Dawn in the Skagit Valley

Dawn in the Skagit Valley

“The real world, in my opinion, exists in the countryside, where Nature goes about her quiet business and brings greatest pleasure.”
— Fennel Hudson

I am drawn to the countryside.  I love its “quiet business.”  The pre-dawn hour is especially lovely.  I enjoy pulling to the side of the road, turning off the car’s ignition, and sitting in the quiet, watching the world awaken.

The Skagit Valley awakens

The Skagit Valley awakens

Old truck by barn

Old truck by barn

Allium stands tall un the foreground of a field

Allium stands tall un the foreground of a field

Farm in the Skagit Valley

Farm in the Skagit Valley

Allium

Allium

 

 

Daybreak Over Tulips

April 11, 2016

“Distinctive realms appear to us when we look and hear by poem-light.”
— Jane Hirshfield, Ten Windows:  How Great Poems Transform the World

Daybreak with fog, Skagit Valley, Washington

Daybreak with fog, Skagit Valley, Washington

Dawn in the Skagit Valley

Dawn in the Skagit Valley

My niece and I drove to the Skagit Valley this weekend to see the tulip fields in bloom.  She is a photographer, like me, and therefore was willing to hit the road in the dark hours of early morning so that we could be in place as the sun rose over the farms of this region.  We had lovely weather, and the beauty of the breaking day was just awesome.  Knowing that these golden minutes were fleeting heightened their beauty.  I think that Jane Hirshfield’s word, “poem-light,” perfectly captures the dawning day.

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“A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn.
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.”
— Emily Dickinson

November sky at dawn

November sky at dawn

A new day dawns.  What is the most important thing I need to do today?

I have been thinking lately about my yearning to paint and my ongoing failure to make this happen.  Once again, I need to re-commit to making art a higher priority in my life.

So often I find just the right advice I need in the book I happen to be reading.  Yesterday I reread Ted Orland’s The View from the Studio Door:  How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World, and I was inspired by these quotes:

“Art is mostly a product of hard work. . . . it’s more important to be productive than to be creative.”

He says that to be an artist “means finding a way to live your life so that you can engage again and again the things you care about the most.”

“. . . to make your own place in the world, you’ll probably need to create a life in which working on your art becomes a natural part of your everyday life. . . . There’s no predicting how any individual life will play out, but there is a guiding principle for reaching the best of possible outcomes: stay at work on the things that are really important to you, and you will reach your potential as an artist.”

 

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Eternity Now and Forever

March 13, 2015

“Now is eternity; now is the immortal life. . . . Time has never existed, and never will; it is a purely artificial arrangement.  It is eternity now, it always was eternity, and always will be.”
— Richard Jeffries, The Story of My Heart

Dawn at Green Lake

Dawn at Green Lake

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How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

November 14, 2013

The dawn of a new day

The dawn of a new day

I wish I could take credit for the title of today’s post, but it’s the creation of Arnold Bennett, who wrote a self-help book with this title in 1910.  (The book is available for free download from Project Gutenberg.)

If you have been following my blog, you know that I sometimes lament the lack of time to do all the reading, painting, writing, photography, traveling, etc. that I’d like to.  Well, Bennett has the answer.  The secret is to have something — some meaningful project that cultivates the mind in some way– to look forward to and then take 1-1/2 hours every other evening to work on this endeavor:

“. . . when you have something definite to look forward to at eventide, something that is to employ all your energy — the thought of that something gives a glow and a more intense vitality to the whole day.”

Committing yourself to this project requires an attitude adjustment.  Instead of marginalizing the hours before and after your work day (your outside job), you make your private hours beginning at the end of your work day (say 6 p.m.) to the start of your next work day (say 8 or 9 a.m.) the primary part of your life that you give your fullest energy to.  Then make those 1-1/2 hours every other evening sacred.  Half of those hours should be devoted to careful reflection, serious thinking about what you are learning and doing.  The pace will be slow.  But the accretion of this dedicated time will add up to something important — your growth as an individual.

Bennett has other ideas for finding even more time, for example, using 30 minutes of your commute to focus and think about a single topic.  Quite serendipitously, I just read about this same thing — the benefits of focused reflection and attention — in Brainard Carey’s book, Making It in the Art World where he says:  “Small steps get you very far.  This is the beginning of a big step because if you can get used to managing thirty minutes of your time, five days a week, you can begin to manage other portions of your time as well.”

Bennett warns that failure happens when you try to do too much:  “Most people who are ruined are ruined by attempting too much.”  I have these tendencies myself!

I think Bennett is right in pointing out that there is enough time if we first decide what is most important and then give sustained daily (or every-other-day) effort — in seemingly small increments — to that one thing.  For those of us who are “constantly haunted by a suppressed dissatisfaction with your own arrangement of your daily life,” he says, “the primal cause of that inconvenient dissatisfaction is the feeling that you are every day leaving undone something which you would like to do. . . ”

I have already been taking this piecemeal, but sustained, approach to watercolor painting.  I am slowly learning by trial and error and building a body of work.  It’s validating to hear that this way of working has a history and other champions.  It seems to be working for me.

The dawning day at Green Lake

The dawning day at Green Lake

Another November morning, pink and gray,  at Green Lake

Another November morning, pink and gray, at Green Lake

“A human being would certainly not grow to be 70 or 80 years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species to which he belongs.  The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage of life’s morning.  The significance of the morning undoubtedly lies in the development of the individual, our entrenchment in the outer world, the propagation of our kind and the care of our children.  This is the obvious purpose of nature.  But . . . whoever carries over into the afternoon the law of the morning must pay for so doing with damage to his soul.  Moneymaking, social existence, family and posterity are nothing but plain nature — not culture.  Culture lies beyond the purpose of nature.  Could by any chance culture be the meaning and purpose of the second half of life?”
— Carl Jung

I am preoccupied with thoughts of old age.  I am well past the morning of my life, and I have a strong sense that the afternoon is waning, too.  This year, I am on the threshold of turning 60, and I feel that I am entering the evening of my life.  I may be getting a late start on embarking on a new path for the second half of my life.  I didn’t give birth to my daughter until I was 34, and I want to keep working at the library for another 6 years or so, and that means I’m still given over to moneymaking, etc.

But I agree with Jung that staying engaged and growing means changing my attitude and the mechanics of my life.  I feel lucky to feel passion for photography, watercolor painting, and blogging/writing, all of which absorb me and delight me.  I also admire people who immerse themselves in other people — helping and enjoying family and neighbors and strangers.  They, too, seem to lead purposeful lives as they age.  There are many possible paths for navigating the afternoon and evening years.  What is yours?

Practice Any Art

November 9, 2013

Ink and watercolor sketch of trees at dawn, Green Lake

Ink and watercolor sketch of trees at dawn, Green Lake

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or how badly, not to get money or fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”
— Kurt Vonnegut

It’s just getting light when I run around Green Lake on these November mornings. There is one point along the path where the shadows of the trees reach close like long fingers in the indistinct dawn. Everything is golden or dark, no grays.

Dawn at Green Lake with dock

Dawn at Green Lake with dock

The Everyday
by Ursula Le Guin, from Finding My Elegy

First light.  The arc of the old moon was rising
in a windy dawn that quickly grew behind it.
Silver-bright at first, it dimmed and thinned
’till it was lost in a vast radiance.

What happens everyday is what’s surprising.
The treasure’s never where I look to find it
but where I simply look — the sky, the wind,
sunrise, a silver arc, the moment’s chance.

Dawn with picnic table

Dawn with picnic table

The vast radiance of a winter sunrise

The vast radiance of a winter sunrise

Sunrise with blurred jogger

Sunrise with blurred jogger

 

 

 

 

Salutation of the Dawn

February 2, 2010

Sunrise with birds

Dawn at Green Lake

Sky at sunrise

“Look to this day, for it is life — the very Life of life.  In its brief course lie all the verities and realities of your existence:  the bliss of Growth, the glory of Action, the splendor of Beauty.  For yesterday is already a dream and tomorrow is only a vision.  But today, well-lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.  Look well, therefore, to this day.  Such is the salutation of the dawn.”
     — Sanskrit proverb