I've been meaning to write a post this spring and so much has been going on that I haven't been able to get myself to sit down and write until today. This spring has been crazy in many ways, but something about spring always says there is hope. I sensed this as a little girl playing outside after long winters and noticing the first blooms peaking through the earth and buds covering the trees. My favorite season was always summer and spring told me that summer was on the way! It always felt exciting. Winter can be hard, but spring always comes. I love how God created seasons that are a metaphor for life and we are reminded with the repetition of them every year.
The setting of this painting is a quaint, historic church on beautiful grounds that, as many historic church grounds do, contains a cemetery. Unlike many that I've seen which have a neatly contained cemetery, this one has tombstones seemingly scattered all around. There are graves of the wealthy enclosed in fences, and if you wander around the yard, you'll find graves that seem randomly placed, some in the yard, some seem to be tumbling down a hill behind the church. The first time I saw this church when Ray and I were driving the back route from Charleston to our home in Summersville, I asked him to stop so I could take pictures. I had no idea of any of the history but I loved the scene.
(Click through to see the photos larger.)
In following years, I'd drive myself to Charleston to do business with my printer and, later, to and from cancer treatments (during the immunotherapy treatments that weren't so severe and I could drive myself). I rarely passed this place without stopping to take pictures. It was beautiful in every season. I remember the day that I stopped in the spring on my way home from an infusion and was captivated by the beautiful dogwood blossoms around the property. Again, reminding me during a hard time, that there is hope.
I had always wanted to do a painting of this nostalgic-feeling place, and last winter when Tamarack requested small paintings, I thought it would be a great time to get this done.
As I researched to find the name of the place, I discovered some interesting history. The land where the church is built is the first settlement in the Kanawha Valley, settled in 1773. In 1853 the chapel was built by a salt industrialist as a graduation gift for his daughter and was used, among other things, as a hospital during the Civil War. I learned that this man had many slaves and much of the grounds is a slave cemetery. As much as I have always been intrigued with old cemeteries, this fact really sobered me. The people buried here died with the hope of freedom only in the next life. As we have heard so many of their spiritual songs, we know that hope was real for them. I can't leave this topic without saying that many years after the abolition of slavery, recent events highlight that much still needs to be done to ensure equality for all of the human race.
Whatever challenges you may personally be facing, I encourage you to embrace the hope that spring illustrates for us every year - new life out of the dead of winter, beauty out of stark gray, and the reason for a chapel - pointing us to God, the giver of all hope.
Hope of Spring is the April image in my 2022 calendar.
The original oil painting is sold. Prints and note cards are available through my online shop.
I've included a couple of the links I found if you're interested to learn more about this place: