Entries Tagged as 'Smokey Mountains'

Doing What Works

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Doing What Works

 “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.”

Mary Oliver, “When Death Comes,” New and Selected Poems

I realized again why I don’t like sketching or painting live on scene. When I’m amidst beauty, I can’t draw or paint it. I feel totally overwhelmed, any skill I have rendered useless. I admire other artists who can work on-scene, but that capacity did not come standard on my operating equipment.

I tried yesterday, sitting on a smooth rock in the middle of the rushing Pigeon River. A man was fly fishing upstream, and children were swimming and squealing in the far distance. Late afternoon light was filtering through the trees, dappling the clear water and river-bottom stones. I attempted to sketch, but I couldn’t communicate even the smallest bit of that beauty to the page.  So I put away my journal and just sat, and watched, and eventually walked a ways.

When I got back to the cabin, though, I wanted to sketch. Then, making art felt as natural as emptying my pockets of acorns, seeds, and river rocks. Self-permission to discover and do what works for me is the best kind of freedom.

Loss and Life

Monday, August 18, 2014

Loss and Life

Yesterday I took a long, solitary hike to a waterfall, where I saw, among other brilliant trees, this towering specimen. The rugged beauty of this bare old-growth pine silhouetted in grayish light moved me to a silent stupor.

This time last year, I painted a similar tree from memory after hiking in the Appalachian mountains and returning home to heartbreak. The painting was about the prickly quality of loss, that utterly naked yet defensive state where we want to draw inward and lash out, where we want run away and give up, yet by some sardonic miracle, we’re still standing, stripped to bone, left to begin again.

As a person and a therapist, I find the starkness of nature reassuring. Even dead trees contain myriad life; the barest branches hold the birds.

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