Considering that people from around the world spend money to fly to the Netherlands to see the tulips in bloom, we who live in Seattle are beyond fortunate to have our own tulip fields an hour’s drive north. I do so enjoy playing tourist in my own local area. And I’m happy to report another glorious day taking in the wonders of the Skagit Valley in Spring.
For me, it is well worth getting up very early so that I am in the Skagit Valley for sunrise. The first light and low-lying fog give an ethereal feel to these first minutes of the day.
Too soon the day brightened and the fog burned off. Now the tulip fields were ribbons of bright color in the landscape.
My watercolor sketches cannot do justice to this natural beauty.
This is the time of year in Seattle when trees are greening and blossoming. My eyes and soul feast on their fresh tints and colors — life resurrected once more.
“For a few days only,
the plum tree outside the window
No matter the plums will be small,
eaten only by squirrels and jays.
I feast on the one thing, they on another,
the shoaling bees on a third.
What in this unpleated world isn’t someone’s seduction?”
— Jane Hirshfield, from “French Horn,” Come Thief: Poems
The Miller Library is located at the Center for Urban Horticulture on the University of Washington campus. The Miller Horticultural Library is one of my favorite places in Seattle, and I am delighted to use my art to support one of their fund-raising efforts.
Some days I feel all over the place, not sure what I am doing. Time slips away. In an attempt to settle down, I did some doodling. I remembered some succulents that I saw at Swansons Nursery last month, and I thought the repeating pattern of their leaves would be fun to fill with doodled lines. A contemplative exercise.
I don’t know if I will make the drive this year to Gordon Skagit Farms in Mount Vernon for its annual October pumpkin extravaganza. I would dearly love to see Eddie Gordon’s newest paintings, which he hangs outdoors on the barns, sheds, and grounds. They are always amazing. But this year I am feeling buried under other self-imposed obligations, so I might not make the time to go.
Instead, I invite you to revisit some old blog posts about Gordon Skagit Farms. You can find links from my day trips in 2012 – 2015 here and here, and here.
It has been over one month since taking Shari Blaukopf’s watercolor workshop, and since then I’ve been practicing some of her tips for painting trees. I’m lucky in that I live close to Green Lake Park in Seattle, which has over 160 different kinds of trees according to local tree expert, Arthur Lee Jacobson. I walk past the lake on my way to work, and I also try to walk around the lake almost daily during the summer, so I’ve been paying some attention to the various tree silhouettes I see.
I’ve written about the trees of Green Lake in other blog posts. You can view some of them here and here. I don’t think I am done with this Green Lake tree theme yet. But here is what I’ve painted so far:
“Was it possible that my focus on making art, on creating tellable stories, was interrupting my ability to see broadly and tenderly and without gain? What would it be like to give my expansive attention to the world, to the present moment, without expectation or promise of an obvious payoff? Was I capable of practicing a ‘God’s love’ kind of attention? An adoring and democratic awe? Could I be more papal?”
— Kyo Maclear, Birds Art Life
“. . . it is your attempt to get special experiences from life that makes you miss the actual experience of life. . . . If you are busy trying to get something, you will miss the slice you’re actually experiencing.”
— Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
“Most of the things we do in life, we do for the sake of something else. We work to earn money; we exercise to get fit; we study to pass exams; we watch TV to relax; we engage in spiritual exercises to improve ourselves; and so on.
But life’s most sublime moments often occur when we engage in activities entirely for their own sake, without any ulterior motives.”
— Gary Hayden, Walking with Plato: A Philosophical Hike through the British Isles
I am interested in the idea that we so seldom simply immerse ourselves in deeply living each moment, just being rather than doing. I find it an ongoing challenge. For example, it would be difficult and almost inconceivable for me to willingly leave my camera at home while on vacation. I am driven (by what exactly?) to “take” photos of the many beautiful things that capture my attention. I think I would feel withdrawal and regret if I could not document my special experiences with photos.
Having blogged for so many years, it is second nature to me to always be assessing whether my activities are worthy enough for sharing in a blog post. It is as if I need to make something tangible of my life, proof that I have been there and done that.
I am not alone. The explosion of selfies attests to the addictive appeal of taking something of almost everything we see. The quick snapshot makes taking so easy. And once we take that photo, are we not already casting about for the next special thing?
What would it be like to see “broadly and tenderly and without gain” as Maclear writes in the opening quote?
Maybe one of these days I will experiment with leaving my camera at home, enjoying each moment fully without grasping and trying to capture it.
In the meantime, you might be thankful that I had my camera in hand on a recent visit to Jellomold Farm in the Skagit Valley. This is a busy time for my flower grower friends. I was left alone on a short, late afternoon visit to wander the fields and greenhouses. I am happy to share this beautiful place with you.