from Wikipedia …
In the arts, Vanitas is a type of symbolic still life painting commonly executed by Northern European painters in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. The term vanitas itself refers to the arts, learning, and time. The word in Latin, meaning emptiness and loosely translated corresponds to the meaninglessness of earthly life and the transient nature of vanity. Paintings executed in the vanitas style are meant as a reminder of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, encouraging a somber world view.
Well that’s sort of how I remembered it from Art History 101, but that last bit about the somber world view,
while it may be timely, is not the view out of my window. Nor, come to think of it is the futility of pleasure, or the meaningless…
but I’ll give you the transience and certainty of death.
I am a beachcomber.
And, up island, on Stonewall beach, the earthly treasures that peek out between the stones are mostly small bits of bones or feathers.
These are measured for their beauty and rarity and the best get tucked into a back pocket
and brought home and tucked again in between the studio’s pockets.
Last fall, after a great storm, Gulliver and I made our farewell walk down the long steep steps and across the wobbly rocks
and out onto the flat cool sand. She was alerted by a larger than usual display of feathers and brought me over to find this wing.
In tact and debreeded, it’s delicate bones and ruffled feathers were pure and simple grace.
I could wax philosophical about the many layers of meaning and pleasure that I find in this painting.
But some of them are deeply personal and sentimental and perhaps vain.
When stripped to its elements, sand and bone, rock and feather, water and wind…
for me, the transient nature of life…and death…on the Vineyard is the very definition of beauty.