Chance encounter brought home the value of what we take for granted
Published 11/05/2016 | 02:30
'Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope." Oscar Wilde.
These words were recently quoted to us by a red-haired middle-aged Canadian lady during a family visit to the National Gallery in Dublin.
She was the only other person on a guided tour of the gallery, currently dubbed "highlights of the highlights".
The gallery is in the midst of a major renovation so only a few rooms are available to showcase its treasures and these are now curtailed further with the opening last week of an exhibition of 10 drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci, on loan from the Queen of England. I spent four years attending Trinity across the road and, while I paid many a visit to The Lincoln Inn on the college perimeter, I never once made it to the National Gallery.
I now know I was afraid of art, fearing it was above me. Only later I began to realise you don't need to understand it to enjoy it or be enriched by it.
Back to our chance encounter, it turned out that the lady, called Maureen Prendergast, is from Prince Edward Island, setting of the famous Anne of Green Gables novels.
Maureen reminded me in ways of the books' heroine, Anne Shirley. There was the red hair, of course, but she also demonstrated an empathy with people and joy in the natural world that was so characteristic of Anne, generously and unaffectedly sharing with us a broad and colourful knowledge of art and literature.
By coincidence, I am reading Anne of Avonlea at present and was recently smitten by the following passage: