Understanding the Artist by Looking at His Art: Thoughts on This is My Father’s World, Part II

I went to the Huntington Library in Southern California one Sunday on that same trip that I saw the wonderful sunset. One of my dear friends, Professor Li of Cal State Long Beach, brought me there, accompanied by his wife and one of his fellow professors.

It was an awesome day. For literally the first time in the few months I’d been in Southern California, the sky was a clear blue (no smog!). The sun was out, and there was also a cool breeze.

We started with “English Tea”. To picture what this is, just imagine a Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast. Then, imagine what the exact opposite of that is. Tea, finger sandwiches, cheese and crackers, and little fruit tarts with impeccably fresh fruit. Fancy-schmancy, to be sure, but to quote my little niece, “it was sooooo yummy”. And quite sophisticated!

Anyway, the Huntington Estate is a place to behold. I’ve been to other places like this in Russia, Paris, China and New York, but this one had its own uniqueness. Walking in, you immediately saw a bright arrangement of pansies and poppies in every color of the rainbow. There was a Japanese Tea Garden with a beautiful vista overlooking a pond with bright orange Koi fish. There was an herb garden where you could pick and smell herbs (I got to smell “hyssop” for the first time in my life). There’s the world’s biggest cactus garden with every variety of cacti you can imagine, in all kinds of intricate shapes and sizes and beautiful flowers. There were places where you could breathe in and experience absolutely glorious scents from fragrant flowers and plants.

I saw a hummingbird for about the second time in my life. As I pointed to it, it darted out of sight just as quickly as it appeared. There were beautiful bamboo stalks that were shiny and bright green, and about 10 inches in diameter. There was an incredible little red flower that consisted of two round petals, each interlocking perfectly symmetrically.

The magnolias were in full bloom, as were the azaleas and the pink cherry blossoms. The bright red Camellia flowers were too (I showed my cultural ignorance by failing to identify the tune that Professor Li was humming as from Verdi’s La Traviata, which of course was adapted from Dumas’ novel The Lady of the Camelias. Professor Li’s professor friend gave the right answer. Needless to say, I hung my head in shame).

After this, we went into a gallery with a nice art exhibition of British and American paintings of the 19th century. Some paintings were carefree, others deep and pensive, others downright disturbing. I’m no art aficionado, but looking at many of the paintings, I started to understand what the life of many of the artists must have been like. In so many cases, the artist put so much of himself into his painting that you could immediately understand a great deal about the artist just by looking at his work. Just by looking at different aspects of the painting, from the subject matter to the composition to even the individual brush strokes, you could glean clues about the artist himself.

Well, driving home that night, I saw a brilliant sunset over the mountains–the second beautiful sunset of that trip. And then it hit me.

Why do I love nature so much?

There are those who roll their eyes whenever I pontificate about a beautiful sunset or a sky full of stars. They tell me that these are just boring things that you can see anytime, and they don’t see the attraction. Then, they rush home to play their video games or watch TV. Well, I don’t fault these folks, but I wish they could understand what they’re missing.

I think I love nature so much because by looking at the creation, it tells me so much about the one who created it. God is the greatest artist ever. And God put so much of himself into everything that he created. He is in each flower petal and in each hummingbird and in the scent of a fresh rose and in the red hues of the sunset. And the most amazing thing is that he created these things out of love. He created these things for us. And while some try to understand God by doing deep research into theology or philosophy, sometimes I think you can learn a lot more about God just by opening your eyes and enjoying His creation.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…

– Romans 1:20

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.
I ope my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, His Only Son,
Came—a pledge of deathless love.

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The Lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.

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