Ahh, January. I love the clean crispness of January. I clean out my studio and begin again, looking through my stash of photos and sketches for my next project. Fresh new canvases thrill me to my fingertips, but I don’t hesitate to paint out a painting from last year that didn’t ever quite gel. Sometimes, though, they are sort of in between. Not bad enough to paint out, yet something is missing… This weekend when I was flipping through old photos an old snag caught my attention. Ah-HAH! That’s what was missing in my Spring Bluff Marsh~ a big ole gnarly tree. So I scooped up some colors and let them mush together in the shape of a snag. Now I’m happy.
Life is like that, isn’t it? Sometimes the thing that is missing is really already there, you just aren’t seeing it. It is so satisfying when the needful thing clicks into place.
Up in the northern reaches of Illinois Beach State Park, near the Wisconsin border, is a network of wetland meadows. When I found it some 15 years ago, it immediately became one of my favorite places on earth. Just looking at it I can feel the cool water as my bare feet plunge into it and time drops away. When I finished this painting, my son delighted me by commenting that he should be perched on a tussock sedge nearby. Indeed, the two of us spent many happy afternoons splashing about, tripping over the tussocks, peering into the waters for little fishes, frogs, and other treasures. More than one cell phone met its demise here as, laughing and covered with rich black mud, we’d emerge to return to civilization, much damper than we’d planned to get. Part of me will always be there, I realize, and so going back will always feel like visiting with a part of myself.
This weekend my son is home visiting me from college. His interests are wide-ranging, so we’ve enjoyed discussing the changes we see happening in the world, from politics to climate. Yesterday we needed to pop into his old pediatrician’s office to get records his college requires. As we stood at the desk a mom entered, carrying her baby. It made me feel a little dizzy to stand in this place next to a tall young man who is my son, where once (yesterday, surely) I carried him. I know the emotions that are swamping me are not new in the world, but they are new in my world and so I felt moved to share them. Maybe when it gets warm again he will go back and play in the water with me…