Posted by: oceannah | September 6, 2012

votum quod opus~prayer and work

Women Picking Olives December 1889 72.4 x 89.9

Vincent Van Gogh 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890

Women Picking Olives
December 1889
Oil on canvas 72.4 x 89.9

I’ve been thinking a lot of this painting that I saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last March.  As the harvest continues to come in and the season of the naked trees begins with the falling of a few leaves hither and yon this painting keeps appearing in my mind.

The olive pickers series “demonstrate the relationship between man and nature by depicting one of the cycles of life, harvesting or death. It is also an example of how individuals, through interaction with nature, can connect with the divine.” (Wikipedia)  Connecting with the Divine while working the land is one of my preferred methods of prayer.

The Van Gogh brings that all into focus for me.  I adore the colors of the painting and the fact that the three women may depict a feminine trinity appeals to me.   Honoring the cycles of the seasons and the labors unique to each is what enriches my life.   I do not think I could live in a climate that is (relatively) static.  The changes and distinctive callings of each season keep me connected and engaged.  How about you, do you prefer changing seasons or not?  The current crunch of leaves and the change in hue from vivid greens to those inexorably moving toward brown, but still holding some life is a time piece of sorts.  A clock without hands.



  1. Oh yes, definitely with you on this – in spite of some inevitable melancholy what with the return to school and falling leaves signalling the passing of another (all too brief) summer – I couldn’t bear missing the fall colours and frosty, see-your-breath mornings; the delicate, crystalline flakes drifting silently down or diamond-sparkle days so cold they take your breath away; the gradual, melting promise of spring as March snowbanks trickle in the ditches or the mad, green explosion of life detonated by the first spring rains… Around and around it goes; the seasons pass while life and death (and we) carry on…

    • Beautifully said Deb! My grandmother had a saying that went like this, “The older I get the days get longer and the years get shorter.” Twenty five years ago I could not wrap my head around that…today I get it…and we carry on. xo

  2. this is a work of van Gogh that I had not seen before. Thank you for sharing it along with your awareness of connecting with the Divine as we sew and harvest. The change of the seasons is a gentle nudge to us about the passing of seasons in our life. We rejoice, we let go, we welcome.

    • Joss I’m so happy that you liked it. The welcoming of the seasons is one of my few absolutes each year. Celebrations = 2 solstices & two equinox. All the other celebrations of the year pale by compare for me.

  3. Love this painting. He’s one of my favorites and I’ve been fortunate to visit the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam several times. I love your interpretation of this painting. 🙂
    In regard to seasons changing I’m a Florida girl and found it difficult living in the winter in NC & WV, it wasn’t too bad here in Hangzhou (mild changes in seasons, similar to Atlanta). I LOVE to visit the north when it’s snowing though… Short and sweet visits and then back to the sun 😀
    p.s. your writing gets better and better and better!!!

    • Haha…I can see your point. A short visit then a scurry back to the warmth 🙂 Like the cats who run out and do their kitty thing then come in and take a perch right under the woodstove!
      Thanks Sandi for your kind thoughts.

  4. Thanks for sharing. — He’s my favorite impressionist.

    • Thanks for your comment I love his work, as well as Gauguin.

  5. I grew up in south and central Texas where it was either hot or bearable, without many other seasonal markers – the gorgeous bluebonnets and other wildflowers came and went, of course, but I’ve lived on the east coast now for most of my adult life and have completely fallen in love with the starkly contrasting landscapes each season offers. I can’t imagine moving back to a relatively seasonless world. I just wish I had more intimate contact with the natural world, which is hard to rig in city apartment living!

    • I lived for a year in New Orleans and did not care for that climate. Connecting with the natural world can be hard in an apartment but there are many great parks in the Philly area…and there’s some great hiking trails up near the Pocono area (I lived in that area for 11 years). Although ‘ready access’ is nice, even a weekend in the woods can be a wonderful buffer to the city life. The surrounding Philly area Bucks Co. or so, is in fact on our short list of places live after hubby shelves his grade book for good…< 5yrs now 🙂

  6. Beautifully written, just lovely.

    I love the change, too, especially from summer to fall . . . Something about that last burst of effort knowing that a time of rest is near, the cool mornings, the changing wind off the ocean . . .

    • I’m with you all the way. Glad to have your thoughts here Slowfoodmama 🙂

  7. Yes, one great season to another.

    • on and on they go… Thanks for popping in lil sis 🙂

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