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The story of Brave St. Rabbit and the thin places

The piece, titled Brave St. Rabbit, was part of a silent auction several weeks ago benefitting a transitional housing program for young men who have aged out of foster care and find themselves homeless. The animal’s veined ears were translucent, the eye life-like. The swirls of color on its body invited a long, close look. I yearned to hang this on my wall. I yearned to hear the story that lay in its lines, textures and patterns.

The artist, Creed Brown, couldn’t attend the event, but a friend of his was there and she called him so I could ask a couple of questions about the painting done on fiberboard. Our conversation was brief and rushed; people were trying to pay for their auction items, the venue was closing, and I was using someone else’s cell phone. But I was intrigued by what Creed said about the rabbit’s halo: We’re so used to seeing haloes as a symbol of holiness in religious icons, but in this case, it symbolizes the spiritual significance he finds in even the smallest things – things as small as a rabbit.

Before we hung up, we promised to talk again, and we only continued the conversation via Facebook this week. I specifically wanted to know the meaning of the symbols on the rabbit’s body. That was the question I asked, though I confess that I also hoped to glean something about the artist as well since I feel such a strong connection to the painting. He responded, in part:

The piece "Brave St. Rabbit" belongs to a group of paintings I have developed over the last few years. The original piece from this group of paintings was a mouse I made for my mother while I was on a retreat at a desert chapel. The images are mandalas of sorts. There really is no formula to reading it, but the way I create them follows a pattern. The shapes are people and situations in my life, when I draw those shapes I am thinking of those people and situations. The colors are what I want for people, truth, peace, resolution, etc. 
The dots are silent prayers of sorts to cover those shapes and colors, there is no meaning in them, just a quiet covering. 
For the "Brave St. Rabbit" piece, since I didn't actually know ANY of the people who were associated with the charity or who were affected by it, the piece became about "The idea of the charity." The shapes were a reflection on "The lonely, the hurt, the alone," and the colors became about resolution and aid in those thin places. 
And the dots were the same quiet covering.

The thin places. I whispered it to myself a couple of times, letting the phrase paint its own pictures in my mind: The thin threads of a worn shirt; the thin space between a body and the street where it lies; the thin, slippery second in which we see the body and flick our eyes away; the more figurative but equally powerful thin line between judgment and compassion; the thin smile that cannot quite conceal contempt. Thin places. Where aid is needed. Peace. Resolution. A quiet covering.

Both my siblings work with the foster care population. They can’t tell me the stories of their clients, but occasionally I meet one or two of them and the stories break through the surface of their skin without a single word: The lonely. The hurt. The alone.

The young men who would benefit from the auction had been at the fundraiser. They were white, black and Latino. Some were thin, others heavyset. A couple of them were withdrawn and quiet, while others laughed and mugged for a camera.

And every brush stroke, dot and line in Brave St. Rabbit contained a prayer for them, the lonely and the hurt struggling to conquer their own family histories and be productive members of a society that, on any given day likely gives them as much thought as they might give a rabbit bolting across the road.

I’m guilty. I forget. It’s easy to do that when I’ve got a warm bed to sleep on, a working car to get me to jobs, and a grocery store where I can choose from more than a hundred different kinds of cheese. True, not all of us drive luxury cars or sip five-dollar lattes on a daily basis without giving a thought to those with less, but it’s also true that the more selfless among us make it possible for the rest of us to sleep at night. After all, they’ve got it covered.

I thought of Brave St. Rabbit yesterday as I scrolled through news and social media sites. The reaction to Tuesday’s election ran from one end of the spectrum to the other: joy to misery, pleas for cooperation to hate-filled threats. My stomach hurt from the richness of the mix. And still, while we cried, ranted or popped champagne bottles, the thin spaces of Brave St. Rabbit remained – the alone, the hurt, the lonely – and the selfless in the world continued to cover them and the Creeds of the world continued to tell the story.

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  • Response
    Well, I just loved this story. While reading, I just thought of telling this story to my kids. Thanks for the share.
  • Response
    Without the access towards the education are more senseless and they are not able to understand with the situation of the others. The pain of the others or the hurdles does not upset them more and they are not willing to provide them with help.

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