This drawing was done over a time period of perhaps ten days– as a result, the season had moved along its trajectory towards fall from the beginning to the end of the drawing period.
I decided to begin with drawing part of the Sitka rose hedge close up, and was sitting on the grass doing so, when a dragonfly flew by really close and landed on the mailbox. It was a sure sign he wanted to be in the drawing. He dutifully remained on the mailbox and allowed me to take several pictures, which I used to help me render him accurately in the drawing.
I had not been certain about the background, but I finally settled on the hedge itself so that the circle is kind of like a magnifying glass. The Steiner verse conveys my inner feeling about this time of year. I do feel that summer is being pulled to the inside of myself.
The energy is definitely pulling itself from the skies into the earth, and this is conveyed in the drawing. I didn’t plan it this way, but it the drawing process reveals this. I wanted to use words in this final drawing, and the words from Steiner’s The Calendar of the Soul for the Twenty Third Week (the week I began the drawing) were perfect:
There dims in damp autumnal air
The senses’ luring magic;
The light’s revealing radiance
Is dulled by hazy veils of mist.
In distances around me I can see
The autumn’s winter sleep;
The summer’s life has yielded
Itself into my keeping.
At the bottom of the picture, little “beings” came forth. They seemed to be saying that they were now going underground, so “goodbye” until next summer!
I have been working on this drawing of the Sitka rose hedge that fronts our yard for quite a while. The season moved on between the time I began the drawing and the time I finished it. So, it’s probably more “grounded” than it would have been had I finished it in July. There is the intimation of elementals that seem to rise out of the very shapes of the sepals that contained the buds and eventually shed the roses. Because of the five-petaled nature of the roses (like apples), there feels to be a connection with the stars, as if they are being brought down to earth.
There is less of a feeling of the presence of elementals than I experienced when I did the drawings closer to the solstice. The peak of summer is over and we are on the descent into fall.
I spent a lot of time agonizing about starting this drawing. In my intellect, I know this is not productive. But there I was procrastinating day after day, letting other activities get in the way. Finally, the day came when I knew I would begin. I found myself having to do all sorts of little things before I could start, even after I had chosen what I would draw. I decided to draw from the porch. I needed a pillow, I needed my water. I needed my hat. I needed to do all sorts of little things I can’t recall now. I also jammed my face with chocolate chips and macademia nuts– I do nibble, but this was a real face jammer! I will reserve commenting any more on my approach to this drawing…
… except to say that what made a huge difference in my getting down to it was this quote:
The question is not what you look at, but what you see. — Henry David Thoreau
What I took from that was I didn’t have to find just the right place or thing to draw. I just needed to be present to myself and my surroundings. I need to remember this, to cut through one of the procrastination techniques to drawing!
I had determined I would draw the potted plant on the front porch and the yard beyond. I didn’t know what would happen. It was scary. I didn’t know what would happen out there beyond the plant. I am petrified I will draw something cutesy from my imagination. But those little beings just had to be seen. Tiny stroke by tiny stroke they came onto the page. All I can say is, it feels right.
I found it very hard to get on with drawing # 12. I was conflicted about what to draw. My mind kept going to the back yard of an old log home in the neighborhood; its empty space seemed full of some kind of intriguing energy. On the other hand, the crab apple tree in our back yard was in full, glorious bloom.Thousands of perfect blossoms of five petals each were at their peak of perfection.
One day, with the tension of indecision mounting within me, I sat down in my chair in the craft room to think about what to do. Then I noticed the white five-petaled silk flower I had picked up when I visited my grandmother’s grave years ago; it had seemed at the time to be a small token from her. That was just the sign I needed. I finally went to our garage, took the step ladder from the garage wall, placed it on the deck, climbed to its top “seat,” and drew the crab apple blossom cluster closest to my face.
It was a challenging drawing to do, especially as I began to address the problem of drawing the tree to which the blossoms in front of my nose were attached. I had no idea how the drawing would play out. I caught myself grinding my teeth on and off, between balancing myself on my perch and bringing some of the particulars of my chosen vantage point out of the tip of the pen.
Before I began I had the thought that I should become one with whatever I was drawing. I do see that what resulted is a reflection of this attempt. The picture is as much about me and my struggles as it is about the tree itself. I am, in the end, pleased with what was a difficult assignment. I feel it is an honest drawing and reflects the process of getting to know this particular tree while putting marks on the paper that come from my own perception rather than some learned technique. I guess that’s the advantage of not being schooled (or disadvantage, depending on one’s outlook).
What about entering the void? I guess what I learned is that to enter the void I need to take on the challenge of really trying to see what is in front of me and allowing the pen to do as honest a job as possible.
Reflecting on the satisfaction I feel, I recall how before I began this drawing series I took note of my predilection to be intrigued by the relationship of an element in the foreground of a painting or photo to the background “landscape” of which it is a part. The viewing process leads me into a kind of narrative journey of attention where I at first notice the foreground object or person and then am delighted that more details are in the background, details which lend further information regarding what at first catches the eye. These background details also lead me to ask more questions about the complex web of relationship between foreground and background. The viewing becomes a kind of unfolding story from which the element of mystery is never erased. Therefore, I can return again and again to the same piece of work without ever getting bored.
There is something precious about knowing how briefly these glorious blossoms grace the tree. The time of their reign is short, making their delicate, white profusion even more breathtaking.
Here’s my sense of this artistic journey: I have a flashlight beam cast on the ground just a step ahead of me. Each step renders a new discovery to be savoured. The epiphany of this drawing is the understanding that the drawing doesn’t have to fit the mould of what a drawing “should” be. I already know how drawings “should” be and I have it programmed in me to attempt to produce a certain composition.
This drawing doesn’t fit the mould of a “pretty” piece. It also doesn’t follow the guidelines of “process art”– which are inspiring but not completely what I am meant to do. It reflects accurately my process of coming to a relationship with this place which has fascinated me for years– a precipice semi-hidden by vegetation– and at a very particular time of year.
The dark area at the top are the trees way far away on the other side of the gorge. The lighter areas on either side are the scrim of vegetation that masks the chasm. This is indeed the character of this entire geological province (Cumberland Plateau)– a sandstone plateau veined with deep gorges that are most often invisible to the eye until you are at the edge. The sad fact is that people have stepped off the edges of these gorges unawares (usually with the help of intoxicants and at night).
The world’s longest hardwood forested plateau is home to many plants and animals found nowhere else.
I am so happy to be able to share this information about place. There are also some insights about the SEASON to be had. While the sun is evident on the sandstone, its presence is less felt than in the drawings done in spring. Rudolph Steiner has lectured on the distancing of the sun from the earth and the stretching outward of the soul of the earth during the summer. I don’t fully understand it but find it fascinating. I will write more about this in a subsequent post.
Brian good-naturedly consented to drive with me back the road that leads to a vantage point where one can see Eddingsville Beach. I had a hankering to enter the marsh which I had drawn only at a distance last year. As we sat in the car, Brian reading his novel, and me tuning in to what has always been a place of mystery for me, I began to draw. Although I remained aware of the wide-open-spaces, my drawing was of a limited area. I could have been disappointed, but I have learned to just move on with what has been set in motion. This is good, not to fret over plans gone awry!
So, remaining immersed in the flat, open, watery, muddy, grassy terrain, I tuned in more and more to the feeling of the tide and its undulating movement. Close to the end of the time, a gull flew right by me. This provided the focal point for the drawing that I had been seeking. When I returned to the condo, I continued to mine the experience, which unfolded the splendor that the gull wanted to bring into the picture. The sun would not be denied, even though it was a cloudy day!
Every seed is awakened and so has all animal life.
It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being
And we therefore yield to our neighbors,
Even our animal neighbors,
The same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land.
— Sitting Bull
Tonight Brian and I were taking a walk when he noticed sap dripping from a birch tree onto the sidewalk, making a puddle. It was dripping from a broken spot of a branch. This confirmed that the upward energy I was sensing as I drew is indeed real. It touched my heart.
I just discovered that in England the May moon is known as hare moon– Hare emerged from the grass as I drew. May moon is also known as grass moon (different traditions have different names for each moon).
Worship the trees as My feet, and you will become one with the heart of the world.
— The Self
What is the Self? It is the pure awareness of “I am,” the original “I” consciousness which has been within us ever since we came into this world.
As I sat on a chair on our front lawn, a few days after the last dollop of snow had melted, I was aware of the surging energy moving upward through the trees. The tiniest of leaf buds were formed, which in two days would flare out into the tiniest of leaves. I hope the energy I perceived is apparent in the drawing.
After considering taking it farther, I chickened out and decided to do an overlay, like I did with drawings 6 and 7. I will see what wants to come forth at Beltane time. Is there something else that wants to appear on the paper that is invisible to me right now?
I experienced quite a bit of resistance as I worked on this drawing. I determined I would take a copy of “April Afternoon” and see what needed to appear in the open spaces. This issue came up first with the drawing “Tree World.” There was empty space and I sensed the unseen in it but wasn’t ready to allow the pen into that space. I love empty spaces and to leave the unseen unseen. However, I knew I had to take the plunge (inspired as I was by process art approach). Besides, I had already done so in “Sunz Reflection.”
I worked on this in stages, allowing new elements to present themselves. I was worried I was just cooking things up in my personal imagination.
However, I happened upon a book inspired by the work of Rudolph Steiner that mentioned what happens in the Northern Hemisphere in spring (Living a Spiritual Year by Adrian Anderson). It seemed to me that there was a correspondence between what I had drawn and what was discussed in the book:
In earlier times people were aware that with the exhaling of the earth’s auric forces the multitudes of elemental beings that during winter were relatively inactive under the ground experience a renewal of their powers and gradually ascend further into the heights as summer approaches… A common theme in ancient spring festivals was the “marriage of the sun to the earth”… We might look upon all the new life and growth of spring as an expression of the creative powers of the sun beings– the regents of the solar system..
I was wondering about the figure in the upper left, a kind of angel with human faces in the hem of his robe. Then I read in Steiner’s The Calendar of the Soul (Second Week, April 14-20):
Out in the sense-world’s glory
The power of thought gives up its separate being,
And spirit worlds discover
Again their human offspring,
Who germinates in them
But in itself must find
The fruit of soul.
I had already drawn an odd, hooded figure on the far side of the inlet. When I returned to the drawing I found myself repeating the image in the foreground. I didn’t really want to be doing this– it seemed to insert itself by its own will, and I felt it was ruining “my picture.” Then the word “penitentes” echoed over and over in my mind. I looked it up and the first thing I saw was a stunning photo of ice formations that had the shape of the figures I had drawn. They are called “penitentes” and they are formed on high altitude glaciers by the process of sublimation (direct evaporation from ice, skipping the liquidation phase– http://physics.aps.org/story/v17/st7). I thought, yes–right now, right here– snow and ice are undergoing sublimation– the sun is so intense, not all of it turns into water first!
The penitentes as a religious category have the same formation with their pointed hood caps and robes. And they undergo psychological/spiritual sublimation as they (in some cases) self-flagellate– indeed the figures I drew held something like a whip with a pointed object at the end– a certain kind of leaf cluster has been used for self-flagellation, I discovered. This is, of course, a practice at Easter time (I did the original drawing on Russian Orthodox Good Friday). In this manner lower impulses are transformed into higher ones– skipping over the manifestation of the impulse in cruder form.
I was pretty amazed by how all of this was woven together in the context of the season– both the physical processes happening at this time and the associated spiritual customs. It all seems to link up!
I haven’t completely gotten over my concern that I am “cooking things up.” However, these discoveries are giving me more confidence that something can come onto the paper that is connected with genuine forces at work in the world– that something beyond my own subjectivity might be involved.
”There is a tendency to think that you are finished when either you don’t know what to do, or you don’t like it and want to get rid of it, or you like it and are afraid to ruin it. These are not valid reasons to stop. You are finished only when the painting is finished inside you. The painting decides, not you; the natural intuitive process decides, not you.” ~ Life, Paint & Passion