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The Song of the Lark

June 25, 2010

I took a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago in January. I love going to museums — especially art museums! I love spending hours in one hall, staring into the eyes of one girl in one painting and refusing to leave until I’ve written a novel of her life’s story in my head.

The best part about being in these museums, though, is walking down a hall, glancing into the different galleries, and suddenly catching a glimpse of a picture that slaps you across the face and says, “Come closer!”

That doesn’t happen very often — and for me, quite honestly, it had never happened even once. But I got my first artistic slap-in-the-face on that day in January at the Art Institute. It left me saying, “Hit me baby, one more time!”

I remember walking in a group of people, glancing at this masterpiece and that. You know, the usual. We all walked from room to room, smiling, nodding, appreciating the genius and talent that lay before us in oils and pastels.

We got to the end of the hall, and craned our necks into a smaller room with several paintings, and were about to turn around and leave when I saw her. I could barely hear the footsteps of my friends walking away as I took my own steps towards her. I can’t remember if my jaw dropped or if my friends even noticed my truancy, I just remember first seeing her eyes.

She was standing — well, to be more exact, she was walking — through a field, absently holding a scythe at her side, and her head was craned upward, looking at the sky. She was questioning something — someone. I didn’t know who or what, but I was sure as hell going to find out!

Her eyes are innocently blue and her cheeks are red — obviously from the early-morning cold. Her face is turned up to the looming, dark sky — a sky that would soon see day. Behind her, the sun makes it’s way up into that dark sky, but she doesn’t notice. She is walking in a different direction. She is lost in thought — and I wanted to hug her because I knew that her thoughts weren’t happy. Her brow is furrowed and her mouth is opened gently, as if she is confused; as if she is questioning something — her fate? Or is she about to curse at something? Or is she searching for the hope on the horizon that one day she can simply just drop the scythe she grasps so reluctantly in her small hand and run away? Or is it something else entirely? Maybe she’s tired — she has been working after all, and quite early in the morning. She rose before the sun did, and now the sun is playing catch-up.

And the sun is vibrant, and it is beautiful, and it is powerful and it is resolute — and so is this little girl. Like the sun behind her, she shines of strength, of beauty, of grace. She is independent — she lights her own way. She doesn’t need the sun — it is already too late. She has chosen her path — and as she walks away, driven by the thoughts in her upturned head and the strength in her little hands, feet and soul, a confience shines from her more driven than that of the sun. And if the sun behind her is as smart as it looks, it will follow her, or at least shine a helping light upon her long, nascent path.

This painting was crafted by Jules Adolphe Breton.

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