It was very fitting that I was standing in “In Winter,” the fifth section of the Money exhibition at the Denver Art Museum. I let the audio device I had been dutifully holding near my ear drop to my side. I tried to remember anything I had heard which had captured my imagination. I couldn’t. I tried to remember in detail any of the paintings I had seen. I couldn’t. I felt cold and empty. Would I make it through the Monet exhibition with nothing to show for it? Would my spirit and my soul not grow in beauty and knowledge? Would I simply have checked a box?
The din of the crowd, each with his own audio device, and the visual cacophony of the exhibition overwhelmed me. There were so many people, so many paintings, and so much to hear from those who had carefully made the audio I had been listening to. But at that moment, none of it was living. My eyes darted frantically and desperately around “In Winter,” and I prayed for wisdom on how the amazing privilege of standing before Monet’s paintings would leave an indelible mark upon me.
The answer came. I turned and headed back to the beginning of the exhibition, a challenge with a crowd of people moving in the opposite direction. I would enter each area of the exhibition and stand in the middle. I would slowly turn and look at each painting for a moment. Then, I would go to the one that called. The audio would not return to my ear.
Something amazing happened, something that did not ring a bell from the term we had spent studying Monet or the bits of audio I had just listened to or the paragraphs printed upon the walls of the exhibition.
Monet had a message just for me. “Ignore my use of landscape; ignore my use of color; ignore my use of light; ignore my focus on nature; ignore my technique; ignore my variations. But look, look closely for what I have for you. And come.”
And that is when I saw the journey to which Monet had invited me.
At first I thought it might just be an anomaly, like La Pointe de la Hève at Low Tide.
Where are these people going? They have their backs to me and are headed somewhere; they are in motion. I want to know why they are there and where they are going. I want to follow them.
And then there was Path into the Forest.
Does not this path beckon one to take a journey? Where does it go? I want to enter the painting and follow the path.
These paintings were not anomalies. Again and again and again, Monet included paths and roads and traveling people in his paintings. The paths led somewhere; the people were going somewhere. And the paintings were painted in such a way that they enticed me to come and be part of the mystery and adventure. Monet did not just paint cities; he painted roads and rivers toward cities. He did not just paint houses; he painted paths and streams toward houses. He did not just paint landscapes; he painted trails toward and through landscapes. These paintings were not just moments in time, but they were stories, stories I wanted to be part of.
I am grateful for a Charlotte Mason Education that has changed my life. Without it, I don’t think I would have given a voice to the sense that something was wrong as I made my initial way through the exhibition, and I certainly wouldn’t have listened. I would not have had the courage to set aside the experts and simply allow Monet and me to journey through the exhibition.
The complete truth: I wouldn’t have even been there.