I have always loved advent calendars—opening a little door each December day leading to Christmas. In recent years I have made my own, and find the making to be a quiet meditation. Daily the journey to Christmas unfolds in my hands.
This year’s is cut paper; gradually I am making my way down the snowy mountain to Christmas.
Sit down in nature and look. Any direction. This is a thicket of willow shoots. No horizon, no focal point; but what a high-spirited display of color and life.
Autumn is punctuated with moments of stunning beauty. This was one of those moments. A yellow aspen lit by sudden sun slanting through early morning fog. Stop. Stop and look. It will change in a blink.
Recently I spent time on Quesnel Lake, an inland fjord in central British Columbia, Canada. The cabin we stayed in is remote; the only access is by boat. I’d been wanting do some larger watercolors outdoors, so I packed a dozen 15” x 11” (38 x 28cm) sheets of paper and some larger brushes along with a collapsible easel and camp stool. And because it is bear country, a whistle and a can of bear spray. And because I had a cold, a box of kleenex.
So I put on my rain regalia, strapped on my backpack, and headed out into the beautiful wet. I used one big umbrella to sort of shelter the easel, and another to sort of shelter my paint box (and the kleenex…), and I relied on my rain clothes to sort of shelter me.
The mist brooded over the mountains as the rain and I painted together. The colors bled and blended, splotched and spread. The rain was not an impediment so much as it was a participant. I felt thrillingly alive. Nothing is so enlivening for me as painting in nature, with Nature looking back at me…and even getting her own hand in!
During their growth, sunflower plants tilt throughout the day to track the sun. Once they start blooming the tilting stops and they generally stand facing east. One seed in one season grows into a great trunk sporting huge leaves, and then produces these brilliant flowers that compete to outshine the sun!
One seed. In one season. I mean, what’s your definition of a miracle?
I love the flavor of corn on the cob, of garden-ripe tomatoes, and of raspberries and strawberries and blueberries and blackberries.
But peaches! For me they are The Most Heavenly flavor of summer. And here in western Oregon they are in full season right now.
Excuse me while I go get one and eat it over the sink…
August is my least favorite month. At this point the golden summer that I could hardly imagine during the rainy wet winter has bleached out into a relentless glare. I have all the energy of an inside-out sock.
The last couple years I have begun to tackle August by challenging myself to daily look for something delightful to paint. These are tiny paintings, about the size of a playing card. And they are transformative for me—each day I awaken wondering what I will find to paint, and each day I am surprised at what I find.
This is our mint bed in full bloom, buzzing with bees, wasps, and such a profusion of pollinators that I never knew existed. No dog days of summer for this crowd!
I wonder what will be tomorrow’s surprise…?
A pair of barn swallows returned to our garage in the spring, rebuilt the nest on the garage door opener, and raised a brood of five which fledged June 30th. The fledglings returned to the nest for awhile, and then began spending their nights somewhere else. The parents quickly went to work to refurbish the nest and begin the process all over. August 2nd the new batch hatched—another five chicks! We can all gasp at how much work this is for those parents, daily catching enough bugs on the wing to feed themselves and their second brood of the season. But it’s pay-back time: the June chicks, now full-sized barn swallows at two months of age, are pitching in. In and out, in and out, all day and evening long, the two parents and brood of teenagers feed and clean up after the new brood of babies.
Everyone is in a hurry—in a few weeks they all need to join the fall migration to somewhere in South America. All of them! Including this mess of barely birds!
I’m out of breath just writing about it.
My home state of Iowa is one of America’s “fly over” states—places people fly over in order to get from one place to another. However, I was recently on that prairie again, and it is a soul-stirring experience. The land rolls, the horizon is 360 degrees. That great dome of sky is tremendous, magnificent, wild. It makes my heart sing to stand within it.
In the spring a pair of geese started hanging around in our pasture. Weeks later three fluffy goslings appeared with them. The family spent most of the time together on the pond, at least twice daily making their way through the cattails, over the bank, and down the hill to graze their way through the pasture grasses. One of the parents is the sentry while the other feeds with the babies, then they trade. Now the babies are juveniles, approaching the size of their parents and beginning to fly rather than walk to and from the pond—but they still peep like babies.