The idea of creating a mandala for each of the four seasons came to me last January, at a time when I had been feeling pretty sure that I was finished making them. And then, the concept just popped into my head, complete with subtitles for each of them, so I felt that I had to go through with the project. Each one was worked on and completed within its own season. Much to my surprise, it turned into a labor of love, and has been an amazing and healing way of learning about myself and how I feel, as each of the seasons revealed their sweetness to me and yielded its position to the next in line. Four circles (cycles) sitting inside the larger cycle (circle) of one year. Perfect for a person like me who loves looking at almost everything in terms of circles and time passing.
Winter (Stillness) was about finding the quiet place inside myself, wrapping myself in a cocoon of silence, of safety, of protection. Finding imagery to echo Stillness was quite a challenge. But the most important lesson was to discover how much movement there could be within the Stillness of the winter months, how much opportunity for growth and change. How bright it all really was.
Spring (Tolerance) held a kernel of an idea that somehow everything and everyone could work together toward growth and cooperation, toward the promise of blossoming. But in reality, nature is messy and free and wild. There is an unruly aspect to Tolerance. Things are popping up all over the place, yet they all seem to know when and where to grow. My lesson was strong and clear. Get out of the way and let it happen.
Summer (Trust) became a way of finding renewed strength and confidence. I always love summer, since I was born at the end of July and feel my happiest during the heady part of summer that Leo rules. This year, I learned to Trust my body more and to be more grateful for it. In return, it allowed me to garden and to be creative and to keep learning about life and love, about getting and giving support.
Fall (Vulnerability) took me totally by surprise. Originally, its subtitle was Surrender, but I realized that Vulnerability was more appropriate for what I was feeling. It was supposed to have a leaf in the center, but that changed to a Falling Figure (a motif I painted many years ago). I tried to turn it back into a leaf, but the figure demanded to be seen. It is about everything being revealed in the Fall. As the leaves fall, we see and are seen. Both make us more Vulnerable. I mourn for what I have lost. I rejoice for what I have gained. It is a bittersweet time. And what I have learned is that being Vulnerable is okay. Maybe not always fun, but always okay.
I spend a large part of my day looking.
In the morning, I look at the screen on my computer.
In the afternoon, I spend time outside. I look at the minute details of my garden, checking each flower and each vegetable for signs of growth, or slug damage, or readiness to be picked, pruned or harvested. I look at the whole vegetable garden (I regret that I got such a late start this year, and I trust that there will be more to eat very soon). I look at each flower bed, and try to manage the weeds that all this rain is bringing. I look at the sky and the water and the mountains in the distance. I see the sun gleaming or the clouds moving or the rain glistening. I notice the other houses near where I live. I take in the trees swaying in the breeze. I love it all. I breathe.
Then it’s time to go into the studio. I take the time to look at what I’ve been working on before going on to the next step, the next stroke the next layer. Then I paint and I look while I’m painting. And I look again, and paint again.
But all the looking is a prelude for feeling. If I am painting an abstract composition, I need to explore what is moving me in the moment, knowing that painting it will change the feeling or the emotion into something else. If I am creating a mandala, I take the word that I am associating with it and feel deeply into what it means for me. If I am prompted to paint my version of a landscape, I am not representing anything actual. I am feeling into everything I have seen, everything I have been looking at, and making a semblance of the real world as it has been filtered through my mind and heart.
The three small paintings on paper which are pictured above are those kind of landscapes.
I got back home from Northeast PA on Wednesday, the longest day of the year. Beautiful light in the sky. Amazing view of Ranier while flying into Seattle. From the ferry, there were serene and clear views of other islands and the Olympics. This is home. The land, the sky, the air all feed my spirit and heal my soul. Though there are sweet friendships to enjoy, I can be quiet here. I need very little. A good day is moving from the house to the garden to the studio, never leaving home. Painting, cooking, planting seeds, cutting flowers.
When I’m in Pennsylvania, it’s all about being busy. Seeing clients, teaching Reiki, seeing friends, listening to music, doing an occasional craft show. Talking to lots of different and wonderful people in one day. Soaking in that East Coast energy from so many sources. And connecting to my long history in PA.
And I seem to need and love both lives. They seem to flow more and more effortlessly into and out of each other. Both are wonderful. Neither is perfect. The split between East and West is not wide or huge. It couldn’t possibly be a whole continent apart. After eight years (amazing!), I’m starting to become the same person no matter where I am.
I had a great holiday weekend! I didn’t go anywhere at all. Friends came over on Monday, so I cleaned a little and cooked a little and we all had fun. Just stayed home and wandered from the garden to my studio to my computer to the kitchen. Despite the lack of activity in my life, the feeling that it was a holiday was somehow still in the air, and I gave myself a vacation from stress, from haste, and from the need to cross things off my constantly growing list of things to do.
On Sunday, it was especially beautiful out, and I found myself picking up my camera and just walking around the house, down to the studio and back, and all around the house, down to the meadow, and back around again. I took a lot of pictures on that sunny day. For some reason, I wanted to fix that moment in time . It felt important to document the house where I live and the flowers that I nurture.
It was part of my holiday, like going away to an exotic place, and taking a million pictures to capture all those memories and visual treasures. But I didn’t even have to get in my car to have the holiday experience. I just stayed home and started looking at things with a fresh eye. Discovering the brilliance of the azaleas as if I had never seen them before. Watching the bees swarm around the chive blossoms, I felt like I was on a wildlife expedition.
It was too much fun! I picked out a few of my favorites to put here. Normally, I play around with photos trying to make them better, adjusting the light and the color to get what I want (or think I want). But this time, I just left them the way they were. No cropping or changing them in any way. Snapshots. Postcards. From my holiday at home.
I think that I’ll come back to this place again.
Last weekend I took yet another workshop and learned yet another new thing that I am excited about making. This time, I went off to San Juan Island and spent a beautiful day outdoors making concrete leaves. It is a really fun process and wonderfully tactile, even though rubber gloves are essential. It starts with making a mound of sand, then laying the leaf on top of that. The really fun part is mixing the concrete and then laying it on the leaf. It is earthy and sensual to feel the cool, mushy concrete as it gets molded onto the leaf, moving it and shaping it to the desired thickness with the right contour.
There is a lot of potential for these leaves. They are fun to make and fun to paint. And I could see getting really wild with colors and shapes that have nothing to do with the natural world. A purple leaf with yellow dots for instance. We’ll see.
I keep learning new things that I want to do, and then feeling panic when I don’t have enough time to do them. Or to do them justice. Or to do them at all. Somewhere along the line, it has to stop. Yes?
For now, this leaf looks right at home in my garden. At home in my garden, outside my house where my cats and lover live, near my studio where I want to be. When I’m not off taking more workshops, that is. Oh you mean like the wonderful mini wire basket that I’m going to learn this weekend?
But after this, I swear I’m staying home!