The weather was unseasonable for mid-April. Pouring buckets of rain, thunder booming and lightening flashing across the Oxnard plains. More like a mid-winter storm, but a perfect atmospheric background for painting the seasons of life in shades of gray, the latest art activity for the women at the Lighthouse, a fifteen-month, faith-based, residential treatment program for those recovering from substance abuse.

Asked to divide their life into four segments, they were to create in shades of gray, with perhaps a splash of color, scenes and symbols that represented their life story. I love it when a whole room of women get quiet making art. It often means they are deeply engaged with wanting to accurately represent their stories in a meaningful manner. Unconscionable stories that should never appear in anyone’s seasons of life.

The uncle who molested his niece, the father who attempted to kill his daughter by running over her as she walked in a crosswalk, the daughter born in jail who eventually found her mother dead on the bathroom floor from an overdose when she was four, the wife whose husband fathered a child with a co-worker where she worked. Multiple stories of disrupted, chaotic childhoods marred by divorce, death and dislocation. Some have no detailed memory of their childhoods because numbing or blanking out were the only “successful” coping strategies available to them as children. Is it any wonder that alcohol and drugs seemed a solace to their anxiety and depression?  

Yet…yet there are glimpses of hope. The splashes of color and detail that begin to appear in the middle picture above is a heart warming example. Deeply depressed and withdrawn when she arrived at the Lighthouse months ago, a wealth of detail emerged as Kika shared her seasons of  life. Previously, her art work has been very dark, non-representational and muted. The lower left quadrant of her painting speaks volumes about that time in her life. Now she’s adding color and detail into some areas of her life story. But by her own admission, there’s hope in her life even if the outer dark border in the fourth quadrant represents her reluctance to talk about the stuff that still troubles her. During our debriefing time I said to her, “You’ve known me and I’ve known you long enough to know that this painting represents real growth and healing in your life. And if I were to talk with your case manager about your progress, this picture would be a tangible marker of that. Sweet!”

But…but…soft drum roll here…several of the women painted something altogether “unseasonable.” The most common division of each woman’s seasons of life isn’t winter, spring, summer or fall. It’s the early joys and traumas of childhood, the confusion and poor choices of adolescence and young adulthood, the chaos of addition, and the arrival at the Lighthouse representing the beginning of ascent and a glimmer of hope. But Teri’s arrival at the Lighthouse is in the upper right quadrant followed by the  green of an emerging life. Interestingly, an unfenced green tree blooms in her future. She often draws pictures of fences with green fields beyond representing the wished for but unattainable. I wonder if she’s noticed the difference? I’ll have to ask. 

Another exceptional “seasoned” woman at the Lighthouse is nearing graduation in the next few months, a truly significant accomplishment. Jeanette enthusiastically shared she’d gotten a job, then flashed an engagement ring from the father of her children. Life is coming together. In the midst of preparing lunch, she dashed into the art/dining room to create just one “unseasonable” image – a colorful upward image of the journey she’s on with her family. Her season of life painting is all about the abiding, arriving season of hope ahead. May it be unto her according to Your will.

If you were to divide your life into four “seasons,” what would be represented in each quadrant? What scenes and symbols would you use to communicate your story? If you were to share your painting, what colorful details would you add to fill out your story? Where has the “unseasonable” season of hope entered any of your story?

Thanks for journeying with the ladies at the Lighthouse. Your comments mean so much to them.



4 comments to Unseasonable

  • cynthia thomas

    hi lynne–
    i’m in the midst of processing the present season of my life. i was given a 6-session scholarship with julie, a psychologist. my goal for these 6 sessions was to get started on a path of acceptance: for my living situation & my current limitations from my stroke. it’s frustrating that it always comes back to my stroke. but i’m at a place in my life where i can no longer deny or minimize the impact the stroke has had on my life. 2 weeks ago, i realized that the birds have to make a new home/nest every spring. i only need to do it this spring. so, i want to make a bird nest, with a bird sitting in it. i have some packing material that will be perfect for the nest when i weave ribbon thru the open spaces.

    then my next project will be to finish the valance for the slider in my living room. it is a prayer flag style. the 8″ squares are a collage of items representing my life accomplishments that have led me to this time in my life. for example, there are bits of paper or fabric from significant people in my life, the torn up copy of my speech pathology license & college diploma, the sales brochure for my condo–the place where my creativity really bloomed, etc. these materials will be layered on the squares, then a sheer polyester fabric on the top. the top layer will be lightly melted with my heat gun because life is not perfect. then the squares will be sewn to a ribbon or bias tape & hung. what would we do without our art?!! it’s my most effective way to process emotional stuff. a valuable tool in life. thanks for the post. cynthia

  • Maria

    What powerful stories–it never ceases to amaze me. I’ve done something similar with having women I work with begin with a circle divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant was to be a small reflection of one of four life events they needed to include in their work. This art piece followed our work with the song “Crossroads” by Don McLean on his album American Pie. The women found it particularly meaningful.

    As Always, thanks so much for sharing their inspiring work.

  • Robin Rice

    I love this question. My four seasons: Early childhood, College, Motherhood and Retirement. The drawings would reflect my internal identification of self. In childhood, a sea of grass and wondering if anyone else or everyone else thought the same way I did. College: A hilltop, looking at the rest of the world while I climbed to the the top. Motherhood – a raging river which swept me further downstream, no matter how hard I paddled. Retirement – a smooth lake, a kayak, a paddle, gentle wind and birds calling to each other. Oh yeah – while I eat chocolate.

  • Karen

    I think the image that best represents my life is my life as a runner.

    The first image of my life is of me beginning a long run- vulnerable and dependent- gaining strength, endurance and skill through every good and bad that I encounter. The running conditions are less than optimal-stormy weather and lots of hills. But, the view scenic spots on steep hills and drive to finish keep me going.

    The road meanders into the second phase and running conditions have improved. I’m learning to run effeciently, getting rid of hinderances and picking up the pace. This is the phase that I began running with a friend who had been with me all along, but this is the beginning of my allowing him to be all that He is in my life. He is my guide leading me and teaching me how to be an exemplary runner. Running conditions have improved a little. The steep hills have become my friends and I’m learning to relax especially while running down hill and on. The worst of the storm has moved on. And the bright blue sunbeamed sky between the clouds is breathtaking.

    Third phase has been mainly hilly and flat and I’m running in a completely new environment. My pace has slowed down and I’m working on applying lessons and principles my Guide has taught me. Learning to run in heat and humidity has been a challenge, but getting up early in the morning to get through the most challenging portion of the day’s journey has been a great help.

    I don’t know what the fourth phase will bring so it’s a blank box. I do know my Guide will not take me through anything I can’t handle. My focus will still be running the best I can and continuing growing through all the lessons my Guide has in store for me.

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