In a 2003 interview with the East Hampton Star, Ms. Abbott recalled that she was 9 when she fell ill with an infection behind her ear, later complicated by pneumonia, that persisted for two bedridden years and marked a break from years spent frolicking outdoors. “As a child, I had been with everything — animals, plants. I didn’t see beauty; I was in it, I was part of it.”
Her infection, she added, launched her into a new relationship with nature and art. “One morning I woke up and looked out the window, at two pine trees that had been named after my brother and I when we were born, Billy and Mary. I realized I wasn’t with beauty and nature anymore; I was seeing it from the outside. So for the rest of my life I’d paint to get with it again.”
Smith, Harrison, “Mary Abbott, abstract expressionist with an unsung influence, dies at 98.” The Washington Post, October 2, 2019, Obituaries, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/mary-abbott-abstract-expressionist-with-an-unsung-influence-dies-at-98/2019/10/02/0980fe82-e51f-11e9-a6e8-8759c5c7f608_story.html
Mary Abbott’s art was about trying to return to the experience of being ‘with everything.’ This is our experience, as well.
Before we come into these bodies, into this world, we know ourselves to some degree as ‘at one with’ the whole of what is, the oneness of nature. Then we join the relative world and within a short while forget where it is we came from, identifying solely with this world and our place in it. But there is always within us the longing for home.
For some of us this means seeking the right romantic love, the right family structure, the right job, the right amount of money/success/stardom/recognition.
Those of us lucky enough to have heard of meditation, in any form, and then to have embraced it, know that what we are seeking is an experience available only within.
We can have this experience, at least to some degree, today.
Today I will meditate twice, morning and evening, and I will thank the universe for the opportunity to feel at home.
Artist Mary Abbott, around 1950, in her New York City studio. (McCormick Gallery)