world something beyond simple, something beyond beauty. Something brilliant. I look at his work – at his starry skies and sunflower-filled vases and honest self-portraits – and close my eyes and remember that he never knew how gorgeous his paintings were. I remember that his life one was of hardship and frustration and being told that his passion was worthless. I imagine that pain, like a biting wind cutting through you over and over, chilling you slowly from the outside in, until there is nothing left.

Then I remember an episode of Doctor Who featuring the beloved Vincent. I remember the apology the writers seemed to be offering to the man who was unappreciated and unloved in his time. I look at Starry Night and Vincent’s Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, and hear the words of the curator echoing in my ears:

“To me Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of color most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.”

He took his pain and transformed it. He brought forth the thoughts and feelings that tortured his heart and assigned them colors. He dipped his brush in them and gave them back to a world that had ridiculed him. He covered canvas after canvas with his pain, but a heart so beautiful, a mind so rich with passion and talent, could never create something hideous. Instead, Vincent painted masterpieces, snapshots of the magnificent soul that lingered beneath pain. He took the darkness of his mind and shined a golden light through it and dared the world to see things as he did.

And I love him for it. Because we live in a world gives us darkness and emptiness, everything drained of color and life and passion, and tells us to live in it. We live in fall’s empty branches but without the vibrant red leaves to keep us company. We are told that the skies are gray, but often forget how swiftly and beautifully they moved across the sky, dancing with the wind. We are told of the lifelessness and listlessness of the world, but do not remember that even endings can beautiful. Even pain can be transformed. Even the stark emptiness can be filled with color, like a waiting canvas. You need only to choose the right palette.

So take the emptiness, the pain, the darkness that life throws at you and make something out of it. Twist it and mold it into a work of beauty, a reflection of your heart and soul. Find your struggles and your pain and give them words to be spilled or colors to be splashed on paper. Close your eyes and think of Vincent van Gogh and remember that sometimes the world is wrong. Sometimes it forgets. And then listen carefully and remember these words, spoken by Vincent to the Doctor and Amy Pond:

“Look at the sky. It’s not dark and black and without character. The black is, in fact deep blue. And over there: lighter blue and blowing through the blues and blackness the winds swirling through the air and then shining, burning, bursting through: the stars! And you see how they roar their light. Everywhere we look, the complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.”

Go into the world and roar your light through the empty branches.

Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter >> @cassiclerget. I’m pretty entertaining.


One thought on “Vincent van Gogh and the Oncoming Fall

  1. Geez Cassi…,
    That is some Seriously Great Writing,…pulling on the hearts of those who love Fall, or opening eyes, for those who don’t quite see it yet,…
    Thanks, and Well Done

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