Growing up in rural America provided an abundant supply of priceless memories that have recently started to flood my mind and force their way into my paintings. Standing on the roof of a chicken coop in the backyard certainly didn’t seem like something to paint at that time, but decades later the intrinsic value of that experience became apparent, and painting it was inevitable. It may look like an insignificant activity of a few kids growing up in rural America, but I consider it an important piece of history that’s worth documenting. This moment won’t find its way into the history books among world leaders and great movements, but it will hold its place on this canvas as a less notable yet important part of human history. Amidst significant world events and constant change, humanity continues to carry on everyday life in so many different forms across the world, and for some reason it suddenly feels urgent and important to record this one tiny piece of everyday life in one tiny corner of the world in a moment of time that vanished years ago.
I chose wood siding on the chicken coop in this scene to provide a warm and weathered feel to the painting, but the actual chicken coop in real life had mustard yellow steel siding. It was carefully selected by the chickens for its aesthetic qualities. When the coop wasn’t occupied by chickens it naturally doubled as a fort, complete with a loft which was really just a large built-in shelf. Like any other childhood fort, the chicken coop was full of good times, ambitious ideas, and disagreements. All combined to form valuable life lessons in relationships and community.
Behind the chicken coop was a healthy patch of blaze orange daylilies. Transplanting daylilies all over the perimeter of the yard provided a great sense of satisfaction as these hardy plants seemed to grow well anywhere. It was a simple activity motivated by the basic recognition of the flower’s beauty and the innate desire to spread that beauty.
The chicken coop is now long gone, forever trapped in the past after meeting its inevitable fate, but in the land of fond memories it still stands firm with every piece fully intact, like a monument representing the joy and wealth found in contentment. Much like the real-world chicken coop, those childhood days are also long gone and sealed in the past, but much like the memory there are certain qualities from childhood that can stand firm with every piece intact, and even grow and spread with the persistence of a daylily. In the life-long process of identifying childlike tendencies we need to grow out of, I’m learning it’s equally important to identify those we need to grow into.
Luke 18: 16-17
But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”