Hash Rock is 5755’ high, part of the core of an ancient volcano. I eased myself out to the edge of the next cliff over to paint it. I’m not one for heights, but I’ve got a son and a cousin who climb these things, so I figured the least I could do was to step…oh…so…carefully…to the edge…well, near the edge…to live with it for an hour. A falcon swooped through the air below me, calling its insistent “kee kee kee kee kee.” I would love to look through its eyes just once, to see the way it sees. I would love to know its experience of precipice and high-in-mid-air that never includes fear. What an amazing kind of normal.
I was in the right place with my sketchbook when this turkey hen and her six chicks came feeding their way below our apple trees. I stood very still, Very Still, and drew with as little movement as possible. While they pecked and poked their way past me, I pivoted as quietly as I could to follow their progression…until the hen noticed, began issuing a quivery warning sound, then a firm “Putt!”; whereupon the poults stunned me by bursting into flight to hide themselves high in the nearby oaks! It hadn’t occurred to me they could fly!
(It often seems not to occur to turkeys either—more often they’ll take off running willy nilly and be confused by a fence, panicking back-and-forth-back-and-forth, until the idea(!) of flight recurs.)
The unfurling grace of a calla lily is such an extravagance of form.
Levity is a force in the natural world.
I am only beginning to comprehend it. We are aware of gravity’s draw down, and accept it as law—yet spring’s levity draws up and out, defying gravity. The very name “spring” counters “fall.” Sap rises in the trees (think about that), buds unfurl into leaves and blossoms. In places where the ground has frozen in the winter, the frost goes out in the spring, heaving the earth’s surface, loosening the soil, even lifting rocks and boulders.
It’s enough to lift anyone’s mood!
This maple near our house is just beginning to bud out, but high in the top were yellow… flowers? Goldfinches! What a celebration of spring sunshine!
The word Easter comes from the Middle English word ester, from the Old English eastre, from the Indo-European aus: “to shine.” The celebrations might predate humans. Here in the northern hemisphere the days are lengthening rapidly as the hours of sunlight increase. And even though I have experienced this phenomenon every year of my life, I am yet again as amazed as if it had never happened before—”Look! It’s still light!”
I love looking, and looking again, and then looking again, and then… There is no end to seeing when we keep looking.
It’s the unsettled month of March, blowing like a lion one moment and gentle as a lamb the next. The daffodils are now in full bloom with their lovely soft scent. The goldfinches are switching from their winter brown to their brilliant yellow plumage. When there’s a break in the clouds the yellow sun pours through the windows. We’re on the eve of the spring equinox, and yellow is bursting its winter confines!
The first time I painted outdoors was on the north shore of the island of Kauai, under the brooding presence of the mighty Pele. In the Hawaiian religion, Pele (pronounced [ˈpɛlɛ]), the Fire Goddess, is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands. She begets her own weather, generating rainstorms that send torrents lashing down her sides; her peak is the wettest place on earth. As I settled myself on the beach and began painting, the massive cloud cloaking the volcano darkened. Her wind picked up, lifting the paint on my damp paper—suddenly I was not only painting Pele, I was painting with her. She decided where the paint would go, not I. It was quite the initiation to painting on site—to paint with a volcano is humbling.