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Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Guest

(Oxen Team, Winter by Maud Lewis,
1903-1970, Canadian painter)

Maud Lewis was a folk artist much like Grandma Moses (for her work, see the “index of the authors and artists” in the column to the right). She was a true amateur, a painter with a great joy in her art but no formal training and no connection to the artistic community. She and her husband, an itinerant fish peddler, were quite poor. Their home was a tiny house, barely 13 by 13 feet, in rural Nova Scotia, with a sleeping loft upstairs and no modern amenities like electricity. But it was very colorful, for she painted almost every surface, inside and out, with pictures of birds and flowers, including the door and windows and stove and walls.

She was born with many physical handicaps. “When I first met Maud Lewis, I was a child. When I first met Maud Lewis, I thought she was a witch. Maud was then a little old woman, as little as I was and her hands were twisted and her back was bent like a hunchback’s. Her shoulders were tilted and her bright eyes glittered,” wrote a neighbor of hers years later.

She was a prolific painter of the life outdoors she saw from her perch by a window. Maud Lewis was also popular, as were her paintings.


My woods belong to woodcock and to deer;
For them, it is an accident I am here.

If, for the plump raccoon, I represent
An ash can that was surely heaven-sent,

The bright-eyed mask, the clever little paws
Obey not mine, but someone else’s laws.

The young buck takes me in with a long glance
That says that I, not he, am here by chance.

And they all go their ways, as I must do,
Up through the green and down again to snow,

No one of us responsible or near,
But each himself and in the singular.

When we do meet, I am the one to stare
As if an angel had me by the hair,

As I am flooded by some ancient bliss
Before all I possess and can’t possess.

So when a stranger knocks hard at the door,
He cannot know what I am startled for —

To see before me an unfurry face,
A creature like myself in this wild place.

Our wilderness gets wilder every day
And we intend to keep the tamed at bay.

~ May Sarton (1912-1995), American poet, and writer of novels and memoirs

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As I read this I remembered an article about the home in which Ferris Bueller was filmed and how they could sit in the living room, as all the walls are glass, and watch the deer go passed the house. I also remembered a church in Austin, Texas that had sides which opened to the woods. Often, while praying I would see the local wildlife and it magnified my love for God.