Several years ago when taking a writing class from a local Bend, OR writer, Sarah Cyr, one of the prompts we were encouraged to write about was – outside the window of my house….
When I look out my front window I see the beautiful hills of Smith Rock to the northeast of Bend. The best times of day are in the early morning and later afternoon when the shadows create magnificent hard edges that take on a life of their own. The colors from the sunrise and sunset create totally different palettes on the hills and rock formations. I require this visual inspiration every day, rain or shine and revel in the fact that I live on a hill with this vista.
The view out my backyard is a different landscape and feel. It is cozy, intimate, relatively private. The large boulders serve as security – holding the landscape together offering protection. The variety of trees which include decades old junipers, young aspens whose leaves whisper in the wind, spruce trees which shed their needles and pine cones several times a year, natural grasses soften the ground, sagebrush which give off a wonderful fragrance along with the junipers, plus the water feature in our backyard adds to the plethora of sensual experiences. Calming, the running water relaxes my nerves, my mind and overall senses. This view gives me privacy and comfort.
I have always felt the need to be able to see far enough to know what is coming, a metaphor for needing to know what to expect. Which is odd because in many parts of my life, I have taken the “dive in and deal with the consequences later” approach. Maybe this is a desire for balance. The knowing, which stabilizes me and the not knowing, which makes for a more interesting and magical life.
Knowing and Not Knowing
When we were looking for housing the summer of 2014 before our move to Bend, OR, we came across a couple homes with wonderful vistas. My North Dakota upbringing had set the stage for a desire to experience those vistas.
Being able to see for miles gave me the comfort of knowing what was ahead. If skies were clear, there was no need to worry. I could go about my life, carefree and unencumbered.
On the flip side, if magnificent thunderous looking clouds were forming. If rain, hail, wind and/or snow appeared in the distance, there would be a need to hunker down and prepare for an upcoming storm.
Calm and serenity, complacency. Uncertainty, fear, mystery. Feelings often associated with knowing and not knowing.
“I need to see far enough to know what is coming“, was an interesting revelation discovered when writing for this particular prompt. It would seem a contradiction to my “dive in and deal with consequences” approach. But is it?
Knowing: Much of my early existence was comforted by thinking I could control anything through my various planning strategies. I strived to be prepared and did not want to look like a fool.
In reality, not much in life goes as planned. The universe has other ideas and prefers to offer some mystery to liven things up with a little discomfort thrown in for balance.
Not Knowing: To confront this inevitably, I slowly and assuredly transitioned into one of the most adaptable people I know. That adaptability was born out of my young adult shyness. I became hyper observant and began to discover and recognize the unknown as an opportunity for the expansion of my boxed in existence. Being shy groomed me to be vigilant, adapt and grow.
Feeling at Ease
I take comfort in knowing that most mornings, I will rise, drink my coffee, watch the news, read the newspaper, workout and walk my dog. These are daily routines and part of my balance, but that is about as far as my knowing goes.
On the flip side, I feel a general ease with not knowing what the rest of my day (or life) will bring. There is a harmony in allowing as opposed to forcing. My morning walk with Sophie may allow for meeting a new dog or seeing wildlife. If I have a sudden urge to finish the first chapter of the book I am writing, I will allow for it. I may walk by the studio and be drawn in to create a mess or a masterpiece. Or I may need to switch gears on the fly, if a family member requires my immediate attention.
My adaptability and resilience will be present when needed and in whatever capacity is warranted. I am at ease with that unknown.
The process in my studio falls into the mysterious and unknown category. The unknown fuels my curiosity and sense of authenticity. Being my own boss, allows me to be without “schedule scrutiny”.
When starting a new piece, I choose hues that are either left over from a previous painting or I mix up colors that I feel that day. In most cases, I start with only two, one light and one darker hue.
I turn on music that fits my mood (favorites lately are Philip Glass and Black Pumas from Portland, OR – totally different music genres). I begin painting large broad strokes symbolic of a need to expel any pent up energies. This lasts a short time and often leaves me emotionally and physically spent, at least temporarily.
I either sit and ponder what I have done, go outside or leave the studio altogether for a short time.
Allowing the piece time to breathe gives me time to breathe. The unknown and the mysterious.
The image that accompanies this blog is an example of the process I just described. The first steps of a new painting using minimal hues and strokes which become the foundation for the mystery that will unfold.