The first cardinal I painted was for Grandpa Smiles, a children’s book about my son and my late father who died long before he was born. Dad was only thirty seven when he died from cancer after serving two tours in the Vietnam War. He didn’t live to see me grow up. And yet, his life made a significant impact on mine, and on my son’s.
When I was a child attending Dad’s memorial service I remember thinking, “Who are all of these people, and why are they coming to our (private) service?” The church was packed. The speaker said things about Dad that sounded like he led a whole life that didn’t include me, and I wasn’t aware of.
Years later when my husband was deployed to the war in Iraq, I left Germany where he was stationed and came “home” (I don’t really have a home, as I’ve moved around so much, but I went back to the town where I spent most of my school years). I got a job at the same factory where my father had once worked. Except he had been a manager in the offices and I was working second shift as a factory worker in assembly (a story for another day).
While working at the factory, I ran into people who had known my father. They were eager to tell me stories about things he had done. I had never known any of what they were telling me. Hearing it for the first time was as if they were talking about a stranger. It was a strange feeling to realize that Dad had been living a secret life.
It was clear that these people not only remembered my dad, but held him in high esteem, with an almost hero legacy. They told me stories of good things he had done, how he’d helped people and even financed getting someone back on their feet again (Dad was not a wealthy man). All of this was kept secret because Mom would have been livid if she’d known that he used some of the family finances on other people.
I wish he’d have told me, but he DID tell me. He told me through the good things that he did in his life, that remained to be shown to me long after he died. That’s what happens to goodness and truth: it remains. It becomes a legacy to follow.
Watch me paint “Cardinals” in under a minute (time lapse)
The next cardinal I painted (in the video above) was years later, a pair, male and female. This was for the children’s book “Bird Days“, my last children’s’ book. I later left children’s book illustration behind as I launched into my “inspired by” oil painting series for the adult market. “Cardinals” was included in the book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith“.
The painting “Cardinals” became one of my most popular paintings, especially as it has deep personal meaning for people who have lost loved ones. But even without that profound connection, others see cardinals as a symbol of hope, faith and promise. Still others simply enjoy the quiet beauty of cardinals and feel peace at the sighting of one, whether in real life or in paint.
My third cardinal painting features cardinals on my patio feeder in “Come to the Garden“, which I blogged about recently in the post called “Quiet Joy“. Now I’ll pull a quote from this painting’s description from the book, because it’s time for a real life video update.
“The birds don’t usually come around all at once… …The tree on the right is the butterfly tree that I showed you in a previous painting. The shepherd’s hook is there, with the bird feeder below it. The cardinals sometimes pose exactly like this. We’ve changed things up a bit since I did this painting. We’ve added a red tower for smaller birds, that’s supposed to attract the elusive migratory Painted Bunting I showed you earlier. We’ll see, come spring!”
– from book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas
So, as you know… the elusive Painted Bunting DID return, and has been a regular visitor every season since! I’ve blogged about him several times, including just yesterday:
Well, after I blogged yesterday I saw the painted bunting again, and tried for (and got!) better footage, which I’ll show you… but this isn’t the video I was excited about… that’s coming later! But watch this short clip first.
Oh and this one too… very short, only 24 seconds.
THIS is the video I’m excited to show you. Remember when I said, “the birds don’t usually show up all at once”? Well, sometimes they DO, and when that happens, it’s GLORIOUS!
Graced by the promise of a cardinal, overwhelmed by the beauty of an elusive painted bunting, and cheered by a diminutive chatty hummingbird, how can one not feel certain of a divine plan after seeing this? Surely we are loved, by a Father who keeps many secrets, but reveals them in truth. The goodness we see is the legacy that teaches us how to live. The pursuit of happiness begins with openness, continues with kindness, and is fulfilled in acts of love.
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