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A Lesson in Gratitude, part 2 of 2 by Daniel A. Brown

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

As Thanksgiving approaches, this tale helps me to remember gratitude. Gratitude is a doorway through which the blessings of The Universal Friend flow into our lives.

A Lesson in Gratitude
Part 2 of 2
©2008 Daniel A. Brown

After a shower and some blessed hours of sleep, we joined the family for dinner. To my dying day, I’ll never forget the meal we were served. It consisted of Kraft’s macaroni and cheese, Wonder Bread and “cherry” Kool-Aid. Now, normally, I don’t eat food like this. Wonder Bread is bread in name only, all the nutrients being sucked out of it before being baked into some tasteless white glop. Kool-Aid is basically sugar mixed with red dye #2 that causes cancer in mice and the cheese in the macaroni comes from a fluorescent powder that is probably extracted from a nuclear waste dump. In all, this meal was un-natural, un-organic, and unhealthy.

I ate every bite.

I did so because the meal was offered to us with the purest of love and to refuse it would have been rudeness bordering on blasphemy. Had they served a cake baked with rat poison for dessert, I still would have shared it, convinced that the loving energy in which it was offered would have counter-balanced any potential harm. Thirty years later, I am still thankful for this particular meal.

Over the recent years, I have joined the Buddhist monks and nuns of our local Peace Pagoda on various pilgrimages around the nation. I noticed that, because they depend on the benevolence of strangers, they aren’t picky about the food they are offered. Thus, I have seen them offer prayers of thanks for meals ranging from a bowl of brown rice to a plate of greasy fried chicken straight from Fry-o-lator Hell. It’s all the same to them and they only express displeasure at some of their more spoiled pilgrims who reject a meal because of what is euphemistically referred to as “food issues”. For those of you outside the loop, “food issues” are manifested by people who won’t eat this or that for a long list of real or imagined health or social issues. Being privileged Americans, they are free to accept and reject what is available to eat to make sure that only the purest, healthiest and fair-traded foods enter their delicate systems.

Unfortunately, billions of people in other parts of the world suffer from “food issues” too. If they don’t find something to eat, they and their children starve to death. To me, that’s the ultimate “food issue”.

In retrospect, I try to eat a balanced and healthy diet (as long as it includes pizza and coffee). But I also try to stop and remind myself to express gratitude and thanks for the fact that I am eating and don’t suffer either from physical want or the fear of want. There but for the grace of God go all of us in the shoes of those who are hungry and have little on their plates. They don’t have the luxury of choice. We do.

http://www.danielbrownart.com

Dan Brown’s Latest Paintings

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

More at Dan’s web site.
Beauty of God
Beauty of God

Darkest Hour
Darkest Hour

Birches
Birches

Ridgelines
Ridgelines

A Lesson in Gratitude, part 1 of 2 by Daniel A. Brown

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

As Thanksgiving approaches, this tale helps me to remember gratitude. Gratitude is a doorway through which the blessings of The Universal Friend flow into our lives.

As kids growing up in 1950’s America, our family observed the standard Thanksgiving ritual of going around the table and declaring what we had to be thankful for. Being raised in privilege, my sister and I took everything for granted and couldn’t really think of anything truly humbling. So instead, we mumbled some cliché we probably heard on television and waited for the turkey to be carved. Back then we knew that other children were starving in China and India but had no idea that they were equally hungry right up the street in Harlem and down the road in Appalachia.

The concept of gratitude never sank in until later in life and in a rather unusual manner. During my stint with the Renaissance Community, I was part of a commercial painting crew that remodeled the S. S. Kresge and J. J. Newberry five-and-dimes that inhabited small-town America before they were destroyed by Wal-Mart. While the work was mundane, the method was anything but. We would arrive Saturday afternoon just as the store closed, unroll huge sheets of plastic to cover the long aisle-length counters, set up the spray gun and work non-stop until opening time on Monday morning, a period of 40 straight hours without sleep, fueled by a healthy diet of cigarettes, coffee and Brach’s Kandy Korns.

It’s the kind of crazy adventure you cherish in your youth and subsequently bore your grandchildren with. And it’s one of the verities of youth is that you can accomplish anything if the music is loud enough. On that Monday morning, however, we found ourselves too understandably exhausted to drive all the way back to Turners Falls so we tried to find a motel to collapse in. But Lake George on a long July 4th holiday weekend offered no such advantage so we did the only thing smart painting contractors could do. We went to the nearest Benjamin Moore paint store and asked the lady behind the counter if she knew a place where we could crash. She responded that we could stay overnight with her and her family which surprised us completely. Here we were, a gang of tired, shaggy hippies, aromatic with sweat and Thin-X, being welcomed into the home of a solid American citizen. But our weariness outweighed our wariness so off we went to her tidy ranch house just outside of town. Upon meeting her husband and kids, part of the mystery of her kindness was explained. Her husband was wheelchair bound; suffering from a degenerative disease that he knew would eventually kill him. Since his infirmity, most of his friends had deserted him, a shock which had taught him the finer points of generosity. Thus, we were graciously invited into his home.

©2008 Daniel A. Brown

Dan Brown’s latest paintings

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Again Dan takes us into the beautiful astral realms and treats us to his sublime visions and breath taking colors. My favorite is “Monument Valley Moon”.

HaArvest Moon
Harvest Moon

West Wind
West Wind

Pagoda of Peace
Pagoda of Peace

Monument Valley Moon
Monument Valley Moon

Visit Dan’s web site

Lilac Valley -Dan Brown

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

This painting was inspired by a dream that Dan had in which he saw a valley filled with lilacs. We love the distance and the sense of space in this painting.

Lilac Valley

Prints available at www.danielbrownart.com

La Canada Road -Dan Brown

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

This painting is reminiscent of a joyful evening in the blissful astral realm. There is always the unseen presence of something etherial and divine in Dan’s work. This is a favorite!

La Canada Road

Prints available at www.danielbrownart.com

Dusk -Dan Brown

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

We have known Dan Brown for over 40 years and admire his ability to put into words and through paint  that which is most difficult to express. Here we are treated to a pastoral landscape that would be the perfect illustration to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.

Dusk

Prints sold out

A Northern View -Dan Brown

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Daniel A. Brown has a unique way of seeing nature. He presents this serene and verdant landscape with its single tree in a way that floods the canvass with light and well-being, suggesting tranquility and universal harmony.

A Northern View

Prints sold out

Beckoned

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

By Daniel A Brown

When I was 18 years old, I found out that my deceased sister, Deborah, was, in fact, very much alive. She was supposed to have died in childbirth back in 1940, ten years before my birth. But in 1968, I was looking at my birth certificate out of curiosity. The names and occupations of my parents were duly noted as was another fact that subsequently changed my life. Under the heading: “How many children alive at birth”, someone had typed, “2”.

2?

That couldn’t be. There was only Janet, who was born two years before me and if Deborah died in childbirth in 1940, what was she doing alive in 1950? When I asked my parents, “Who’s Deborah?” their response was to jump out of their skins, shocked insensible by a name that they had never thought to hear again. Recovering, they informed me that I did, in fact, have another sister, one who had been born profoundly retarded (their words) at birth and placed in the care of the State of Minnesota soon afterwards

Years later, I got a job at Monson State Hospital in Palmer, Massachusetts and worked on the wards of Simons Building which housed total care residents. Monson was founded for people suffering from epileptic seizures and it was common until the 1960’s to incarcerate those who were so afflicted. Most of them were eventually transferred to halfway houses when state institutions were shut down decades later. But the people imprisoned in Simons Building weren’t going anywhere. They were alone and forgotten, never visited and never loved.

Except for Stevie.

Stevie, like most others on the ward, was a baby in a 25-year old body. Each day, he remained in his crib, locked in a fetal position, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings. But every Sunday, something unusual would occur in his orbit. Stevie’s entire family would come for a visit, dressed in their best clothing. Surrounding his crib, they would talk to him like he was one of the family and try as best as they could to interact. There was nothing fake about it. It was an oasis of love that contrasted to the desperate apathy that otherwise encompassed his reality.

I marveled at this and began to think about my sister Deborah for the first time in years. Without revealing my intentions to my parents, I wrote to the state of Minnesota and learned that she was living at Faribault State Hospital right outside Minneapolis. On my first visit, I expected it to be grim like Monson but was amazed when I entered the wide, green campus. Faribault resembled a thriving, bustling college town. Patients, parents, and care workers were everywhere in abundance.

I went into Deborah’s ward in anticipation for our meeting, the workers there being glad to meet me, the first member of her family to appear in thirty-odd years. When she appeared, we went for a walk around the campus and I bought her a cup of coffee. She held and drank from it, much to the astonishment of her care workers who told me that she had never done such a thing before. But there was no conscious recognition of me on her part. I visited her again years later when she had been transferred to a pleasant half-way house in the tidy suburb of Maple Grove.

I also decided to tell my parents who were still unaware of my visits over the years. I wrote to my mother and reassured her that Deborah was in good hands. Weeks later, I received a heartfelt letter that must have released decades of fear and guilt. She was relieved to hear Deborah was doing fine and thanked me for staying in touch with her. My father was less than enthusiastic and tried to discourage me from further contact with her. “You might wake up one day and find her on your doorstep!” he warned.

But several years later, Dad’s own health began to deteriorate. Moved to a local nursing home, he spent most of his time semi-conscious. After my last visit with him, I got a call from the facility warning me that he was failing fast. The next night, I was in an irritable mood, so out of sorts that I went to bed early and fell into a fitful half-sleep.

A vision, not a dream, appeared.

In it, Dad was on a wooden wharf, stepping onto a small boat. Seeing me, he beckoned in my direction, inviting me to accompany him on his impending voyage. Without hesitating, I waved him off, thinking out loud, “There is no way I am getting on that boat with you!” a reaction to a less-than-ideal lifetime relationship. He departed and I fell into a deeper slumber. At 3am, the phone rang and I knew instantly what it was. It was the home. Dad was gone. He was 100 years old.

Three days afterwards, I got a call from Minnesota. Deborah, too, had passed away. A week later, I got her quarterly medical report, dated a few days before her death. There was nothing seemingly wrong with her. She was in good health and was expectedly to remain so.

Apparently, Dad had beckoned to her as well and she had agreed to go, freed at last from her physical servitude and finally reunited with a father she had never known.

© 2009 Daniel A. Brown

Dan Brown

Dan is a prolific painter, writer and photographer who lives and works in Western Massachusetts. He specializes in artwork that promotes comfort and solace. With his vivid colors and exquisite details, Brown creates images that one wishes to climb into and inhabit. Dan’s writing is equally compelling and often invites us to look deeper and ask important questions of ourselves. We will be posting Dan’s newest written and painted creations on Healingwheel from time to time. Dan is a regular contributor to The Greenfield Recorder, Greenfield, Ma. You can see some of his latest artwork on his website: http://www.danielbrownart.com/