I hope your holiday lived up to your best expectations and that by now you are fully recovered. With an abundance of cooks in my family and two of them Italian by birth, I was spared the heavy duty that many younger mothers face over the holidays.
After last week's early visit of Santa, I came down here to Florida to be with Malcolm. Eager to be back painting, I was soon at work. The light in my St. Pete studio is ideal and progress has been good.
We had been thinking about where to worship on Christmas Day when Malcolm read an account of how the Reverend Christian Villagomeza, a Filipino, has been ministering to the crews of freighters visiting the port of Tampa.
Most of the crew members of visiting ships do not have visas and must stay on the ship. The Reverend offers them use of a cell phone and cheap phone cards to call home and he transports those who do have visas to the local Walmart. He listens to their needs and helps whenever possible. He does not preach to them with words but by his example. To those who wish, he gives the Mass.
Father Christian preaches at St. Chad's, a small stucco church in the middle of a working class neighborhood in Tampa. Impressed by what we read, we called St. Chad's to ask the time of Christmas Mass.
Finding the church in the dark of Christmas Eve was difficult. The small white houses of the neighborhood were a glow with Christmas lights and their yards filled with blown-up plastic Santas but the street signs were virtually invisible. We made it just in time for the start of the service.
Being in that congregation, we experienced a depth of Christian love greater than we had found in many a more elegant and formal setting. The sincerity of the welcoming smiles of people of all colors and races touched us deeply and we knew then that we had found the right place to worship that night.
Father Christian's sermon was gentle but impelling as he reminded us that in the rush of Christmas we often feel we have "No Room in the Inn" and turn away from the opportunity to help others because we believe we do not have the time.
This experience was our Christmas Joy.
By Christmas morning I had a severe cold of the type you do not want to pass on to anyone else. We were due to have Christmas dinner with my friend Joyce Wilson's family but sadly had to call and cancel. Instead of a grand repast, we ate chicken soup and nibbled on broccoli.
I am now feeling much better and these past two mornings I have been walking with the Street Walkers.
As you can see from the photographs taken in my studio, I am into full gear painting. I am very happy to again be immersed in my work. Much as I love the time I spend with my children and grandchildren, even this Italian/Irish mother starts yearning to be back creating. I am enclosing photos of paintings I have been able to complete along with others that are in progress.
As I have already said, the light in my Florida studio is wonderful. The whole of my north facing wall is window, which as any artist will tell you, is the light that you want because there is very little change in it during the day, unlike the light from the South which alters with the movement of the sun.
You will see amongst the paintings an impressionist image of a shrimp boat. This boat arrived in the bay on Christmas Eve, mooring in clear view of the studio. I imagine the crew went home for the holidays. I am still working on the painting and assuming I have until New Year's Day before the crew return and sail off into the Gulf.
Shrimp boats endure all types of weather in the Gulf. I chose to show this boat at rest on the dawn of a calm summer's morn, in the hour before trawling begins.
I must stop now and put down the pen and pick up the brush.
I wish you a Happy New Year. May 2004 exceed all your expectations and bring you much happiness and good health.
P. S. Malcolm and I went to see Something Has to Give (Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton). We both voted it our most enjoyed movie in years. It is highly amusing and the acting is superb.
Note from Malcolm:
It was about 9 PM and I was just preparing to close when the telephone rang.
"I am calling from Buenos Aries, Argentina. Do you still have the painting of a horse you are advertising in Architectural Digest," asked a man in a Spanish accent.
"Yes," I responded.
"How much is it?"
"Ten thousand dollars," I told the man.
"I want it. Do you take American Express?"
"Yes," I said, then added, "but I suggest that first I send you a large transparency of the painting so you can be sure before I ship it to you." The image in the advertisement was of good size but still I did not want to send the painting half way across the world to then have to bring it back because the gentleman was disappointed.
"I have told you I am buying the painting now. Take down my credit card number and ship the painting to me. Do you understand me?" The man sounded irritated and I regretted my English caution.
"Yes, Sir!" I said.
After concluding the deal and recording where to ship the painting, I had just sufficient nerve to ask, "How did you know for sure from the photograph in the advertisement that the painting was right for you?'
"Because I am one of the biggest breeders of horses in this country and I know horses better than anyone. I have never seen an artist who has captured the spirit of a horse so perfectly as Moss has in this painting."