Understanding Vincent.

My friend Cathy is in town.  On Sunday, we went to Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz.  Fortuitously, we arrived shortly before sunset, and were able to watch the sun sink into the west over the horizon.

It was amazing.  The sky was an array of reds and pinks and intense oranges that would be difficult to impossible to recreate with any brush. The sea was a patchwork of blues and pinks and gold reflected from the sky, and the cresting waves were golden white. Farther out towards the horizon, the dying sunlight disappeared, and the sea became once again a blue reflection of the deep blue sky overhead.

There were egrets walking the shoreline at the edge of the surf.  In the sunset, they turned a very pale golden pink from remnants of the sunlight and the light reflected off of the waves. If you described them, you might use the word “white,” but they weren’t, not really.

The photograph Cathy took, while beautiful, does not capture the experience.  In addition to the visual intensity, there was the chill breeze and the cries of the seagulls, as well as the companionship of friends watching the end of the day, and all made it special.

I have always had a theory, totally unsupported by biographical information as far as I know, that Vincent van Gogh killed himself because the disconnect between what he experienced in the world and what he was able to communicate became too great.  You can sense that in the whirling globes of “Starry Night,” and in the restless waves of “Wheat Fields with Crows.”

I understand this.  The words I have are even more inadequate than the colors at Vincent’s disposal.  I can’t capture what it is I see around me in any form that feels like it approaches my experience. For many people this would not be a problem, but for people like me who want to share the world, who want to be able to say “Look at that!” and know that other people see it too, this disconnect is intensely frustrating.

Sometimes the world is almost too beautiful to bear.

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