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The Quiet Year

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

I'm listening to old time folk music (The Transatlantic Sessions on YouTube - highly recommend it if you like that kind of thing with some Celtic stuff mixed in!) and hearing the storm coming our way. Hawkeye is lying under our feet seeking protection from the thunder, and his 100 lbs. self just doesn't quite fit under our legs. Poor guy.

Every January, I wonder what the year will look like summed up in a word. In years past, I would try to pick a word that I wanted to reflect the coming year, and I soon realized that that never worked. So now I wait until the year just is what it will be, and then the word is made clear. Last year was sort of a combo of "rest" and "joy." 2023 so far seems to be "quiet."

The garden is significantly smaller this year after getting a bit overwhelmed last year, and the summer is getting late now so that the flowers can't help but look a little tired. July seems to have lasted for 5 minutes.

I've been less and less on social media in the past several months, which has been a strange sort of release in a way. The art that I've worked on has been more of just what I've wanted to do or try instead of something that needed to perform or sell very well. This spring I wanted to get an art journal and just let it be a space where I could try new things and styles and mediums, and now I wish I'd done it a long time ago. It's been fun and enlightening and surprising, and not having pressure for it to be perfect or sale-worthy has made me enjoy it all the more. Sometimes creativity needs a place to not have to wear its own makeup.

I've honestly had half a mind to even close the Woodland & Wing website as I haven't put much art on here this year, and for the glaring fact that overall, it really has not done a good job of paying for itself, haha. But I would like to get the children's novel illustrations done and put it together as a downloadable e-book and on the site before I do that. I've been working on it and I've got the cover designed! Just a few more illustrations needed now... But the art journal has been a sweet way of exploring watercolor, colored pencils, gouache, and pastel pencils. And that encourages me to have more gumption for the last of the illustrations. Meanwhile, other stories fly around in my head that involve owls and foxes and old rusty keys...

I've been reading more poetry and fairytales the past few months as a way to escape screen time, and I like to find poems that seem to fit into the art journal pages. One can never go wrong with Mary Oliver or Wendell Berry poems! Here's a good one by Mary O.:

-Passing the Unworked Field-

Queen Anne's lace

is hardly prized but

neither is it idle, look how it

stands fiercely on its

thin stem, how it

nurtures its white budlets with the

gift of the sun, how it

makes for this world all the

loveliness it can.

This summer, in the valley just behind the adjacent hills of our house, there is a big operation going on where an ecological company is putting in a wetland in the flood plain. For as long as I've known the land, it's been pasture and occasionally used for bean crops. My high school senior pictures were taken there, and our engagement pictures. The road by the creek that runs parallel to it is where I would ride my bike in high school, and climb the gate and sit on a rock and think and pray, and if it was hot I'd roll up my pants and wade in the creek a bit. Now the gate is gone, a lot of the trees are gone that had arched over the creek, and the pastureland is being bulldozed. I'm thankful that nothing horrid is being put in like a sub-division, and I'm glad that it will be something to encourage wildlife. There is still a bittersweetness about the change though, and I'll miss that area being what it was. But maybe it will become something worth painting or looking at. I know red-winged blackbirds like wetlands and marshes, so if it brings more of them here, then I suppose it's not a bad thing.

Landscapes are tantalizing art subjects--- even though my godfather (who is also an artist) told me a long time ago that landscapes are merciful to artists and said I should work on more difficult subject matter (I agree and disagree with his sentiments), but I want to try more of them after having done a few small ones with pastel pencils in the art journal. One day I'd like to try oils but I need to slow my roll when it comes to trying new hobbies and getting involved in too many different art forms! Now isn't the time, and that's okay. The next few landscapes I do I'd like to try farmland to reflect the area where I grew up: black angus cows, creek beds, pastures, tobacco fields, and the like.

I think one of the reasons that this year has felt particularly quiet is that I've officially hit my mid-30s, and I guess I'm realizing that all the things I've wanted to do and try may never happen simply because I'll run out of time eventually. When you're a child your life's landscape in front of you can seem so... wide; like so many things and chances and parts of life can exist simultaneously. And I guess that is true to a degree, but not exactly the way you think it will be when you're a kid. I think I imagined life being less on a paved road and more in and amongst every blade of grass of the cow pastures on either side of the road, so to speak. So in the midst of all of it, I guess I'm realizing that you can't cover every square inch of ground. But Leonardo da Vinci said that "art lives from constraints and dies from freedom," so maybe the fact that we have such limited time means that it's juicier and more beautiful than if we never had an expiration date. Maybe that's why fairy tales and fiction are such lovely things -- the fact that they're unattainable and yet are so full of profound truths makes them extra delicious. Life is so short, and I want to drink in the days and breathe deeply the simplicity of the quiet and remember that "it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life."

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