Shadows and Cold: A Scribble by Leah Jarvis

I am blessed to be friends with some incredibly creative people, ranging from very young to very old. They inspire me on a daily basis and keep me going when I lose my spark. 

I had the privilege of spending this last weekend with just such an individual. In real years she is sixteen, but her soul is old and perceptive and wide and deep. I actually taught her in preschool for a very brief time, which brings to painful attention my own age. I consider her more than a friend, she is family, a niece if a title must be established and I love her dearly. What an inspiring and incredible thing it is to watch a human grow and become themselves. It has been an honor to watch Leah grow into a radiant, kind, sharp, compassionate, brilliant young woman. 

We share a love for words and stories, Leah and I. Bookstores and music, movies and old poems. These are the treasures I share with those I love the most. The conversations I most love to indulge in. 

So I asked her the other day, if she would be willing to share a scribble with me. If she would be willing to let me post it for my other word loving friends to enjoy. She said yes. So today I would like to share a scribble by the ever so incredible Leah Jarvis, brilliant teenager, beautiful soul and talented wordsmith, a scribble inspired by a conversation on the way home from a movie inspired by a book. 

Shadows and cold.

They are what creeps under your skin with rotten fingernails and through your porous bones, a paralysis. They steal your breath and replace only glass-cracked stiffness of the mind and soul.

Shadows and cold and holes.

You fall with the wind at your back only pushing further as it laughs, and then you hit the bottom only to have it crumble out from under you once more. You are swallowed in every sense of the word in the maw of your own helplessness. How freezing is it now, that your limbs aren’t even in agony anymore? There is only exhaustion, except that your heart is racing to catch up with you, to save you. It never makes it. It fails, and again, down you plunge.

But then, suddenly, it doesn’t matter, because there is a warmth that pulls back. Yellow flares up in the cold, and there is a candle flame beating like the heart far behind you. One single candle. Yet the exhaustion lifts, and relief washes like a bath.

The darkness snarls at it, snaps at it, but you are bold now. You laugh.

There is a light now, you say, gathering strength for the words.

The candle flickers dangerously and nearly perishes with a particularly biting gust of wind. Then it returns brighter than ever, renewed by the oxygen.

The darkness is ahead of and behind you. It’s impossible to see when this will end, or if it ever will.

But it doesn’t matter.

There is a light now, and its name is love.




It’s a funny thing, inspiration. 

Sometimes it creeps up on us slowly; a gradual revelation. Other times, it blind sides us; a marvelous shock to the system. And other, darker times, it’s elusive, distant, taunting; leaving us grasping. 

Last weekend I got the opportunity to wander through the Dallas Museum of Art with one of my best friends and I was reminded of how important inspiration is. My visit was a much needed adventure for this creative soul. I didn’t realize how desperately I needed a shock to my system. I didn’t realize how much I needed to be blind-sided by some art. 


One painting in particular, hit me like a Mac truck. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. No photograph does it justice. But something about the movement and the color and the texture…it haunts me.

Have you ever had those moments? When something or someone comes along and so captures your heart or imagination, you just know you won’t be able to forget? You don’t want to forget…

I’m not sure precisely what it was about this piece that grabbed hold of me so tightly. What about it struck so aggressively at such a tender nerve inside me.  Maybe the scale of it, the photograph above doesn’t come close to showing its size. Perhaps it was the movement of the paint and how it seemed to be both moving and still on the canvas. Maybe it was the violent color or the texture leaking out and the fact that I literally ached to reach out and touch it. I don’t know. But it took hold of my imagination in an instant and has been in a wrestling match with it ever since. A thousand thoughts and stories have been clawing their way to the surface. All because of one stunning painting. I wonder if the artist ever fathomed what his art could inspire in another soul. 

Isn’t that what we are all searching for in some way? What we desire, even if we don’t recognize it all the time? Those things, moments, people, that light a fire within us and inspire us to dream something outside ourselves? Something bigger than we thought ourselves capable of? Those things, moments or people that ask us questions without words, that challenge our emotions without agenda, that make us believe in impossible ideas? Don’t we all want just a taste of some sort of inspiration, even if it looks different for each one of us? 


Some people may think spending most of a day wandering around an art museum is a waste of time. I know some of the people who asked what I did on my mini vacation thought so. But it wasn’t a waste of time for me. It was a much needed revelation. Art, just like music or words, is fuel. It’s a sort of magic, unique and purposeful.  In my opinion, we don’t take enough time to appreciate these things. 


Daily life is hard. It often weighs us down and can destroy us if we let it. If we let it. We need to be reminded that we have a choice. We always have a choice. To see the world differently. To see its beauty and the beauty we are capable of creating, rather than always seeing the hate and uncertainty and ugly (which are often easier to see).  We need to be reminded that we are incredible, complex, emotive, magnificent creatures, echoes of our own Creator. 


We need to be reminded that we are not alone and art, music, writing…they connect us. 


We all need to be inspired. And in turn, maybe we will inspire someone else along the way.


I am grateful Kazuo Shiraga thought the painting above was important enough to create. I am grateful it’s left its mark on my soul, along with many others I saw last weekend. And I am grateful there are those in the world who think art and music and writing are necessary, life-giving, and important. 

If, for no other reason, than I need it.


 What’s inspired you lately?