Prints of birds, that is. 470 prints, to be exact.
When my friend, Ric, invited me to stop over to see his collection of first edition Audubon prints, he did mention the number. I figured the text had a typo.
It didn’t. Stepping into his living room, the sheer number of frames on the walls is jaw dropping.
But it takes more than one room to hold 470 prints. Every room has its own incredible display. In fact, Ric tells me that when he designed the house a few years ago, the prints factored into the plans. In the hallway upstairs, the windows are set low so that the art could get the coveted eye-level placement.
I have my own history with these prints. When my daughter was seven, she decided she wanted to be an ornithologist. (She’s now a meteorology major, so that dream has flown.) A friend brought us into a museum to view an original “Double Elephant Folio,” where Grace was permitted to choose the page that the huge, rare book – on loan from the Smithsonian -- would be turned to. (It has to be regularly changed to protect the prints, but only by gloved hands!) She chose the roseate spoonbill. Can’t beat a bird with pink on it.
But now, standing in Ric’s upstairs hall, I realize what I’ve been missing all these years: a view of the whole. Page by page, each print impresses. Side by side, the collection hits the viewer like a powerful wave of creativity and artistry. I love theme and variation, and Audubon was a master at taking the simple ingredients of a bird and a plant and finding hundreds of dynamic, pleasing combinations.
The whole is much more than just the sum of the parts.
This is why we need other believers, why we need to gather to worship. Each of our individual lives is like turning the page of a book, viewing the works of God sequentially. Impressive, indeed. But gathering together with other Christians and sharing the breadth of God’s goodness is like these walls of prints. The sheer scope and imagination of the Lord’s loving deeds can and should be jaw dropping.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you! (Psalm 145:10)
We need that big picture. That gallery view.
We ought to be staggered by the creative span of his love.
Lord, we are such boxed creatures – seeing so much of our interaction with you through the blinders of our own experiences. Give us a gallery view of your goodness that we may delight in all your works.