Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Hidden Key

“Sometimes questions are more important than answers” ~ Nancy Willard

I recently asked a friend to paint a portrait of Elegba, the Saint of doors and crossroads, to display in my living room. When she brought the painting over I was speechless at the quality of it – the spirit is shown as a gentleman walking gingerly toward a natural crossing in the midst of a bayou, looking over his shoulder with a peaceful smile as he holds a silver-tipped cane in his hand.

The day she delivered her work (shown here), Pam told me she had painted a small skeleton key – about an eight of an inch in length – somewhere on the painting, but wouldn’t tell me where it is. Needless to say, I have stared at the blessed thing for hours, looking for the key with no avail.

Yesterday, while talking on the phone, I jokingly asked if she is ever going to tell me where the key is, and her reply was: “It’s there for sure, but if you can’t see it, it is probably because you are looking for the obvious. Solutions aren’t always obvious.”

She explained that while painting, she felt compelled to add a small key, but as soon as she did, her brush accidentally hit it and it became hard to see. She thought of fixing it, but immediately felt very strongly against it.

Having a key on this particular painting is very symbolic, as the spirit portrayed is known as the keeper of doors, and his seal is usually represented by an equally-armed cross with a skeleton key intersecting one of the arms. The four arms of the cross represent the directions one can walk, and are each associated to elemental forces, with the middle point being the home of Spirit. The key symbolizes that only one of the paths leads to solution.

After hearing what my friend told me, I realized that I really don’t need to know where the key is – I don’t have to see it to know it is there.

I thought of her words as well…’solutions aren’t always obvious’. We run around in circles, looking as hard as we can for a solution we can validate through our senses, but one isn’t always readily seen. Sometimes, stepping back a little and taking our focus off the problem allows us to see a greater portion of the picture, and thus the right path to walk.

So I’m no longer looking for the key, although a part of me struggles not to scan the painting whenever I walk by it. All I need to know is that a key is there; someday it will hopefully sparkle through the moss-dripping branches of the ancient trees.

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