Winter Light

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Now, you may not be wanting to see more snow this morning, but I just finished this painting and was eager to share it with you.  I hate the stuff, myself, except, isn’t it pretty?  Also, I appreciate it for its vital role in the health of the ecosystems here.  This particular ecosystem, a complex of sedge meadows and black oak savannas arranged in ridges at the western edge of Lake Michigan, is one that I used to know like the back of my hand.  I spent so much time here it was practically home.  It was here that I learned about geological history written on the, er, shifting sands.  Walking among the dunes with botanists and birders, I learned most of what I know, and found my artistic voice.

Then, as so often happens, life moved me along and I found myself exploring other places.  Not as good, really, but nice in there own way.  Closer, for one thing, and at nearly $4 a gallon of gas, that matters.  I traded intimacy of place with the riches of wider diversity.  Thousands of acres, miles of trails.  Life was going faster, and I gained so much in experience… yet always something was tugging at my sleeve.

When I can, I go back.  I see again the younger dunes, still shifting, and the older dunes, holding more organic matter, supporting a handful of plant species, and still older dunes, supporting trees.  But now I am a visitor.  I realize that part of what was tugging at my sleeve was my younger self.  It is good to be with her again, once in awhile.  To remember what she knew and thought and felt.

These were the things I thought about as I worked on this painting the past few weeks.

What parts of yourself call to you, and where do you go to find them?

On the Path

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Today I’ve brought you to an imaginary trail at a very real site.  This birder is enjoying the prairie restoration as it might appear some years from now.  Previously, Fort Sheridan was a military installation on the shore of Lake Michigan.  There are wonderful photos of the soldiers riding their horses into the waves after exercises to cool them.

The title I gave this post  reflects what I’ve been pondering lately.  I recently read a wonderful book about Mary Cassatt and her relationship with the Impressionists.  How they struggled~ with their inner visions, with critics, with each other.  As Manet lies dying, the author has him realizing that all is Love, and that nothing they wrestled with mattered in the end.  This kind of rocked me back on my heels.  If nothing matters, then…?

After chewing on that for a little while I realized what the author meant.  Our efforts do matter, although not in the way we are accustomed to think.  After all, once we’re dead what difference does it make how many units of widgets we sold or how much money we accumulated or how big a house we had.  And it didn’t matter how the artists painted.  It just mattered that they did.  The originality they sought would have emerged regardless, in the doing.  It is the love we infuse into what we do that matters.

The Impressionists changed art forever, just by painting from their soul and being in their moment.  I believe it is that way for all of us.  We can wring our hands over the changes to the planet, or we can get on with doing what we believe to be right.  

So, here’s to nature restoration, and the art of whatever it is each of us does with our lives.  May it be infused with light.