Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.

Luci Shaw & Marietha Smit

Lucy Shaw (poem) & Marietha Smit (drawing)

Peeling the onion

by Luci Shaw

There’s not much I don’t know about you—
yellow, red, sweet--grubbed up roots and all.
Essential for a vigorous cuisine, alerting
the senses—the crackle of your paper brown outer
skin, your translucent inner sheaths like
vegetable undergarments, your pungent heat
rising from sharp steel and cutting board
to my blurred eyes, your precise circles against
the wood, before the sizzle in the buttered pan.

Reluctant to relinquish our intimacy
your sharp essence clings to my hands like
a reputation. Hours later, in the dark, you season
the air around my fingers. For a feast I’ll stud you
with stars of cloves and bury you
in the belly of the bird before roasting.
Or nestle your pearls with a stalk of mint
among the green peas. If I leave you too long in
the pantry, your patience exhausted, attenuated,
soft at the center, you send up green spears
through the mesh bag that call out
chop me, make a salad, I am delicious.

How do I interpret my own
layered membranes, like growth rings?
I try to peel away the layers of my
onion heart, never getting all the way in.


Marietha Smit: Peeling IV, 2006, coloured pens on black paper, 2 x 2.1 m.

To read a visual meditation about this drawing, click here.

Marietha Smit is a South-African artist who lives in Johannesburg and works full-time as a high school art teacher. In between teaching she obtained a Masters degree in Fine Art from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. She also has a Maitrise de Lettres Modernes from the Université de Paris III La Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, France. Currently she would like to produce a PhD Visual Autobiography (Fine Art) project that she describes as “basically telling the story of how Jesus Christ saved me, how I was reborn, and how healing, growth and victory have been the hallmark of my life since 1977 and are still happening today.” 

Luci Shaw was born in 1928 in London, England, and has lived in Canada, Australia and the U.S.A. A 1953 high honors graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she became co-founder and later president of Harold Shaw Publishers. Shaw is a frequent retreat facilitator and leads writing workshops in church and university settings. She has lectured in North America and abroad on topics such as art and spirituality, the Christian imagination, poetry-writing, and journal-writing as an aid to artistic and spiritual growth. Shaw is author of ten volumes of poetry and of a long list of books.  Her most recent books are What the Light Was Like (Word Farm), Accompanied by Angels (Eerdmans), The Genesis of It All (Paraclete), and Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination & Spirit (Nelson). She and her husband John Hoyte live in Bellingham. See


- April 2024: Denise Levertov & Ernst Barlach
- January 2024: Wendell Berry and Carol Aust
- November 2023: Luci Shaw & Botticelli
- March 2023: Jill Baumgaertner & Liviu Mocan
- September 2022: The Uncompleted Man
- March 2022: Annukka Laine
- January 2022: Megan Fisher
- November 2021: Luci Shaw & Worku Goshu
- September 2021: Pádraig Ó Tuama & Leo G. Franchi
- May 2021: Malcolm Guite & Unknown
- January 2021: Emily Dickinson & Henri Matisse
- December 2020: Allan Boesak & Harm Visser
- June 2020: Luci Shaw & Sebastian Wien
- November 2019: Dennis O’Driscoll & David Robinson
- June 2019: C.S. Lewis & Wayne Adams
- May 2019: Malcolm Guite & Andrea Mantegna: Ascension
- May 2019: Denise Levertov & Ernst Barlach
- October 2018: Sándor Reményik & Ildikó Mecséri
- August 2018: Abigail Carroll & Caravaggio
- May 2018: Bohuslav Reynek: Poet and Visual Artist
- March 2018: George MacDonald & James Ensor
- January 2018: Wendell Berry & Annukka Laine
- November 2017: Mary Oliver & Pauline Baynes
- August 2017: Ellyn Maybe & Pablo Picasso
- April 2017: Lucy Shaw & Henry Ossawa Tanner
- April 2017: Denise Levertov & Diego Velazquez
- February 2017: David L. Hatton & David L. Hatton
- November 2016: Dennis ODriscoll & David Robinson
- April 2016: Robert Browning & Pauline Baynes
- March 2016: Wendell Berry & Carol Aust
- January 2016: Dante G. Rossetti & Dante G. Rossetti
- December 2015: Sufjan Stevens & Geertgen tot Sint Jans
- September 2015: Thomas Merton & Andre Racz
- June 2015: Frances Bellerby & Jeltje Hoogenkamp
- March 2015: Christine Perrin & Ted Prescott
- January 2015: Jan Krist & Gor Chahal
- December 2014: Sufjan Stevens & Geertgen tot Sint Jans
- November 2014: David L. Hatton & David L. Hatton
- July 2014: Chris Lorensson & Dylan Clements
- June 2014: Jonathan Evens & Henry Shelton
- April 2014: Gerlind Krause & Worku Goshu
- April 2014: Christine Perrin & Michelangelo
- February 2014: David Hatton & Angelo da Fonseca
- January 2014: James Weldon Johnson & Aaron Douglas
- January 2014: Hannah Main-van der Kamp & Liviu Mocan
- December 2013: Christine Perrin & Fra Angelico
- December 2013: Luci Shaw & Botticelli
- November 2013: Christine Perrin & Luca Signorelli
- October 2013: Hannah Main-van der Kamp & Tanja Butler
- October 2013: James Weldon Johnson & Aaron Douglas
- October 2013: Marilyn Chandler McEntyre & Johannes Vermeer
- September 2013: The Renewal of Ekphrasis by John Skillen