The Fourth of July has always seemed like the unofficial halfway point of summer. Schools have been out for a while, and the back-to-the-classroom days of August seem right around the corner — especially when those commercials for backpacks, notebooks and pencils start up again, all too soon.
With that in mind, this point in the summer always seems like a good time to stop and assess how we’ve been spending our time. Have we done extra household projects? Worked in the yard? Gotten any summer reading done?
The slower, longer days of summer always inspire me to want to spend my time creating. This is inevitably genetic. I come from a lineage of professional and amateur artists. Upon retirement after a successful career in city government, my maternal grandfather, Gammidad, decided he would learn Chinese watercolor painting — no easy hobby to just pick up. For someone who adopted such a skill later in life, his talent — with trademark delicate brush strokes that evoked rather than presented — was astounding. Whether it was sitting in his basement art studio, on a stone wall in a town square or on the deck of a beach house, Gammidad never missed an opportunity to capture a scene. And, in his humble fashion, the fewer people who noticed, the better.
My maternal grandmother, Gammi, created through her baking. Pies, cookies, cakes — you name it. Her light, flaky apple pie crust was a thing of perfection that I still attempt to emulate every Thanksgiving. She also embraced various quilting, knitting and crocheting projects, ensuring that her grandchildren were well outfitted.
On my dad’s side, both grandparents were opera singers. They both also taught music, passing on their love of creation through song to younger generations.
Both my parents, too, love to create. Writing, music, gardening, cooking, painting — these are skills that continue to be honed, lived out and passed on.
Creating finds its fullness when we recognize the God-given nature of our talents. In fact, Pope St. John Paul II in his letter to artists in 1999 is careful to say that only God creates, while we, in fact, are craftsmen, giving “form and meaning” to something that already exists.
He writes: “Overseeing the mysterious laws governing the universe, the divine breath of the Creator Spirit reaches out to human genius and stirs its creative power. He touches it with a kind of inner illumination which brings together the sense of the good and the beautiful, and he awakens energies of mind and heart which enable it to conceive an idea and give it form in a work of art.” What a beautiful thought.
As we take time this summer, perhaps to take up the work of the craftsman, let us remember to invite God into our work. In this way we are able to, by the grace of God, “experience in some way the Absolute who is utterly beyond.”