Last month, Sam and I went out to the Nordic trails at Eagle Point Provincial Park near Drayton Valley.
Once we arrived, we went our separate ways to spend the morning with God. I picked the trail that would take me toward the river.
When I go out to spend a day with God, I take my journal, a Bible, my camera and my compact plein air painting and sketching supplies. I look for “God sightings” as I hike. When I see an animal in its natural setting – it feels like a gift straight from God. Blooming flowers, even tiny ones, also bring me delight. As God brings my attention to these and other wonders of nature sometimes it triggers other things: metaphors, sometimes scripture, or just thoughts. It is a day to sit or walk and listen to what God might have for me.
Armored with bug spray and sunscreen I struck off down the wide path.
Not even five minutes later, I saw my first animal in the distance, a deer. Slowly, I lifted my camera to take a photo or two before it walked away. It was looking directly at me and moved its head to see me better. I had its attention as much as it had mine. Then the deer casually walked out of sight.
1As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God? Psalm 42 (NRSV)
This scripture came to my mind as I paused, looking at where the deer had been. Psalm 42 is one of the scriptures for the upcoming “Art, Vocabulary of the Soul” retreat in June. “Restore my soul” is the theme of the retreat and that was what I was looking for in this day with God. It all seemed to work together in my mind and heart, as it often does when I’m listening for God, confirming to me his work in that listening.
Soon, I found a place to sit where I could see the river in the distance through the trees. I pulled out my journal, Bible, and paints and waited on the Lord.
I read Psalms 65 and 104. They both speak of creation and praising God. After reading, I just sat and listened to the sounds of creation around me. (It has taken me awhile to learn to “just be.”) As I sat there, I was filled with the awe and wonder of God. God was filling me up with himself. I was content and relaxed.
I found myself reflecting on how busy this spring has been for me with teaching and other things. Yet, I am not feeling exhausted and stressed in the busyness. By this time last year, I was feeling constantly behind unable to catch up.
What has been the difference?
I have taken more time to paint, which helps me connect to my feelings. I have taken more time with God, whether in my studio or in nature. I have also been able to be more present as I did things. I have “paced” myself by taking time to rest if I am working late.
I pulled out my paints and continued my time by painting, sketching and listening. Here are my sketches:
As Sam and I walked back, we shared about what each of us heard from God. Sam talked about what he called our inner experience and outer experience. He explained that what people long for, what we truly want in life has to do with our inner experience: contentment, happiness, peace, joy. Yet often we focus on improving our outer experience in order to achieve these.
Restoring our souls, is giving space for our souls to be in God’s presence, much like our day here had been. And out of that can come the contentment, joy and peace we long for.
For me, it was another “God sighting” that we had come to similar themes, each framed in our unique ways, and I was encouraged that God was preparing us both for the coming retreat.
How beautiful it is when God is at work and we get to be a part of it.
Fall is here, the branches are bare, and the bitter cold winds are back. I brought my flowers in from the deck in to enjoy until they were done. My Gerber Daisy bloomed again, and the others have not stopped blooming. The flowers are all straining toward the window for the glimpse of light upon their faces.
They take up space on my office floor near the sliding glass door, but it is worth a little crowding to see beauty right there as I work. So fun to extend the season of growth and blooming as we move into shorter days and longer nights.
Seasons are not only about weather and nature, we human beings have our seasons as well. As I reflect on the last few months, this has been a season of learning to be present to what is right in front of me today. The outdoor painting excursions (plein air) over the summer and early fall were, perhaps, the greatest example of this. Covid 19 shutdown all of my indoor classes, but the outdoors were beautiful after all the rain in June and July, so we went outside. And there we learned to be present to and see the beauty right in front of us.
With all of the changes due to covid, the daily news, learning new ways of doing things and uncertainties of what is coming next, I looked forward to each plein air session. As I ended the plein air season, I started the online class and we have had three of the four sessions. Although well received, it has been a big learning curve, but I am adjusting and modifying it as we go along. (I had to try different tripods, and get a new piece, an arm extension, for my tripod to make it work better.) In the last session, I had us all painting the same flower (the one blooming in my office). I tell myself that I do not have to figure it all out, and I can ask for help, which allows me to be present and take one step at a time.
This all led to my thinking about the passage in Ecclesiates 3 that
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
For each statement there is an antithesis. Opposites. Even extreme opposites. As I looked at the passage this morning, I realize I prefer to focus on the positive sides: to plant, to heal, to build to laugh, to dance, etc. There are times when the opposite is necessary: to grieve, to die, to throw away, to speak, to hate, etc. But there is an in between place that is not spoken in some of these, not necessarily a wishy-washy middle ground either, but another space of time to be in. I decided to find the in between space for each. Here are my results:
Born – die… there is a time to live;
plant – uproot… there is a time to grow, flourish and even harvest
kill – heal… there is a time to get along with each other, respect, nurture each other
tear down – to build… there is a time to take care of what is there, appreciate what you have
weep – laugh… there is a time to just breathe
mourn – dance… there is a time to just be
scatter – gather… there is a time to not take personally what others do
Embrace – refrain form embracing… there is a time to just be together
Search – give up… there is a time to let go
Keep – throw away… there is a time to reuse, recycle, repair
Tear and mend… there is a time to clean and take care of
To be Silent – to speak out… there is a time to be yourself
To Love and to hate… there is a time to accept others as different from yourself
War and peace… there is a time to forgive
I cannot change others, or the world, but I can work on myself. What season or time are you in?
South Korea is a beautiful, mountainous country. What a fun adventure to travel and meet up with our daughter, Reena, who had been living with host families and attending grade 11 in South Korea for 11 months. We experienced her fluency as she conversed with the people around us as we traveled, shopped and ordered food. We even spent an energy filled sports day with her school, which was a peek into the Korean culture.
We learned to say the greeting phrase and the phrase for “thank you.” We stayed in people’s homes with airbnb. We ate with chopsticks. We took the public transportation in the cities and we rented a car for the last week to go into the countryside with a Korean language GPS system that Reena got to type in the destinations in Korean.
I took 15-30 minutes here and there to sketch and do mini watercolors in my watercolor sketchbook. From these and the phots I will be able to create new artwork in my studio this year. Here are some of them...
I like Summer. It's a time to rest from the busyness of the year, a time to take a break, hike, travel, try something new, and meet a new friend.
This summer I took a break and traveled down to the San Francisco Peninsula, where I explored the natural scenery, and had time to paint, rest and visit with some family. A lot of my time was my own as my husband, Sam, was busy taking courses on Enneagram training. The weather was beautiful. We were fortunate that all the smoke from the forest fires stayed north of us, but we certainly got our fill of it coming home.
My cousin Nate and his wife, Karen, generously opened their home to us for a part of our stay. They have landscaped a beautiful garden with paths and raised garden beds. I found one flowering bush, a Red Tiger Abutilon, particularly enchanting. And one day as I sat in the garden painting the Tiger's blooms, I heard him. He made a clicking noise, and I looked around to see a humming bird flitting from flower to flower on the other side of the Tiger. He was curious, too. He even came and looked me over, fluttering just three feet away! My camera was right next to me, but he wasn't ready for that yet, and zipped away as I reached for it.
I decided to go a little slower, to get to know him first. I learned his song, and when I started to hear it I reached for my camera even as I looked for him among the trees and flowers in their garden. He wasn't as shy this time, and even posed for me, letting me catch him sitting on a branch.
The next day I came again to his garden, taking time to just be still. I sat and I read, enjoying the beauty of the garden. And I waited. I waited for him to come to me. Forty-five minutes had passed when I heard his song. He came, dancing, darting, pausing in mid-air like a breath, flitting from flower to flower in the golden sunlight of the morning. And then he was off again, and it was my turn to breathe and wonder. So beautiful.
For me, the beauty and wonder of God's creation is part of his love song to us. In big and small ways nature speaks of God's great glory and love, and I particularly enjoy first hand experiences like these.
And I also love it when I can capture nature's beauty on film so I use them later when I create with God in my paintings. I was dancing inside as I experienced each of the beautiful animals and places on our trip. Each one felt like a gift.
I saw elephant seals, California seals, egrets, hummingbirds, pelicans, deer and fawns, tide pools, the ocean, redwoods and lots of people. I took thousands of pictures, sketched and painted 'plein air".
Here are some of the paintings I started… or sketched...
I look forward to sharing some of these new paintings when they are finished. Some of them are a perfect fit for the new show I will be installing at the Glenrose in late October: Flowers and Birds. Mark your calendars for Wed October 31 for a reception 2-6pm.