Advent Day Nine
December 9, 2013
Advent Day Eleven
December 11, 2013
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Advent Day Ten

Last night at dinner, Doug and I were discussing Thomas Jefferson’s trifecta–his top three luminaries (John Locke, Francis Bacon and Sir Isaac Newton) and then our top three luminaries.

Doug: Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Richard Pryor.

Me: Ben Franklin, Sister Corita and then it gets difficult. Here are my possibilities: Rainer Maria Rilke, Georgia O’Keeffe, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Paul Tillich, Saint Ignatius, Thoreau, Emerson. I’m sure others are missing from this list.

Then I started to think about my top paintings/artworks. Which reminded me of this one:

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

I don’t remember when I first saw this painting, but the light, dimensionality and the facial expression of Mary transfixed me. I visit the painting  when I am in Philadelphia, sitting in front of it in my own kind of meditation. Mary, along with the luminaries listed above were people who took intellectual, artistic, scientific and political risks. People who walked along their edge of critical and creative thinking. They took their task seriously, even when they didn’t want to do what they were called to do.

photo-9I’m not sure how any of this relates to today’s collage. Maybe you can tell me. And tell me your top luminaries too…I’d love to hear who inspires you.



  1. Oh Melanie, what a beautiful reflection and then the collage. As I look at it, there is a bowing figure in the foreground…and moss…and the moon…which all feel feminine to me, devotional and introspective.
    My Trifecta shifts around a lot…right now it is Rumi, Christian McEwen and Jan Phillips. One ancient, two contemporary. Very. One nearly local. But in the bigger swing of influences on my daily life and my thinking, I’d say, those three, even there. I have been really impacted by Paulus Berensohn, Martha Graham, Sam Shepard, Meryl Streep, Bonnie Raitt, Margaret Atwood, Mary Oliver, Nina Paley, Deva Premal, Jill Rogers, Regena Thomashauer, John Fowles, Mary Renault, Anton Chekov, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Gabrielle Munter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jan Lawry, Ruth Krauss, Willa Cather, Judy Chicago, Georgia O’Keefe, Matisse, Hemingway, David Whyte, Joni Mitchell, Elizabeth Zimmerman, Taj Majal, Garrison Keillor, Jim Harrison, James Taylor, Carole King, Hilary Clinton, Romare Bearden,Gloria Steinem, Tillie Olsen,….you see how the list goes on and on? I could make collages about all of them. Books carry so much wisdom forward, and now that I am making books myself, I see and live in what it takes to make one. And art the same way….being led in to penetrating vision by the work of another is a great gift and I love taking this time in Advent to reflect on what is present, what has made an impact in the past and what I am hungry for…I have a big appetite.
    In terms of paintings, there is one that I go to every single time I am at the Met, no matter what. It is the painting of Saint Joan receiving her vision by Jules Bastien-LePage. My fascination is not only about Joan but all the elements in the painting, the plants and the tree and her house.
    The light, of course. Like yours, I am fascinated by the real woman captured in a moment of Divine interaction. This pulls me.
    Well. As you can see, a conversation is what I am yearning for. Hope to see you soon! And blessings on your Advent Journey. xoxoox S

    • Melanie says:

      Suzi you so inspire me! Oh I can’t wait to go to the Met to see this painting you describe…and to talk about our lists…yes we do need to have a conversation and hopefully soon. Thinking of you, wishing you light… xoxoxo

  2. Thoughts on the collage: I see a unity of the organic body and the earthly, the human heart with blood vessels reaching out and into the brown and green bodies of the natural world as if to say the interconnectedness is inescapable. Who will not be neglected? Is it the figure of the woman’s profile who is facing both forward and backward, like a visual trick? What is the stone headdress emerging from a green heart she wears? Is she the personification of the our relationship with the earth? Do we look at the past and at the future simultaneously?
    I love the richness of the colors and textures that are so suggestive of plant material, and the transparency of the vessels like a sky.
    I had never seen that modern version of Mary, I like it very much too.

    • Melanie says:

      I love what you see–thank you for taking the time to look and comment–love it and the question, who will not be neglected. That idea right now during this season is a good one to ask. What can we do for the neglected. And I also like the other question–can we look at the past and the future simultaneously. That question reminds me of Italio Calvino’s book Invisible Cities.

  3. Kes Woodward says:

    What a great pleasure, Melanie, to happen upon your Advent images and thoughts. I have gratefully added them to my list of daily devotional sites to visit this season, which include wonderful ones from Georgetown University ( and an artist site I’ve long enjoyed called “The Painted Prayerbook”– All my best to you and so many thanks for the work you do, this Advent season.

    • Melanie says:

      Kes–thank you and thank you for the Advent links. I don’t know the Georgetown one, but I do know Painted Prayerbook! I wish you a wonderful Advent season too!

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