Talking of Michelangelo and the Art of Mothering*

[Michelangelo The Pieta [1498-1499] click here to view this image in original context]

Talking of Michelangelo and the Art of Mothering 


‘Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit’  [i]

I am thinking of a moment in the Vatican, 2009 
standing in front of Michelangelo - the Pietà
Thinking of how days before 
I had stood beneath David  in Florence
admiring those huge, gentle hands, 
mannerism adding to his infamous contrapposto                                                                                                                                                
Where is the mother of this sacrificial lamb – poised, pubescent 
David - on his pedestal, stretching high up into the ceiling of the Accademia
the underdog? 
Of what scale then Goliath!

Back to the Vatican -
I am standing in front of the Pietà
I have almost fallen upon it 
No David - it has not been relegated to it's own cavernous display;
It is set amongst others 
It is set behind bullet-proof glass 
It is set amongst the many who - like me - are vying for their close encounter
It has flashes of cameras illuminating the glass that surrounds it
It has signs saying 'do not photograph with flash'
It has everything going against it that a work of art could have 

and yet

it glows forth [no - not with camera flashes] 
with such tenderness, such affection
and the scale - is our scale 
Not the mythical scale of David's battle
but the human scale  - the battle of love and loss

and flesh!
How be this marble? Where the limp skin of the just departed son 
meets the grieving fingers of his mother's final hold   
and she does hold, so tender - and with such grace
Her youthful face is bowed
One hand supports, the other surrenders
but it is her legs that lie beneath her flowing robes 
that take the weight of her son - of her grief
Those legs that will keep on walking her through her life - her loss 
Which she will not live through - but live with

So many images of this son - larger than life 
a David - a Goliath, of symbolism and faith 
But here, so small in death - he is a beautiful child
a slight delicate form  - just exhausted of breath


What is in a name - the Pietà
the pity [ii]
1. 'the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the sufferings and misfortunes of others'
2. 'cause for regret or disappointment'
'feeling or sorrow for the misfortunes of'
from latin piety [iii]
'the quality of being religious or reverent'
from the latin pietas
'devotion to religious observances'

Our pity
Her piety
Again - those legs
suggested by folds of cloth that at their ends become rock
The rock that is her faith
Her support 
Her obligation

I am standing – not in front of the Pietà
but an enigma of love and loss
‘Virgin mother, daughter of your son’ [iv]
Mother of your father
This is a death you have born
to give life

‘it is the Father who generates,
the Son who is begotten,
the Holy Spirit who proceeds’ [v]

and the Mother, who grieves

[more’s the pity]

[i] T.S Elliot The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, 1920
[ii] Oxford Dictionary
[iii] Oxford Dictionary
[iv] ‘Vergine madre, figlia del tuo figlio’ trans. ‘Virgin mother, daughter of your son’;
  Dante, Divina Commedia, Paradiso, [Cantica 33]
[v] Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 804.

*A reworking of a piece I first wrote for my blog over a year ago...

[text by bek misic - copyright 2011-2012]


drawing in the light of the present moment ...

I'm still tingling all over...

It is not every day that a total Solar Eclipse tracks right over your house; but today we won the natural phenomena lottery...

The alarm went off at 5am. After days of debate as to where one can best go to see an event that has overwhelmed our region with national and international visitors, it was hard, even as a local, to know where one was best to be.  Yesterday afternoon I arrived at the contented epiphany that the place I really wanted to be was home.

Well, five hundred meters from home to be precise - our chosen location to experience Totality was the Gordonvale Golf Course at the end of our street.  We headed out at dawn, two sleepy children in the pram, with picnic rug, coffees and snacks hoping that the forecast poor weather would hold off.  Moments later, picnic rug set out we found we had a perfect [almost entirely] uninterrupted view east of the eclipse - flanked by the stunning silhouette of Djarragun/Welshes Pyramid and the vermillion glow of flowering poincianas.  It was the dream location and it was entirely ours; with the exception of one jockey training a horse, and the caretaker of the golf course.  GOLD!!!

One of the most magical memories I have of my childhood is of watching an eclipse with my father in the backyard of our home in Victoria when I was little more than a toddler.  Being the 70's, it was a 'lo-fi' era - and rather than watching the eclipse through glasses special made for the occasion, we used a simple pinhole in a piece of card that projected the path of the moon onto paper held by my father's hands...

This morning I was ready to go 'hi-fi' with four pairs of 'Totality Appoved' glasses ready to position on the eager eyes of myself and my loved ones. However, in my pre-dawn excitement I forgot to pack the aforementioned spectacles into the pram - and although we realised with plenty of time to dash [those five hundred meters] home, nostaligia happily won out as we four delighted in the magic of observing this phemonenal and beautiful event using the most basic of tools - a pinhole though a piece of paper...

It was one of the moments I will cherish as a parent; my daughter Dante standing naked in the pre-Totality twilight holding our pinhole veiwfinder in her hands as she learnt out how to correctly position it to see the path of the eclipse:

'Do you know what you are looking at Dante?'
'Yes - that is the Sun mumma;
And the moon!'

Then Totality.  To experience this in such isolation was incredible.  The dawn chorus - only just completed, now seemed to be playing in reverse. Then silence and darkness and cold ...

Rumi wept at the strangeness of it all.
Dante noted 'mumma, it's sleeping time again...'

Darkness and silence - and the soft voice of my father guiding me and for a moment I was as a child; though his words were quickly overwhelmed by the re-commencement of Drongos, Friar Birds, Starlings, Fig Birds and a rather baffled Kookaburra...

A few days ago a dear friend of mine posted on facebook a fabulous picture of a rainbow ending right on top of her house.  In 'comments' friends hoped she 'found the gold' - I offered that the rainbow was actually a reminder of the 'gold' she already has in her family.  And, further again, thinking today on chasing rainbows and eclipses -  seeing the incredible delight that today's events have brought to so many unfolding online - these artful performances of light and life are golden themselves - precious, ephemeral, perfectly unobtainable

they are the ultimate 'present moment' ...