Mr. Rubens

Summer of 2013: London, England.

I was traveling around Europe with my Love. We backpacked through sixteen cities, taking it all in. I was a drinker back then. We partied like hell and smoked Gauloises. I had my geetar in tow everywhere we went. I busked in every city and small town. I played open stages, shared them with amazing performers, one of which is to this day a dear friend and cross-Atlantic musical compadre.

One morning we took a trip to the National Gallery. While there I came upon the work of the Dutch painter, Peter Paul Rubens. I loved his paintings. I was particularly engaged by the arc of his evolution. Already established in his career, he took time in Rome to study the work of the Italian Masters. His work came into it’s own. It was after this period that he birthed the masterpiece, The Massacre of the Innocents.

I was in awe of this painting. At the time, I had a number of questions about the legacy of Jesus Christ. I was absorbed by Christian imagery, looking for answers in the lines and light in of the churches and paintings of old Europe.

Fast forward ten years…

I’m at the AGO in Toronto, wandering about, as you do. I come ’round a corner into a room painted deep red and dimly lit. There before me stands the painting that a decade before had me in thrall. The Massacre of the Innocents. On loan from the National Gallery. I stop dead.

They say when you die your life flashes before your eyes. I don’t know about that, though I did, standing again in the presence of Rubens’ work, have a similar experience. That day in London ten years gone and the day at the AGO became bookends of my life. There was a flash. It was like a movie passing quickly by. I was so moved.

Upon returning home, to the ink, wood, and wire I went. The song spilled forth. There was no pause. Like my breath twice suspended in the presence of this great work, the words and music came. In minutes the song was formed.

So, I give it to you now, along with a bootlegged image of the work itself. The jpeg does it no justice. It must be seen with the irreplaceable human eye to be properly admired. I am forever changed by it…