The Arc of My Life

Painting of arched stained glass window

Gothic Stained Glass, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I was listening to Michelle Obama’s first podcast – was it only two weeks ago? – when the phrase “the arc of my life” caught my attention.  I’m still not entirely sure I understand the meaning, even after a tour down Google’s Rabbit Hole, but I love the sound of it.  It seems to imply a vast existential rainbow, arching between …. what?  The fabled pot of gold and the glistening sea?  The majestic mountains and the undulating prairies?  Or perhaps, the arc of stones carefully pieced into a literal arch, each individual stone bearing its share of the weight of a magnificent structure?

The painting above was based on a photo I came across as I winnowed my way through several boxes of old photos (the Project That Never Ends or so it seems).  I think I took the snapshot on my first trip to Europe, probably in London in 1978, but I have no way of being sure where or when.  The stained glass, the shadows, the textures, the shapes, the patterns, the odd perspective – somehow that seems to better represent the arc of my life than a rainbow.  There is an unmistakable rainbow glow from the glass, but the real story of this arc is about the contribution of each stone, each phase of an individual life, no single stone more important than another, with the exception of the keystone, the one that holds it all together…

Like many people, my response to the Pandemic has involved much casting backward into a sea of memory, much probing forward into the fog of the future.  An Arc of a Life – what a lovely phrase to capture the ups and downs of the decades.  I think I’ll explore this symbolism a little more.  Maybe I can figure out what has been my keystone.  Maybe I’ll design a stained glass pattern… hmm.