“Writings from Wild Soul”

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The first blogger I ever followed and the first to follow me back was Wendy Sarno.  What drew me at first was the name of her blog “Writings from Wild Soul” since the word “wild” is also featured in my blog.

But what made me follow her and keep on reading her all these years was the deep, soulful, way she writes about her encounters with nature, which are always rich with detail.  When I read her posts I am swept away to a green, lush, world that humbles and excites me, and I always learn something new. A new way of seeing, a new way of being. I come away feeling blessed.

She calls herself wrensong, and says:

I am a poet who collects stones. I am a wanderer of creek beds and forests, canyons and high desert who, coming home, sometimes finds words to tell the story. I am a companion with others in the search for Deep, Wild Soul. I shape containers in time and space for others to come together to write, to tell their stories, to hold each other in the telling. I am a grandmother and the companion of a cat named Alaya. I often travel out into open country with a man who calls himself Dunewalker who has hung his hammock in my heart.

She has now collected her storied essays and poems in the book “Writings from Wild Soul.” She writes of this experience:

A friend just wrote to ask if I felt a glow of accomplishment. Well, not exactly.

Years ago I remember reading about Pueblo potters, mostly women, and how after they had made a pot and were preparing to put it in the fire they gave thanks to the clay and to the newly formed vessel saying simply with honor, “Now you are a made thing”. That’s how I feel when I hold this book. Not a glow exactly at all but a simplicity of wonder “My goodness, now you are a made thing”.

Here’s just a taste of the kinds of rich, satisfying meals she serves.

From “Into the Silence

My husband and I just got back from the Pacific Northwest. We spent two weeks nestled under those great tall trees on Bainbridge Island and went off roaming the region. One day, out on the far side of the Olympic Peninsula, we hiked into the Hoh Rainforest over a rooted and winding trail along the Hoh River.

There the Sitka Spruce grow eight feet in diameter, two hundred feet tall and the great Western Cedar even larger. In that damp world everything grows thick with lichens and moss. The forest floor is strewn with moss covered fallen nurse trees, licorice fern, sword fern, lady fern, salmonberry and huckleberry. The huge big leaf maples cover their trunks with epiphyte mosses and drip with long beards of moss. It is a lush, moist realm of old tree life blessedly preserved from the ubiquitous clear-cut logging fields.

We went in search of silence, one square inch of it. No, really, there is one, sort of. On Earth Day in 2005 Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, dedicated this spot he had chosen in the Olympic National Park as a sanctuary to silence. He calls it One Square Inch of Silence.

I was thinking about this invitation to silence this Sunday morning in July when I looked out and was struck by the intense green of the neighbor’s tulip tree against an intensity of blue sky, the etch of brilliant green against that fierce, endless deep blue. I was struck with my instant need to put words to it, to find words to say it, this meeting. I think it was Annie Dillard who said something like “God imbues the world like color”. This I have faith in, this imbue-ing god, the one who looks out at me from your blue eyes, from the red cherries, the gold finch, the grass, the moss covered Sitka Spruce. This god who offers the god-self as beauty, intensity, tenderness, who meets me silently the way the sky meets a tulip tree, the way an ancient rainforest holds its moist, mossy self. And for a few moments I’m enthralled, held in a large, sweet order to things, belonging to this encounter between tree and sky. All the while the sunlight spilling thru in silence. All in silence.

From The Bones of Winter

I had the sense all morning on this day between winter and spring that I walked at the edge of life and death. Wandering up the luminous green of a grassy trail that snaked thru the prairie blackened from a winter burn with its charred grasses and woody stems, I saw flocks of robins browsing listening to what stirred under the flattened mat of an old season. Here and there shoots of green emerged from thick tangles of old root hinting at the tall grasses that would wave here in a summer wind. It was there I found the bone -white shell of a box turtle lying belly up on the ground. Part of the lower plate was gone and it lay there like a mouth open to the sky where season by season it collected seeds and leaves and fallen petals and rain and snow and dust. The yearly stories shed by the land into this waiting cup.

All winter I fed the small birds from bags of old seed and I was as hungry as they were for something fresh and moist and alive. When I walk I tell my story. I whisper my hungers and my hopes to the grass and the wind. I share whatever arises in my wandering mind, memories or dreams. Sometimes poems. Sometimes tears. On this Sunday, as I leaned into the rising path and the wind, I felt my good, deep breath, muscles warming, a flicker of joy at the sight of green, and a sweet pleasure in the gift of a broken turtle shell like an offering, offering its stories and offering to hold mine. And as the hours moved my slow steps along this trail or that, I began to feel the gift that wild places always offer us, an easefulness rising thru my bones out of the moist earth, something around my heart unclenched, made room for delight in a pond chorus of frogs in their spring song.

From her website Listening to Stones which features her poetry:

Rain Like Fallen Grace

I’m cutting daisies in this rain falling over the quiet morning like Sunday Grace.

I’m holding utterly still breathing the scent of water and flowers

The cups of the small roses reaching up

Every leaf trembling

 green prayers

answered.

-wrensong

The Seeing

I’m on the phone with a friend who

is gazing out her living room window when

she notices a dead branch has fallen

across a live branch in a big pine

and formed a perfect cross.

In the center of the cross is a nest

and in the nest is a dove who is feeding

her three nestlings.

We were talking about how to keep

our souls alive in these difficult

political times and suddenly in

this seeing, and in her telling me

of what she sees, and in my seeing

thru her words the branches, the tree,

the nest and the doves,

we know.

This is how.

-wrensong

This is how we know, in the seeing. This is why I read her writings: that deep seeing, that deep knowing.

I hope you feel as blessed as I do today after tasting her rich offerings to the world.

 

Flesh and Stone – New Paintings

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“Woman Within” watercolor by Deborah J. Brasket

Recently I discovered the sculptures of Francisco Zuniga and have been drawn to recapture what I love about them in the only mediums I have access to: watercolor and words.

My paintings, of course, don’t do them justice, nor do these photos of the originals, I imagine. But they are all I have to work with and share.

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“Stooping Woman” white marble, by Francisco Zuniga

This first, called “Stooping Woman,” in white marble, was found in a book of his artwork. I love the luscious curves, the way the light and shadows play against the form to deepen the contours and highlight the delicate curve of her spine and hips—the way they glisten. And yet she seems soft enough to touch. You can imagine her unfolding herself, stretching her arms and stepping from the stool.

There’s almost an egg-like feel to the image, her folded over on herself like that, as if gathering herself downward and inward toward her essential being: round and solid, half-hidden, womb-like.

I decided to give her flesh tones and contrast that silky smoothness with a rough-textured background. She’s wrapped in a blue-green sea, although I kept her stool to keep her grounded. She’s not floating off anywhere. She knows what she’s doing.

The proportion isn’t quite right I’ve decided, the right hip not round enough. But aside from that I’m happy with the results. She says what I wanted her to say.

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Sculpture by Francisco Zuniga

The second Zuniga sculpture I found on Pinterest when I was creating my “Mothers and Other Lovers” page. The stone here is rough and earthy, a warm reddish-brown. The baby looks soft enough to want to squeeze. This one has a more primitive feel, as seems appropriate for the Madonna theme.

I’m not as happy about my attempt to capture what I love about this image, as I was with the other. I wanted to show them within a cave-like setting, as if emerging from the darkness into light. And I let the mother’s hair sweep around to surround them. The blue and red geometric design was meant to lend it an iconic feel. But the “cave-like” part looks (and was) overworked, and parts of the figures look washed out, especially in this photo. I’ll probably work on it some more, or start fresh and try again.

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“Mother and Child” watercolor by Deborah J. Brasket

Zuniga also worked in watercolor. Simple designs, mostly of indigenous women. If you’d like to learn more about his work, you can watch this short video.

 

5 Years Blogging from the Edge of the Wild

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Honduras, Bay Islands

I began this blog five years ago, in July 2012. It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve loved every minute of it. My first post earned me one “like” and no comments, and now I have over 9000 followers, mostly due to being “Freshly Pressed” three times.

Still, it’s humbling.

When you start blogging it’s like tapping out a weak signal into a vast universe wondering if there’s anyone out there listening who will pick up and respond.

You feel small and alone at first, but powerful too, like that first explorer setting out into the wilderness, not knowing what you will find there, if anything at all.

And then you get your first ping back, a response. That’s all it takes.  You’re not alone after all. Someone is listening, someone like you, and community of like-minded adventurers is formed. Your little spacecraft has a purpose, and a grounding (a following), as you zip through cyberspace exploring what’s out there.

The purpose of this blog, as I wrote about in my first post , has not changed much, although the emphasis has shifted over time.

“I created this blog to explore what it means to be living on the edge of the wild.

 

We all are, in some way, living on the edge of the wild, either literally or figuratively, whether we know it or not.  We all are standing at the edge of some great unknown, exploring what it means to be human in a more-than-human universe.

We encounter the “wild” not only in the natural world, but in ourselves and our daily lives, if only in our own strange dreams, our own unruly minds and rebellious bodies, our own inscrutable families and weird and wonderful pets.

We encounter the “wild” at the edges of science, the arts, and human consciousness.”

I started out with a series of “Sea Sagas” about when we went sailing around the world, most posts on the why and how of it, not getting very far in our journey, and I’d like to get back to that again.

The wildest, bravest, and most romantic thing I’ve ever done was to fully embrace my boyfriend’s dream of sailing around the world and make it my own.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why I married him.

I also wrote a lot about the art and craft of writing, and my own writing experience. The two-part series about writing with Annie Dillard is one of my and my followers’ favorites.

When I look at the things I write about, that I’m drawn to write about, that seize me, here’s what I see, what I’m drawn to explore:

The gap between appearance and reality; between what’s real and what’s not, and how we can ever truly know for sure. If it’s possible at all.

The dark and the light, good and evil, beauty and brutality, the foolish and profound: how they play together, how they are all wound up in each other, how it’s almost impossible to tear them apart, as least in our ordinary, daily experiences. They lay side by side, or one on top of the other; they copulate over and over, and we, this life itself, is what they give birth to.

Some of my most “viewed” posts explore those darker edges of human consciousness. Hardly a day goes by where the following post does not get several views:

A Deer’s Scream – Beauty and Brutality at Home and in the Hills of Vietnam

The most horrifying sound I’ve ever heard came one night soon after we moved here.  A scream of pure terror that seemed to last forever.

Although I wrote it five years ago in October 2012, it got 106 views last month and 93 the month before, even though it was never freshly pressed. It was one of the hardest posts to write and one of my favorites because of that, I suppose. It spawned a similarly hard post The Deer’s Scream, My Mother’s Eyes, and a Ripe Strawberry,

Perhaps at the very end, when there finally is no escape from death, like that deer, like my mother, and that awful inevitable conclusion chasing us down grabs hold, something unimaginable happens.  Some unseen hand plucks us like a ripe strawberry from the jaws of death and swallows us whole, savoring all the sweetness of our brief lives, and reaffirming with a sigh, “Oh, so delicious!”

A prose poem followed, based on my experiences caring for my mother when she was dying: 13 Ways of Looking at Dying, Just Before, and the Moment After.

IV
“Come here. I want you to sit on my lap.”
“No, Mama. I’m too heavy. I’ll hurt you.”
“Come, I want to hold you, like I used to.” She pats her lap.

Her hands are all bone now, her nails long and yellow. Her pajama bottoms are so loose there’s almost no leg to sit on. I balance on the edge of the recliner and she pulls my head down to her chest.

“There now,” she says, “there now.”

I feel like I’m lying on glass. Like any second I’ll break through. Like the long sharp shards of her body holding me up are giving way, and I’m being torn to pieces in her arms.

Another popular series of posts began with True Ghost Stories, Part One, Growing up in a Haunted House. One of the most popular in that series was about A Demon Sitting on My Chest. The series ends with me questioning whether all I experienced was “really” real, and evoking the voice of one of my favorite GOT characters.

So are the ghosts, demons, and other supernatural beings that have haunted humans through the centuries, that make brief appearances and then disappear, “real”? I do not know, and I’m not sure if it even matters. They are real enough to those that experience them, as least while they are experiencing them, and then afterwards, one wonders.

Each of us makes but brief ghostly appearances in this world we call real. We apparently spring from nearly nothing–a few multiplying cells, and then disappear into nothing as our bodies disintegrate after a short visitation that can last a few days or a few decades. Are we “real”?

“You know nothing, Jon Snow!” So claims the wilding Ygritte in the Game of Thrones series, a saying that has become a popular catchphrase for fans. And rightly so, I believe. It has the ring of truth about it.

Author George R. R. Martin created a soft-edged, constantly evolving world that surprises and delights and dismays us at every turn. And if we become too comfortable in believing we know who the good guys and bad guys are, or who has power and who is powerless, what is real and what is not real, we are sure to have it turn topsy-turvy in no time at all.

It is a world that feels very much like our own, psychologically, emotionally, if we would only admit it.  Perhaps we are all Jon Snows, grasping to know for certain, what can only be known tentatively at best. And this is true when considering the limits of our own private, personal lives, as it is when considering the Big Questions about Life and Death and Reality.

So when people ask me now if I believe all this stuff I’ve written about in this series of ghost stories, I can hear Ygritte’s mocking voice challenge me:  “You know nothing, Jon Snow!”  And I wisely keep mum.

But lately my posts have been more about exploring the world of art, and my adventures playing with watercolor, than about writing or exploring the darker corners of consciousness.

I don’t know where this little blog-craft will take me next, and that’s the fun of it, that not-knowing: The mystery that lies beyond the edge of the wild and beckons us onward.

Thank you for taking this ride with me, for reading and responding, and for allowing me to be part of your lives as I follow you on your adventures.

Into the Wild – On Safari in Africa

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Water hole, Namibia, Africa – Photo by Jeffrey Jones

My brother and his wife have had a life-long love affair with the wildlife and habitats of southern Africa. So much so that after several trips themselves they began taking small groups on safaris. Here are just a sampling of some of the fantastic photographs he’s taken from various trips. They take us, not to the edge, but to the very heart of the wild.

I hope you will enjoy these stunning images from Namibia and Botswana as much as I have. If you’d like to learn more about his trips and the safaris he arranges, you can visit his website The Jones Party, Adventure Travel.

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Water hole, Namibia – photo by Jeffrey Jones

J&R Namibia elephants

Elephant herd, Namibia

J&R Namibia lion

Lion “pride”, Namibia

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The stunning red sand dunes of Namibia

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Sand sculpture, Namibia

J&R Namibia red dunes

Looks like a scene from Mars, but it’s the windswept hills of Namibia

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Even the earliest humans were fascinated by the wildlife of Namibia

J&R Namibia leopard

Leopard, Namibia

J&R Namibia zebra braying

Braying zebra, Namibia

Botswana elephant herd with baby 2

Elephant herd, Botswana

Botswana elephant with baby 2

Baby elephant, lost among the legs, Botswana

Botswana elephant stepping on baby sleeping 2

Stay down, baby!

Botswana elephant with baby sitting

Sitting and sleeping in the shade of the herd, Botswana

Botswana elephant with tusks 2

A handsome beast!

Botswana elephant with tusks closeup

Noble profile

Botswana lion love

A little lion love

Botswana lion nursing

More, please!

Botswana river buffalo

Water Buffalo, Botswana

Moremi Game Reserve Botswana zebra baby

Mama and baby, Botswana

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Hungry baby

Moremi Game Reserve Botswana dining hall

Dining lodge, Botswana

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Sleeping lodge, Botswana

Botswana Rita at lodge

Cooling down after a long safari, note elephants in the background

Botswana elephants at river

View from the lodge as the sun goes down

Botswana sunset with elephants

The end of another beautiful day in the wild.

[All photographs copyrighted by Jeff Jones]

You might enjoy another post I wrote a few years ago about “Waterholes in the Wild and the Backyard“.

 

Playing With Mixed Media, Watercolor & Collage

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DSCN2955As I’ve been experimenting with styles, I’ve been mixing watercolor with collage and ink, and having a lot of fun with it. The first one I tried was a bouquet with butterflies, in homage to Odilon Redon. I wanted to capture the richness of his oils in watercolor by adding texture, crumbled tissue paper. using white and colored tissue paper. First I painted the flowers and butterflies watercolor, and then tore off larger swaths of crumbled white tissue to paste over larger areas. Then added smaller bits of colored tissue where needed on some of the petals and leaves and butterfly wings. When that dried, I added more detail with water watercolor paint and pencils. I was pleased with the results. I don’t think the photo here does it justice. Although you can make out some of the texture.

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“Bouquet with Butterflies in Homage to Redon” by Deborah J. Brasket 2017 

I followed a similar method on the painting of the blue oak tree. This is from a photo I took of an old oak tree., one of my favorites. It’s featured as the heading of my Facebook page. I’ve always loved the way the branches of some oaks look like octopus arms, and I was striving for that look. You can see some of the texture from the tissue here along the branches and also in the foliage background. I hadn’t planned on adding the white dove. That came later after I completed the painting and just didn’t feel satisfied. Something was missing. That’s when I drew a small dove on white paper and glued to a tree branch. Then I pasted my white tissue over it and around it to help it blend in more. That seemed to be just what it needed..

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“Blue Oak with Dove” by Deborah J. Brasket, 2017

The last one here isn’t a collage, although it almost looks like it is. I was aiming for a playful, abstracted look, using the intense colors you find in a marina setting and focusing on the “dancing lights” reflected on the water. When I was finished painting, I outlined the boats and dock with black ink to help the images “pop” even more. I used to do that as a child when I colored, outlining the images in black. I always thought they looked better that way.

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“Dancing Lights Marina” by Deborah J. Brasket

I’ve found I like working with collage and ink and the way they enhance my paintings. I imagine I’ll be experimenting more with this technique as I continue playing with watercolor.

Sailing with Sargent and Homer

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Winslow HomerRecently I discovered the watercolors of John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer, two great American artists that I had known primarily for their oil portraits and landscapes. But each in their later years, especially when travelling (Sargent the to Mediterranean, Homer to the Key West and Bahamas) preferred painting in watercolor and created some astonishing works. Each was drawn toward capturing the dazzling whites and blues of the sea, the lights and shadows and reflections thrown up on the hulls of boats and mirrored in the water.

“To live with Sargent’s water-colours is to live with sunshine captured and held,” writes one biographer. Another calls Homer “the poet of the sea.”

Sargent was born some 20 years after Homer and outlived him by about as much. But at the height of their careers their worked overlapped each other. Yet while working in similar mediums (oil and watercolor) and drawn toward similar scenes (boats, the sea, light on water) their styles, while equally masterful, were unique. Each captured some unique aspect of the sailing experience, and each captured the spirit of the thing they were after. But they were after different things.

I lived and sailed on the sea for many years, both in the tropics and the Mediterranean. I spent long days in tranquil coves and landless seas, as well as busy ports and colorful quay-sides.  I know that balmy bliss and dreamy languidness. I know the thrill of that chaotic energy.

Sargent’s watercolors capture the boldness and busyness of the ports, the dazzling brightness as the sun dances across the hulls of ships and scatters into the sea, winks among the rigging and splashes upon the warm decks. His paintings capture the sweeping rhythm of hull lines and mast tilts, of sails fluttering in the breeze above swaying decks.John Singer Sargent, White Ships on ArtStack #john-singer-sargent #art

Shipping,Majorca 1908. John Singer SargentImmersed in that chaotic noise, the eye is too dazzled, too overcome with the busyness and beauty of it all to separate out all the chaotic details. One sees only the mass and movement, the lines and curves, the dazzling light and cool shadows. That is what Sargent captures in the watercolors here. Immersion in the moment. When I enter his scenes I’m immediately transported back in time. I’m there standing on the docks with him . . .

I Gesuati - John Singer Sargent, c.1903

Drying Sails (also known as Venetian Fishing Boats)  John Singer Sargent . . . or approaching the scene from a dinghy.The Athenaeum - The Dogana (John Singer Sargent - )

I’m seeing what he sees, feeling what he feels. I am right there at the center of it all.

Some insight into Sargent’s style and method can be found in a publication about his watercolors:

“Sargent’s approach to watercolor was unconventional. Disregarding contemporary aesthetic standards that called for carefully delineated and composed landscapes filled with transparent washes, his confidently bold, dense strokes, loosely defined forms, and unexpected vantage points startled critics and fellow practitioners alike. One reviewer of an exhibition in London proclaimed him “an eagle in a dove-cote”; another called his work “swagger” watercolors. For Sargent, watercolors were not so much about swagger as about a renewed and liberated approach to painting. His vision became more personal and his works began to interconnect as he considered the way one image—often of friends or favorite places—enhanced another.”

Homer’s watercolor scenes have a different style and feel. There’s no “swagger,” no startling viewpoints.

While Sargent’s watercolors have an abstract, impressionistic feel, Homer’s paintings feed a narrative. They aren’t so close up and chaotic. They have a writerly gaze. A “watching from a distance” feel. Rarely do you find a painting without people visible. Without the sense that you are watching a story unfold.

Fishing Schooner, NassauYou see the wide sweep of sky and sea. You feel the heavy humidity in those clouds and the heat from that dazzling brightness. You see a crowded deck with people raising sails. You see an unfamiliar distant vista. You see a story unfolding. And while you see only one moment of that story, his paintings invite you to imagine more.

Winslow Homer, Sloop Bermuda,  Owner/Location:	Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, NY  (United States - New York)      Dates:	1899 Medium:	Painting - watercolor

Winslow Homer The Coral Divers WatercolorIn Homer’s painting, the viewer is right there–we feel the heat, the hot sky, the warm water, the hand gripping the deck–but like a reader immersed in another’s story, not like we are there personally ourselves.

Homer’s paintings can be as exciting and full of movement as Sargent’s, as we see below.

Winslow Homer,  American, 1836-1910,   Schooner - Nassau, 1898/99.   Transparent watercolor, with traces of opaque watercolor, rewetting, blotting...

Winslow HomerBut Sargent’s are rarely as full of human drama and emotion as Homer’s.

Or as dreamy and wistful.

Winslow Homer, Boys in a Dory 2, 1880And that’s a criticism made of each. How so many of Sargent’s paintings, while artistically masterful, fail to evoke human emotion or even a sense of what he sees as “beautiful,” as one critic complains. While on the other hand many of Homer’s paintings can be seen as nostalgic, or bordering on the sentimental.

As for me, I see something I love in each. Both speak to me and my experience in powerful ways.

As we were sailing, every leg of our journey was a story unfolding, for my family personally, but also for those people and places we glimpsed along the way. We were voyeurs as well as voyages. We saw scenes unfolding around us that never came to a conclusion. Long lazy days and balmy nights invited us to wonder where they might lead.

At the same time we were immersed in our very own chaotic and exciting sense-experiences, void of narrative, but full of feeling. We wafted between that abstract intensity and the dreamily nostalgic.  As perhaps we all do, immersed in the moment as the long thread of our lives unfolds.

Which artist speaks to you? Do you have a favorite among those shown today, or ones you’ve seen elsewhere?

You can read more about these artists and see more of their works in the links below.

Winslow Homer (1836 – 1910) 

https://www.artsy.net/artist/winslow-homer

http://www.winslowhomer.org/winslow-homer-paintings.jsp

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) 

http://www.johnsingersargent.org/

http://watercolor.net/john-singer-sargent-watercolors/

 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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Dancing Poppies in a Blue Bowl by Deborah J. Brasket

I fell in love with the title of Milan Kundera’s novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” long before I ever read it. To me it evokes something unbearably joyful and rich, playful and profound.

So I was disappointed to find the novel itself, while a wonderful read, rich and playful and its own way, suggested a different interpretation of its title, a profound sadness at how fragile and transitory life is, how quickly its bright light fades.

I don’t see life that way at all. I mean, I see it, I understand why it may seem that way. But I don’t believe it.

To me, the beauty of  this “lightness of being” is not that it is “unbearable” as in too horrible to bear, but “unbearable” as in too delicious to bear, to contain. It spills over.

I think that’s what I was trying to convey in my painting of the dancing poppies in a blue bowl. The beauty of the seemingly solid things that surround us, that make up our lives, is that they are not “heavy” or “static,” but constantly in motion, “dancing” as it were through time and space.  Constantly dissolving itself and resolving into something else, similar, but not quite the same. The way the present moment dissolves and resolves instantaneously as we move through time.

There’s a wonderful analogy of the universe/reality by the physicist David Bohm. He sees reality and consciousness, what he calls the “implicate order,” as a “coherent whole, which is never static or complete but which is an unending process of movement and unfoldment.”  He likens this whole (all that ever was and ever will be) as a tightly woven ball of yarn, one infinite thread. Yet the way we perceive it through time and space is as if the ball of yarn is rolling away and unraveling before our eyes. We glimpse “what is” second by second, inch by inch, as it reveals itself to us in micro-bites and nano-seconds. It’s not that reality is actually unraveling, but that the illusion of its unraveling is how we come to comprehend it, see it, know it, love it. We are one with it all the while, even while it appears as something distinct and separate from our selves.

Another analogy that I love is Indra’s Net. Here the universe/reality is like an infinite net with a pearl at each interstice. Each pearl reflects every other pearl as well as the whole net itself. Each pearl contains within itself, as part of its own lustrous being, part of its own distinct individuality, all the others around it. The part contains the whole and vice versa.

This view of reality makes sense to me, not only from a scientific and spiritual viewpoint, but experientialy as well. I experience this every time I walk through the house and pass through one doorway after another and watch this interior landscape flowing past me, one room dissolving as a new one approaches. Every time I look out the window and take in the trees and hills and houses and sky and hold them in my mind’s eye even as I turn away. Practical, ordinary, experiences we all share.

I hold all those I love with me wherever I go as I know they do me. My breath is constantly circulating through my body as I breathe in the world around me and breath it out again. Nothing is still for even a second. All of life is in constant motion, the atoms within us and the galaxies swirling about our heads.

This is the unbearable lightness of being. Dancing poppies, dissolving bowl. Brush dipped in water and paint spilling images across a page. All this spilling together going on right here and now as you read this, my heart and mind spilling out to you.

What could be lighter, brighter, more playful and profound than that? This unbearably rich and joyful lightness of being.

Dreaming in Blue and Gold

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I’ve long had a thing about the colors blue and gold, especially in combination. Something about them soothes and excites me. I created a Pinterest page of nothing but images of blue and gold. I go there to feel enriched, refreshed. To simply bask in the feelings these colors evoke. Depth and richness, serenity and empowerment.

Blue is the color of the sea and the sky, or sleep and twilight. In color psychology it represents mystery, depth, intuition. It also symbolizes intelligence, inspiration, wisdom and spirituality, even the Virgin Mary. One source considers blue as “beneficial to the mind and body.” It is associated with peace and tranquility.

The color gold is associated with “illumination, love, compassion, courage, passion, magic, and wisdom.” It symbolizes self-purification, humankind’s quest  to perfect, illuminate and refine ourselves. In Christian art it is often used to convey divine love.

Together, I think they symbolize the creative spirit, with all the mystery and intuition, passion and empowerment that implies.

Sometimes I find myself dreaming of images in blue and gold, and that’s where these last two paintings come from. Both were inspired in part by paintings of Odilon Redon, his blue poppies, his lady in blue, as shown above.

But in my dream, the poppies were dancing, lighter than air, in a deep blue bowl, partial and incomplete. As if blown away by, or evaporating into, the light.

My blue lady, deep in meditation, became sphinx-like, swathed in swirling spirals of blue and gold.

The blue I used is my favorite, Daniel Smith’s French Aquamarine, which I used straight from the tube with only enough water to allow it to flow. Applied that way it has such a velvety texture it makes you want to touch it.

The gold is Smith’s Quinacridone Deep Gold, another favorite, which I mellowed with Cadmium Yellow Light.

The poppies are framed now at the end of my hallway. I named it, appropriately enough, “Dancing Poppies in a Blue Bowl.”  Although sometimes I just think of it as “blown away.” I like the lightness of the poppies, the weight of the bowl, the way the whole piece is in motion.

 

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The other, “Meditation in Blue and Gold,” is leaning on a bookshelf in my study. When I glance at her she instills in me that sense of peace and inspiration and love essential to any creative task.

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Trying to Capture the Light

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Capturing light in painting is one of the artist’s greatest challenges and deepest joys.

I fell in love with the dazzling white lights in the paintings of Sorolla. And later the warm, buttery light that infuses Franz Bischoff’s California seascapes. I couldn’t help but be tempted to try my own hand at capturing even a fraction of the light they capture in their paintings.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to come close, but you can learn so much from your failures. You learn what is possible, what doesn’t work, what your limits are, what you still need to learn.

I decided to start by trying to capture some of that warm buttery feel in Bischoff’s paintings, before moving toward Sorolla’s dazzling white light.

These first two attempts are from photographs I took on a trip to Big Sur at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park along Highway 1. Before donating the land to the state, the original owners had a house on a bluff overlooking the ocean. These are the views from her home. On one side the coastline and Highway 1 snaking northward. to the south a private cove with an 80 foot waterfall. In their backyard are the redwoods. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have lived in that magical place, to have woke each morning to these views from their windows.

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I’m not unhappy with the results. When I compare my paintings to photographs of his (below), I think I captured some of that warm, buttery glow.

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That encouraged me to try a study of one of my favorite Sorolla paintings, changing it slightly–a different boat and adding a swimmer snorkeling. I could not capture his dazzling white rocks, so I settled for a something more colorful, abstract.

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I’m happy enough with the results, although it’s nothing like Sorolla’s. His secret is still safe from me. Still, I’m more in awe of him now than before.

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His blues are so much deeper, his lights so much brighter. And his reflections! His colors! How does he do that? I get drunk on his colors. I want to dive in and live there.

Here are links to more of Sorolla’s and Bischoff’s paintings where you can see them in greater detail. They are artists you could fall in love with. I did.

Images of Franz Bischoff’s artwork on Google

The paintings of Joaquin Sorolla Y Bastida

 

Nothing But Miracles

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Miracles

Walt Whitman, 18191892

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the
water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the
same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

[Many thanks to Writing Without Paper for providing a link to this poem.]