Sunday, June 25, 2017

Finding My Way Home

One of the things you deal with after being officially "orphaned" is not having a home to go to. For many years I couldn't wait to get away from "home" and later as it became my "parents home" it was a place of refuge. A grounding place. The Cape was this home, too. At first it was where we learned to swim, row a boat, dig for clams while packed in a small cottage out in East Orleans with a sink the size of a dinner plate and a shower so narrow you had to keep your elbows in.  When I was in college I took summer jobs in Orleans and shared dorm-like apartments we could afford on tips and minimum wage. After graduation I took my first real job at a map making company in West Yarmouth and rented a home with two others in Barnstable Village. While I got to know the varied towns and villages and back roads of the Cape, when I needed refuge I always headed to Orleans, to Nauset Beach and back to the Mill Pond. Meditating in its peace and listening to the Bob White's call.

A few years went by and I moved off Cape, had a family of my own and then moved to Florida for a new job.  Now Orleans was where my parents lived, where I spent my Thanksgivings and Christmases. A new refuge. A place where I gallery hopped with my mom who was now painting and a member of Nauset area art leagues. The place my husband and daughter came to know through me. And as the years sailed by the roles began to shift and soon it was the place I went to ensure my parents were okay, the house was being taken care of, to take them to Dr's appointments and then to help them move from their home to life in assisted living. 

In 2009 I returned to painting full time and started dividing my time between visiting my parents in Orleans and spending time up in Provincetown and Wellfleet - taking painting workshops, renting studio space and later delivery work to the gallery. Interspersed were the many trips to the Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis where I would calm my parents and sit and watch the Island ferries as they came and went, the nurses and doctors come and go and then, finally my parents. First my mom then, three years later and in the same exact room, my dad.

Into The Mystic, Oil on Linen

Last summer I came to the Cape with such mixed emotions. I was fighting back the memories and feeling lost. Where is home? I visited the rolling waves of Nauset Beach and walked the quiet shore of the Mill Pond and listened to the Bob Whites as my body mirrored the leaning beach grasses. I shopped at Shaw's and had a beer at the Ho! All the things that I used to do. I went and visited my parents resting place - the church grounds in Orleans - and found myself talking about the weather and looking up at the tall pines swaying in the winds. Everything was the same. And different. 

Then I drove up to Provincetown to deliver my new paintings. We were hugging and laughing and getting settled. I checked into my room, picked up a few things at Angel Foods on Commercial Street and that afternoon found myself sitting in a beach chair behind Poor Richards Landing after a wonderful swim in the warm waters and watching the shifts of colors over the Wharf while having a beer with friends and realizing this is home, too. I was still hurting but I was in the cradle of the Cape's bounty.

And now almost a year later I am heading back to Provincetown and for the very first time I can hear myself saying, "I am moving forward. My grief is starting to lessen." Time has a way of helping with that. And I am learning that nothing ever really dies, that we are our past and we find our way forward and that it is as much with the strength of our friends as well as the natural environment that surrounds us that helps us to move on.  The smell of the salt air, the taste of the salt water, the shifting winds in the marshes, the billowing cloudscapes, the pinks of the sunsets, the early morning birds calling, the boats bobbing in the harbor - these sounds and images have been my constant as it has for many generations before me. And this is where I go when I paint. Like tapping into a universal place. And I realize now that this too is home. A place we carry within us and holds a part of all we love and all we loved dearly within it.

Christine Sullivan - New & Selected Works
Opening Reception Friday, July 7th • 7 - 9PM
Oils By The Sea / ROCCAPRIORE Gallery
437 Commercial Street • Provincetown, MA

P.S. I have been painting daily since February and these new works are part of my healing process as I find peace within the ever changing yet constant landscape of the Cape and are part of my show that opens Friday, July 7th at Oils By The Sea / ROCCAPRIRE Gallery located at 437 Commercial Street on Provincetown's East End. Stop in and say hello!



  1. Beautifully written Chris! Others should read this that are going through loss. Looking forward to seeing your new work !

  2. I got to see these paintings "up close and personal" today and I was just overwhelmed by their beauty! They definitely take you away to a wonderful place. Trust me when I say that everyone who visits the gallery is in for a real treat!