Winter WomenCollector Posts Life-Shifting Story

"The Good Mother"

The following is an article written by Mary T. Kelly, a collector of Lindsey's work and popular blogger on Open.Salon.com

"I was a good mother, a mother that Sarah Palin might even envy.  I stayed home with my four young children, I made sure my husband knew he was a wonderful provider and the apple of my eye.  I went to church and Bible studies to make sure that God knew I loved Him and I was obedient and I was dutiful.

It was an ordinary day.  I remember sitting on my couch, with toddlers taking naps and a baby at my breast.  I was tired and I was lonely.  I’d put on Oprah to pass the time away and the words of the feminists would sting and smart.  Sometimes they made me angry, and other times, their words made me wistful in the way that I wanted to get up, run out of the house and go somewhere far far away.

I would remind myself, “This is the world talking to you. This is the world trying to seduce you. Sacrifice. Think of others. You are not the important one." The nagging and the gnawing…the restless feelings, the aching, the wondering if this was it, if this was all there was ever going to be.

One day, a rare day alone, I wandered into an art gallery.  My eyes were immediately drawn to a painting on the wall.  A painting of six silhouetted women.  It was called “Winter Women”, but the colors weren’t cold and stark…they were bright, bold and brave.

I was parched, I was thirsty…and looking at the picture, something shifted, something moved.  It wasn’t dramatic like the avalanche rushing down of long held snow.  But it was a subtle catalyst and that picture was the beginning of a life about to change.  Despite the strange and foreign feeling, I impulsively bought that picture.  It matched nothing in my home.  A home where there was calico wallpaper, rust colored door trims, pastel flowered wreaths, wooden ducks and geese and a subscription to Country Living Magazine.

My husband came home from work and I showed him the picture.

“Where will you put this?  It doesn’t fit in,” he asked distractedly.

“I’m taking everything down.  I’m tearing the wallpaper off, I’m throwing out every f…..g duck and f……g goose.  It’s all going.  I want you to paint all the walls white and I’m going to put this picture up and I’m going to fill this house with colors, lots and lots of colors.”

“Do you know what you’re doing?” he asked as our small children surrounded him like hungry puppies looking for food.

“I have no idea what I’m doing.  I just know I have to do it.”

That was almost 18 years ago.   I bought 4 more of the paintings, and more paintings…paintings splashed with passionate colors, colors jumping out and landing in every corner of my house.  I wanted more…but the artist, Lindsey Leavell, had taken a sabbatical from painting.  I looked for her return for years, but she had disappeared like the fog on a hot summer San Francisco day.

I left the church, the bible studies, I lost many friends.  I went to graduate school, I became a therapist, a mediator, a humor writer.  I got divorced, I fell passionately in love, I got remarried, I bought a 100-year-old house, I learned to rock climb and I learned to fall in love with myself.

Fast-forward to Saturday, September 6, 2008.  It was an ordinary day.  I was visiting one of my best friends who lives in the unmatchable San Luis Valley in southern Colorado.

We drove to Creede, a quiet mountain town tucked away and surrounded by ancient silver mines and abandoned by modern society.  We had a quiet lunch.  My friend wanted to go to an art gallery before we headed back to her home. Feeling lazy, I followed her down the sidewalk into the doors of the tiny gallery situated like a P.S. at the end of the street. We walked in and my eyes were immediately drawn to a painting on the wall.  It was one of my paintings!  And there were more.  The paintings with the colors that had grabbed me and ripped my life apart and the paintings that had sewn my life together.

I went to the back of the store where there were even more.  I was excited, I was talking, no... yelling at strangers running over my words to tell them of the excitement of finding the art that changed my life. I went back to the front of the store.  There was a group of women standing there.  I rudely interrupted them…spitting out my find, my lost treasures found.

A beautiful small woman stepped forward.  She extended her hand.  “I’m Lindsey Leavell.  I’m the artist of the paintings.  I’m so happy to meet you.”  The timing couldn't have been better.  She had arrived literally moments after I had to quickly drop off one of her pieces.

Lindsey Leavell, painter extraordinaire (www.lindseyleavell.com)

How do I describe the rush of feelings, the tears that came to my eyes, the goose bumps on my arms?  I felt like bowing down, I felt like falling to my knees. “You have no idea how much your paintings mean to me.  How they were an integral part of changing my life!”  I quickly told her my story, between needed gulps of air. She hugged me in that moment.  She knew what I was talking about.  She knew about shift and change.  She knew about the woman who had disappeared and the woman who had found herself.  She knew about the pain and she knew about the exhilaration of growing up.

I bought one more picture.  A kind of Epilogue for a life being lived well and true.  And I was reminded once again...there is never an ordinary day."

Click to read "The Good Mother" in its original context