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.
This week I spent one morning painting in my friend Kitty’s iris garden on Samish Island. The drive there took me past the farms of the Skagit Valley, one of the most beautiful agricultural landscapes I know. The views out my car window were amazing enough, but then I arrived at Kitty’s house. The irises were blooming in a profusion of colors and frills. Wow.
Several women friends dropped in for the painting session. A fun day of art and conversation. We all appreciated Kitty’s hospitality and were thankful to be able to experience Nature’s exuberance in this special garden.
Praying by Mary Oliver
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.