Remember The Fire

this is the first painting in a triptych I did for The Creatures Of Prometheus, a performance I did with The Portland Chamber Orchestra. special kudos to Jen and Brad for housing these enormous paintings for me.

This is the first painting in a triptych I did for The Creatures Of Prometheus, a performance I did with The Portland Chamber Orchestra. Special kudos to Jen and Brad for housing these enormous paintings for me.

With the spring the storms have come. Brilliant blinding flashes of lightning followed by thunder that rolls and rolls for minutes without ceasing. Joseph Campbell once posited that the voice of the thunder was humankind’s first experience of the godhead; as I listen now to the sky roil and rumble, watching Tripper-Dog-Dog-Dog look for a safe place to hide, I am grateful to be inside protected from the god’s displeasure.

Last week I learned that the phrase, “blinding flash of lightning” was more than poetry. Kerri and I were taking our usual late night stroll. There were distant rumbles of thunder, but nothing close or threatening. The crack and flash seemed to come from nowhere. I ducked. Kerri screamed. It felt like we were inside the lightning rather than beneath it. The ground rumbled in concert with the sky. For blocks around us, car alarms whooped and beeped like Chicken Little. I imagined the cars were as taken by surprise as Kerri and I. For several moments after the flash, I was literally blind.

We were already running when sight returned, we laughed and squealed and kept our heads down as if that would make a difference. It seemed as if the storm was far distant one moment and on top of us the next. The sky spit hail. It rained for a moment. And, as suddenly as it was on us, it was gone. We stood still in the wake of the storms departure. I wondered if I’d imagined it except the parked cars were still sounding their alarms.

Once, when I was in high school, I hiked with a friend to the top of a peak. We were above the timber line and although I knew enough to be off the mountain top before the afternoon storms rolled over the divide, the thunder clouds came fast and we were caught in a powerful storm in a meadow just beneath the peak. It seemed as if we were literally inside the cloud as the lightning made the hair on my head stand on end. We wedged ourselves in a sitting fetal position between some boulders, and reflexively closed our eyes and covered our heads. Each flash sent a jolt of fear through me. I’ve rarely been as frightened or exhilarated as I was that day. The storm roared over the mountain top and descended into the valley. It was gone as fast as it came. It was awesome.

In one of the versions of the Prometheus story, Zeus charges Prometheus with the task of creating creatures for the sole purpose of worshipping the gods. Zeus wants the new creatures to be crude and stupid. Prometheus, instead, creates something beautiful and smart: humans. From clay, he sculpts a female and male form. Knowing that Zeus will never give life to his beautiful creatures, Prometheus steals the immortal fire, the lightning, and sparks the human hearts to life. To punish Prometheus, to keep his beautiful creatures from knowing their own beauty, Zeus introduces them to warfare, both the internal and external variety; he makes them doubt. He infuses them with fear. He makes it easy for them to focus on their ugliness so that they might misdirect their awesome power and forget the creative fire burning in their hearts.

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