Faraway, Yet Near

Near the entrance to the amazing Chiricahua National Monument, is the original homestead of the Riggs family, called “Faraway Ranch”. The family settled there and then founded “The Wonderland of Rocks”, later becoming  “The Chiricahua National Monument”.

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Entrance to Faraway Ranch – 24″x 20″ – Oil – (Photo from older photograph, maybe early 2000. I do not remember where this original painting is now – nor the title ).

It is a beautiful walk into the ranch area, you feel yourself coming home in a way… it warms you as you come closer to pass by the old buildings past the fence, on the trail that leads to the main house.

There was something really odd while I was there one day, walking back from the house toward the old buildings. I do not know what the buildings were… work sheds, out-buildings maybe. But I thought for sure there were chickens there at one time.

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Wooden Fence at Faraway – about 20″x 14″ – Watercolor

I loved the pathway that passed this fence, and the light through the trees… the calm light gracing everything. It was peaceful. Yet, for just a moment I thought a woman walked by me with a basket of eggs in her hand, walking on this pathway. But there was no one there.

Everywhere there was evidence of lives lived, hearts given, times gone by.

Maybe that’s why these paintings came to mind this new year. Yesterday I read of someone else’s experience of his life lived, of the memories now being longer than the time remaining, of the “owning” of our own imminent bodily death. But then, “And then I lift my head and look about me at the river and the valley, the great, unearned beauty of this place, and I feel the memoryless joy of a man just risen from the grave..”

The memoryless joy of a man just risen from the grave…. a new creation, in resurrection life. Gone is the old and the new is here. Jesus said He is making all things new. All things. Not only now, in this life and the ages to come for those who believe, but all things.

Our time on this earth may be a shadow, or passing wind, but in Him is Life… His Life never ends. His Being IS, WILL BE, WAS…. of His kingdom there is no end.

So here, I look about me at…the great, unearned beauty of this place, and feel joy. I am grateful for this life/time that remains on earth, until we go home.

It really is a gift.

 

In Memory of Earl

Maybe it’s the overcast sky that brings me to these memories.

Twelve years will have passed in the first week of January since my dad died.

It felt as if the universe shifted… a vacancy so large that it took a quake to fill it. I never thought he’d be gone.

When in Michigan for his burial and settling other things, we almost couldn’t bury him because the frost line was 6 feet deep. However, because he was in an urn, they were able to “tuck him in” before I went home.

The idea of that frost line stayed with me while snowed into the Chicago airport. Somehow I didn’t mind this time in the airport, overnight with other stranded folk. The wings of the planes were iced over. The ground was frozen deeply. I thought about what else lied beneath the frostline, and what remained above.

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Beneath the Frostline – 14″x10″ – Oil ©Bohlender

It was a little like being in shock – the sense of unreality. When I came back home, I went to call him to tell him what a lovely day it was down in the southwest. That’s when it hit me that he was really not there anymore.

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“In Memory of Earl” – 30″x 24″ – Mixed Media ©Bohlender

My dad was a hunter, an outdoorsman, a unique man. He always said he was born a hundred years too late. He was a character, genuine and true, even where flawed. He loved me. I do not remember a time when I was younger, out “truckin’ ” across the USA, when he did not help me get started again. He was Swede, proud of it. He was not proud of his French heritage.

He was sick toward the end of his life, and ready to go. He had returned to the area of his birth and childhood because he wanted to die and be buried there.

I painted this while grieving his loss. The bark is from the birch trees in the area, the landscape of near where he grew up; his grave and urn a solid reminder of his death, yet his walking away in the background a reminder of him having been and life yet to come.

Catching up with some of the family, I did get to hear stories of dad and his relatives, and find a sense of roots that I had never known before – being accepted locally because my great grandparents and others were buried nearby. I met my grandma’s brother, and saw myself in his eyes. What an amazing thing to touch roots like that.  And, the family homestead was nearby, the barn still standing then.

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Family Homestead – 36″x 12″ – Oil ©Bohlender

This place was alive in me from my childhood. Now the barn is blown down and another generation is passing away, but I have a taste of my earthly roots.

All of these paintings are with different family members. They are some of the most heart-felt pieces I have ever painted.

Below is my grandma’s brother. I was able to spend a little time with him while living, still relatively hardy even at 94. His death was grievous to me as well. I spent a little time with him before he died; then also in my art, even though I couldn’t be there in person.

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“Uncle Dying” –  14″x 11″ – Oil ©Bohlender

I have been grateful to know some of where I came from, even if it took my dad’s passing to touch my earthly roots. We could never go there, until it was time.

Now I contemplate more my own leaving, my heavenly heritage and citizenship in the Lord’s kingdom. Death is a doorway, a beginning. We are all going home at His appointed time. Praise God.