July 2, 2015
“The exceeding beauty of the earth, in her splendour of life, yields a new thought with every petal. The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the only hours when we really live, so that the longer we can stay among these things so much the more is snatched from inevitable Time.”
— Richard Jeffries
I have a terrible track record with painting outdoors, especially if I have my camera along and know I will be taking photos, too. I find it easy to pull my camera out and snap shot after shot, but it feels like a hurdle to set up my watercolor supplies. Countless times I have carried my painting supplies with me on trips and outings and left them in my bag, unused.
No, now when I think about it, it is not the physical act of setting out paper, water and paints that proves difficult — it is the mental adjustment I need to make before painting . Slowing down, forgetting to feel self-conscious, becoming absorbed, etc. All processes that I find easier to embark on in the privacy of my home when I am alone.
But I do want to get better at painting en plein air. So I packed my little palette of travel paints, a sketchbook, a brush, and a water bottle in readiness for my daytrip to Jello Mold Farm. On the drive up to the Skagit Valley, I thought I might set a goal of painting 12 sketches in one hour, an exercise to free me up because I would have to work too fast to think much. And then I discovered that I had not packed any pencils, so I had to skip my usual step of making a light pencil drawing before applying the paint. This was going to be a day of experiments!
Here are my sketches from Jello Mold Farm. I simply could not sustain my focus beyond seven sketches, so I stopped. Still, it was rewarding to have made an attempt at working outside.
June 27, 2015
June 24, 2015
June 23, 2015
“A life’s work is not a series of stepping-stones, onto which we calmly place our feet, but more like an ocean crossing where there is no path, only a heading, a direction, in conversation with other elements.”
— David Whyte, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
I have been taking some down time to do not much — read mostly. These days, as I contemplate retirement yet am committed to my job for a few more years, I feel like I am on a threshold. I am gearing up for a transition, but in my mind only because my routine work life, my outward life, has not changed. I want to shape my retirement into something meaningful for me. I don’t know what that is yet. I am looking for role models.
Harold Bloom, writer, professor and literary critic, is still teaching at age 84. “Certain mornings in midwinter my wife asks me: Why at eighty-four continue teaching full-time? It is fifty-eight years since first we courted but fifty-nine years since I commenced full-time teaching in the Yale faculty. I mutter that I fear breaking the longest continuity of my life. Is that my deeper motive? What can I know? . . . What remains to be done? Talking with my wife, our friends (the few surviving), my students, is endless and necessary yet insufficient. Yet what would suffice?”
— from The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime by Harold Bloom
Officially retiring seems to me to hold great potential for doing something true and deep. For the first time in my adult life, I will have a small income from social security and a pension freeing me from working for someone else. I should be able to do what I really want to do. I guess I have a few more years to discover what exactly that is!
June 15, 2015
by W. S. Merwin
I am looking at trees
they may be one of the things I will miss
most from the earth
though many of the ones I have seen
already I cannot remember
and though I seldom embrace the ones I see
and have never been able to speak
I listen to them tenderly
their names have never touched them
they have stood round my sleep
and when it was forbidden to climb them
they have carried me in their branches.
Here are some beautiful books about trees:
I think Overleaf is a particularly creative compilation of leaf paintings — pairs of individually rendered leaves, front view and back view.