Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. In the city where we live, priests and ministers were out on city streets
this morning in the bitter cold offering to place ashes on the foreheads of those who wanted that for
The light in the morning sky is not bright here in late February. Here are the words said by the person
who places the ashes:
Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
I expect that the receivers of the ashes are reminded by these actions and words that they are alive, and
that whatever makes them alive is akin to fire.
The burning bush through which God confronted Moses in Exodus 3:1-4 is a sign that holy flames are not
I wonder what we, who see ourselves as walking through Lent into what will be Easter, can find to fan
the flames within us that help us walk through the end of winter, through a garden where betrayal
happens and a graveyard, in order to reach what we are hoping for. I also wonder how we can kindle
holy flames in those around us who are our neighbours and families.
A large painting hangs in the stairwell leading from the front door of our home down to our studies and
our recreation room. We have hung this painting in prominent places in our past four homes. We
bought it in Santa Fe New Mexico when we knew we were moving from Toronto to the south-west of
the US. This is the painting that receives more comments than anything else in our home. For me and
my husband, this painting is a precious reminder of our hope for our participation in holy things which
do not burn up.
The predominant colours in the painting of sunshine yellow and sand coloured pueblo houses with air
tones of pink and turquoise are reminiscent of the colours of the Sandia(‘watermelon’ in English)
Mountains. At the center of the painting and moving up the mountain away from us is a single file of
people on horseback. They are wearing bright coloured ponchos or what might be middle-eastern
cloaks. The glorious light spreading out and over us from the pueblo-like dwelling at the top of the
mountain gives the entire painting a glow that feels like glory.
The other features in the landscape going up the mountain are wonderfully open to our interpretation.
The way up the mountain is steep. There is a dark shadowy strip which extends into brighter colours as
it slashes across the path about one quarter of the way up the mountain. Someone told me that this
could be an abyss. Perhaps the eye of the beholder of the painting sees what they need to see. Further
up the path is a structure that some people have said reminds them of an open tomb. Further up still
are groups of shadowy figures which may seem like groups of ancestors who are accompanying the
other more brightly coloured figures on their climb up the mountain. One person saw these shadowy
mauve figures as possibly ‘the shining ones’ that John Bunyan, in The Pilgrim’s Progress, said could be
seen by people in the higher vistas of the journey.
The artist who created this painting, which is called The Ascent, is B.C. Nowlin. Look him up on Google,–
‘BC Nowlin Paintings’ and also see his website. Glimpse more of his paintings and hear him speak about
his work. He says that his focus is always bright in the distance, a place he would like to view. He also
says that he has always been, and he hopes that we too, are travelling for love towards a hopeful
B.C. Nowlin is not an indigenous person. His family’s land formed the southern boundary of The Sandia
Pueblo Reservation and he is steeped in both Hispanic culture and Puebloan Mysticism. He grew up in
Alameda, New Mexico. He says, and I agree with him, that we are all tribal people.
Look at the poem, ‘Towards Phoenix ‘ on page 10 of Poems Poemas.