Time Out

When I saw the blue sky yesterday, I knew there would be no staying indoors. I’m taking the week off to catch up with myself, and remember that I have an existence away from my job. It feels like a retreat. And a treat to go to the woods with no timelines or tools.

The excuse was huckleberries. It’s late to be finding any. The crop was not plentiful this year, and I never made the time to really look. I heard about this spot and hiked up to it. Rain, time, and animals have taken their toll–I had to make quite an effort to pick a quart. It wasn’t hard to sit down and gaze at the mountains. I call this place The Horns. The trail passes through a glacier-gouged gap and descends into a meadow-filled basin. The air was still. Cumulus clouds were moving slowly from the southeast. Occasionally I heard the whiff-whiff-whiff of raven wings above me, or a solitary croak. Watching out, as usual. Pretty sure I was the only human in the entire drainage.

I opened a brand new travel sketchbook of watercolor paper, Arches cold press. The first color touched to it was a juicy brushload of cerulean and cobalt blues, which was pulled around by another brushload of water. Left white for the clouds. Then how to make the color of the rocks? As I looked and painted, the clouds moved and the sun emerged. The shadows deepened, the light brightened, and some of the colors lit up like neon. Mountain hemlocks edged with gold, huckleberry brush dripping orange in the gullies…

One of the great blessings of painting is that my mind shuts up while I am doing it. To paint is to feel relief from the yammering of daily thoughts, and just be with the landscape, the tools, and what is unfolding beneath my hands. It’s an active kind of meditation.

Haven’t decided whether I will paint on this a little more.

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