Florida Holidays: A Tribute in Chalk
Here's an email we received from St. Petersburg resident Dorothy "Dee" Sabean as part of our Florida Holidays project:
Every Christmas tradition has a beginning, and I am writing about one such beginning this very season.
I was born and bred in Massachusetts, accustomed to frigid winter walks to view the manger on the public square, singing Christmas carols in the biting cold, lolling by a roaring fire, unwrapping Christmas footie pajamas with a cup of hot cocoa in hand.
Fast-forward to Florida some 40 years later, and my husband and I were at a loss. Palm trees? Santa in Bermuda shorts? Such a sea-change, it was hard to bear!
As our Florida Christmases progressed, we grew to appreciate the fact that this is also the best possible weather season. Talk about gifts! I can walk from my car to the shopping mall and not experience blue fingers and toes?
So string lights on the palm trees. Surely, Jesus was born in the land of dates! Instead of that hot cocoa, how about a peppermint candy-cane martini? Slowly, we added more and more un-New England ideas to our holiday each year.
This year, I discovered the purest and simplest celebration of all. With the sad and sobering events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, my thoughts and prayers went to all of the families of those deceased and wounded. Any kind of celebration, Christmas included, hit a minor note.
I am an artist by trade, and I think and emote in pictures. I thought of the children, of how the families and community must be suffering. Where is their comfort? I recalled a painting that radiates love, compassion, understanding of suffering, and celebration of faith -- all so lyrical, so timeless.
The painting is L'Innocence by the French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau. I felt that this painting could be the quiet, loving thing to say in this particularly challenging Christmas season. Simply: He Is Born.
As a professional chalk artist who "does the circuit" of chalk festivals throughout Florida, it occurred to me that chalk would be the most immediate way to share this masterpiece with the public. Only in our beautiful, warm, sunny Florida could this be accomplished.
Recently, the weather conditions were perfect. I chose to attempt this copy just outside my home on the sidewalk as a gift to my St. Petersburg neighborhood.
As I knelt down and proceeded to work, there was an element of surprise and great pleasure expressed by neighbors walking, cycling and even driving by. Not only did neighbors stop to express their appreciation, but the UPS guy, the mailman and even the men working nearby for the Public Works Department took precious time from their busy schedules to see the painting in progress and chat.
I cannot recall a time where I gave something so simple and received (most gratefully) so much in return.
It was a lesson for me -- that beauty and grace and faith are all around us, even in the most difficult of times. A painting such as this speaks to all who have loved a child, known suffering or celebrated faith. Our friends and neighbors are searching now for these little "points of light," and it was joyous to draw them to this humble piece of pavement for a glimpse. My thanks to Bouguereau, for I was only the messenger.
So, Christmas tradition? For as long as I am still able to kneel, sit, or lie on the ground, I will pick a sunny Florida day and create a Christmas wish to all.