Mix Better Color

A painting from another time - and also from as as-yet-unfinished exloration

A painting called ‘Sleepers’  from another time – and also from as as-yet-unfinished exploration

The lake was angry. Because it is the fifth largest lake in the world, it packs a punch when enraged. The local news reported that the waves were 14ft high. The force of the waves smacking the shore hurled huge stones from the wall constructed on the banks to protect the land. Although it is an easy walk from our house, the wind was so powerful and cold that we drove the few blocks to see it.

There are days that the lake is glassy smooth and quiet with barely a noticeable ripple. This day the lake was muddy brown and dangerous. Parts of the bank collapsed. A tree close to the shore was consumed. Many years ago I was in a small boat protected by the islands from the force of the ocean’s wrath; for a few moments we had to round a point, exposed to the fury, to get into a bay. The captain pointed the boat directly into waves that towered over us. I’ve rarely felt like such a bug on the arm of an angry world. Had it decided to, the ocean would have smashed us with little or no notice. The lake was like that this day. I was grateful to be on shore. Sometimes awe for the power of nature requires a respectful distance.

Sometimes appreciating the fullness of life also requires a respectful distance. I recently took Bill and Linda down stairs into my current studio. They are elders and I have enormous respect for them. They’d asked to see my paintings. We spent several moments looking at my current work and then began stepping backwards in time. My paintings ring like songs from the past; each represents a specific era of my life and is capable of sparking intense remembering. It was fun to pull pieces for them, answer questions (or not answer them), and to open the doors of time. Like the lake, the doors were varied and unpredictable: some of the doors flooded me with peace, other doors overwhelmed me with grief, and still others brought intense joy. I loved it all because with time, with distance, life ceases to be about good times and bad times, hard times or ease, it’s all one long rich varied walk, all necessary and useful like color on a palette. Some of it goes to mud and that is the only way to learn to mix better color. Just as every forest fire causes renewal and every storm heaves stones and creates a new shoreline, sometimes distance and respect for this powerful messy life reveals the face of continual renewal and necessitates vast, quiet awe.

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