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.
In January, I came up with the idea of doing a new mandala for each season of the year. I finished the one for Winter on the day before the Spring Equinox. This one is ready well in advance of summer. Good for me!
The sub-theme for Spring is Tolerance. And here is why. Do all the flowers get stressed when they start coming up at the same time in Spring? Do they fight with each other for space, or crowd each other out, or deny each other light and water? No, they somehow make it work. And even when the weeds start to take over, they all still tolerate each other. They all know what to do. My personal lesson in all this is to be more tolerant of those who don’t act with kindness, or who don’t care about the good of the planet, or don’t have a particularly humanitarian philosophy. I recognize that we are still all connected whether I want to admit it or not.
But perhaps my greatest challenge in the Tolerance department is for those nearest and dearest to me. It is so easy to get annoyed or to need and demand perfection from them. I want to feel like the two ribbons of blue in the mandala, entwined yet flowing in different ways and in a different rhythm. I want to be working toward the sun and putting more and more consciousness into the tangle of green. Coming through in the orange and pink flowers. It’s all growing in its own way and in its own time. And oh my, I want to be more tolerant of myself as well. That dark spot almost in the center of the mandala. The remnant of darkness from the Winter months. The remainder of mistrust and doubt in my soul.
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!