Category Archives: Art and Poetry

The Olive Trees: Seeing the Divine in the Everyday

You may have noticed the images of paintings I have included here recently. Aren’t they pretty? In the late 1800s, Vincent Van Gogh decided to commit himself to an asylum in Southern France. There, he painted a collection of artwork entitled, “The Olive Trees”.¬†Aside from loving them for purely aesthetic purposes, I’ve found these pieces have a deeper significance.


Historically, the olive branch has always been a symbol of peace. From Ancient Greece to early Christianity to the modern day, there is meaningful significance regarding olive branches and peace in cultures across the world. Here, Van Gogh’s representation of the olive orchards surrounding his asylum largely symbolized his feelings toward Christ in Gethsemane. He wanted to portray his feelings toward the divine without ¬†representing a literal figure.


Can you imagine Van Gogh looking through the bars on the window in his asylum to paint these pieces? How many times a day do I feel like I’m looking through the windows in an asylum when my five-year-old is squealing and running through the house without her pants on, or my two-year-old has hijacked the Nutella and spread it on the walls (again)? One of my favorite quotes is the Othello Principle: “The eye sees what the mind looks for.” How do we train ourselves to look out of the windows in our own personal asylum (one of our own choosing, I might add), and see the divine?


Landscape with Olive Trees


It takes practice. But look at the beauty just beyond those bars. Look at the way your daughter holds her sister’s hand when they hop out of the car at school. Notice the laundry your husband folded to save you some time. Look at the flowers he planted. Take a moment to let a wave of gratitude sweep over you when you nuzzle your nose into your son’s smushy, just-out-of-the-bath cheeks. Feel the quiet reassurance that you are a part of something much greater than an afternoon of cleaning Nutella off the walls.Take some time each day to bask in the beauty around you. It is there if you only have eyes to see.