All afternoon the tree shadows, accelerating, lengthened till sunset shot them black into infinity: next morning darkness returned from the other infinity and the shadows caught ground and through the morning, slowing, hardened into noon. - "Recovery" by A.R. Ammons
Winter is the frozen lull, a time of suspended animation and stillness, a time when the sun flashes briefly from east to west, “a spark hung thin between the dark and dark” (John Updike).
Yet somewhere in the silent darkness, under the snow and frozen earth, there are bulbs and seeds waiting to sprout. Beneath frozen ponds, under leaves and inside the stems of plants, frogs and insects succumb to the frost and wait for the thaw, while other creatures slow down… slow, slow, slow… slowly slumbering in their winter dens.
Winter… a time of waiting and a time for traveling in dreams that grow large as the nights are long.
Blue Moon Lunar Eclipse. Fireworks cracking the silence of the forest at midnight. Goodbye to one decade that held so much change, and hello to whatever comes next. The New Year started with a cosmic and literal bang.
This morning we awoke to stillness after an overnight snowfall, the eclipse and pyrotechnics long over. The sky was a serene wash of pearl-grey, the trees were laden with damp powder and the forest creatures were burrowed deep in their under-tree nests and rock dens. And right now, the only sounds I hear are the chirping and calls of the birds that come to feast at our feeder: warblers, sparrows, finches, bluejays and our resident cardinal couple. All is well.
Last January 1, I set my intentions for the year by choosing two defining words. I wrote: “First, I want to learn to Listen more deeply and fully, both to my inner voice and to the unspoken words of others. I want to turn off the static that surrounds me and tune into the messages that come in silence. Then I want to Reach – reach within, reach out, reach for, reach above, reach below, reach beyond the limits I have intentionally and unintentionally set for myself. Listen ~ Reach... my mantra for 2009. It makes me feel that anything is possible.” Good words, good intentions… and I do feel that I’ve held true to them throughout the course of this very challenging year. Sometimes what I learned while listening was tough to take in and sometimes the reaching stretched me thin, but all in all… it’s been a worthwhile and enlightening journey.
This year, my intention is to continue to listen and to reach, using what I learn to bring myself closer and closer to real integrity. I’m talking about stepping fully into the process of being authentically myself in all parts in my life. I know what it looks like, but what it means in practice is something I will have to discover as the year unfolds.
So, in addition to listening and reaching, 2010 will be all about mindful balance. I am sometimes impatient for change, and that impatience often leads me to feelings of discouragement. That’s a path I want to avoid this year. It has too many ruts to trap my spirit and low hanging branches to snag my resolve. Instead, I want to follow the higher path, always mindful that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step” (Lao Tzu). Big changes often come through evolution.
Mindful Balance… my mantra for 2010. It makes me feel that anything is possible.
What word would you choose?
I had some practical plans for this afternoon; paperwork and the like, but then I looked at my brand new, totally blank journal (a larger one this time – 9″ x 12″) and here I am… hands covered with paint and nothing practical accomplished.
But so what? I have been feeling such unrest inside, a need to let things out, loosen up, play more. This feeling has as much to do with my life as it has to do with my art… an insistent nudge to get away from precision and just allow things to happen as they will. Be freer, give myself permission to explore and enjoy.
Can you tell how much I’m pining for Spring? To see fresh green shoots break through the tired remnants of snow… to hear the sounds of the creatures waking from their winter sleep… to watch the bluster of March clear the sand from the roads… to see the sun rise earlier in the morning and set later in the day… to wash clean to dreary dregs of winter.
I’m sure I’m not the only one. Happy Thursday!
(p.s. Have you visited my new etsy shop?)
journal page – 10/18/08
October is the month of small migrations, when the air moves with restless, nervous energy. The wind picks up, sending down a tumbling shower of ochre, carnelian, and diarylide yellow that collects on the ground like a richly-woven Persian carpet. The sky, now broader through the thinning canopy, changes face hourly; misty in the morning, baby blue with streaks of clouds by midday, searing acid blue in the afternoon, pink-tinged charcoal near evening. Even on still days, some leaves (they know it’s time) let go and drift earthward on gentle currents.
Grackles in great noisy flocks populate the land beneath the trees, conversing loudly with one another as they pick berries and seeds from among the leaves. Suddenly spooked by a movement, they rise in a flapping cacophony of screeches into the trees and wait warily as I pass along the path, silhouetted against the sky like black-cloaked beadles. Geese move overhead in v-formations and sparrow flocks dance through the air in brown waves before landing in a line along a wire. Clinging and falling, noise and silence, movement and waiting, formation and breaking rank…
The ancient maple behind the house creaks in the breeze as if to say… you want to stay, but it’s time to go.
I see my own soul in Nature, every day, every season.
How long have I been sleeping
How long have I been drifting alone through the night
How long have I been running for that morning flight
Through the whispered promises and the changing light
Of the bed where we both lie
Late for the sky
The 8″ x 10″ journal page above – which is part of a special Autumn book I’ve been working on – was done with oil paint-sticks and acrylics. The background contains some collage elements and the nature printing technique I recently learned in a workshop with my friend Lenna Andrews.