The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows for me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests,
in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things,
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief,
I come into the presence of still water,
and I feel above me the dayblind stars,
waiting with their light,
for a time, I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.
“THE FLAG” 1918
by GEORGIA O’KEEFFE
“A profoundly humane treatment of O’Keeffe and all the people who figured prominently in her long life.”
– Los Angeles Times
The above quotation from the Los Angeles Times is on the cover of Roxana Robinson’s book, “Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life.” Before I read it recently I did not know that much about this artist’s personal life other than that she was married to the photographer Alfred Stieglitz and spent her last years in New Mexico. Robinson begins with the first O’Keeffes who emigrated from Ireland and settled in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1848 and ends with her death in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1996 at the age of 98. In the pages between she reveals the life of the artist sometimes most know for her large flowers and her vision of the Southwest that included animal skulls.
For her time even as a young woman she was quite liberated as she pursued her education and art and dressed as she pleased. She moved to New York where she studied art and met Alfred Stieglitz for the first time. For a time she taught art in Amarillo, Texas and apparently fell in love with the desolate landscape. A few years later she fell in love with Stieglitz.
From reading this biography it seems to me that O’Keeffe struggled to balance her need for independence and her passion for creating art (she called it her “work) with the obligations of married life. She and Stieglitz had no children together so she did not have to factor in the responsibilities of motherhood.
Although her marriage was unconventional, perhaps she was no different from women today who have to make choices about career, marriage and children. It takes a strong woman to make the difficult choices; Georgia O’Keeffe must have been a strong woman.
1887 – 1996