December 24, 2021
Reflections, Day 63—The immersive van Gogh experience, part 2
““It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
― Vincent Van Gogh
“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”
― Vincent Willem van Gogh
I can’t remember when I’ve been so moved by an experience. The van Gogh tour that had taken me inside a room surrounded by a giant painting that kept changing was moving and concept-grabbing. But then we went into another room. I realized that I was totally out of my element as I looked at a series of partitions with funny looking stools. Some very nice young attendants were there to welcome us.
I was given a funny mask to wear—not a face mask like for Covid prevention, but one that looked all the world like a Lone Ranger mask with a cutout for the eyes and nose. I was game.
I was shown to a stool. The stools were two to a partitioned area and separated by about six feet. When I sat down, I noticed that I could swivel in any direction but that my knees hit the wall just short of a full circle. Next, a lady put a funny contraption on my head that looked like an open-topped helmet with wraparound glasses. I still wore my regular glasses as the ones in the “helmet” were a few inches from my eyes. The lady adjusted it to my head for a snug fit.
It was like going to sleep after anesthesia, when you’re awake and then you’re dreaming without any interim. There was no sound (I still can’t figure out how they did that).
I had moved into a different reality. All of a sudden I was in van Gogh’s bedroom—the same one where Dekie and I had been sitting on the bed—but it was different. I looked around. I swiveled in the chair, and everything was just like in the picture and I saw every little detail clearly. Somehow I turned to my left and I saw a door. The door opened. I moved toward the door and realized that I was floating—like in a dream—I floated through the door, unaware of my body, only seeing. I floated down a set of stairs to a landing, turned, and went down another flight of stairs. A door appeared and opened. I floated through it and found myself in a garden—a garden with a cobblestone pathway moving through it. I was astounded as I looked way up at the tree tops and I could see individual pieces of bark and leaves in magnificent detail. The colors were amazing.
I floated down the cobblestone walk, looking to both sides. The sides of the path were bordered by fantastic plantings of ferns and some other plant with large flat, pointed leaves that I could almost identify, but not quite. Here and there I saw what looked like tall, white sunflowers. The other side of the garden was bordered by a brown wooden fence and on the other side of the fence were fields of golden wheat. I realized that I was travelling through a painting. I turned, I stared, I swiveled until my knees stopped me and I turned back. An arrow appeared telling me to look at my left and there stood an easel with van Gogh’s painting of a wheat field that was patterned after the one I was in.
I continued to float down the gravel path and another painting appeared, showing me what the artist had seen in the garden.
The cobblestone path turned into a road and I floated downhill into a town in the dusk that had beautifully colored homes with well-lit, inviting windows. I couldn’t turn my head fast enough to take it all in but what I did see was amazing and I felt that I could live there. I kept floating downhill. A painting appeared and then went away. I came to a river where I saw a stone bridge with arches off to my right and another town on the other side.
I felt that I was looking off to the east as I watched the moon rise in the growing dusk, as I watched the lights come on, as I watched another painting appear with lights and the river…
And then, the evening advanced and I saw the moon and stars appear.
As I watched, the sky turned to van Gogh’s painting that we all know,
I wanted to stay, but I suddenly heard a sound, the sound of my wife laughing like she does when she wakes up in the morning. The helmet was removed from my head and I returned to my usual concept of reality.
It was an experience that I can never erase from my mind—nor would I ever wish to—john schulz
Power to the painters