Hidden In The Woods
A few days ago I completed a week-long residency at Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve & Education Center in Mancos, CO. This amazing non-profit partners with the Durango Arts Center to provide local creatives with residencies, and I was fortunate enough to be selected for this round. They not only partner with the Arts Center, but continuously host people from all over for different reasons. I just happened to go through a local opportunity.
It was an absolute honor to be chosen to spend time at Willowtail. I was honored and lucky. Lucky to be able to roam and do my work on a piece of property that is private, protected, loved, nurtured, and still allowed to be "wild" thanks to its owners Peggy and Lee Cloy. And because of all of those things, the place is practically magical.
I went there with my proposal being top of mind: to combine the three aspects that heavily influence my current work---to explore Jungian archetypes, to employ my gift of synesthesia, and to soak in the subtle yet powerful nuances of the natural world.
What ended up happening was more than I ever envisioned. Yes, I completed a painting. And the painting is symbolic of my time there (as you will read about below), but it isn't the main point of my stay there... at least not to me. Because of the allotted time and the lack of distractions, this experience accelerated my ability to create and equally was not about the manifestation of my efforts. So I had quite a bit of yin-yang happening with the "yin" of it sitting squarely in internal, deep, hidden changes within myself as an artist and the "yang" being the outer production of something that others can hold in their hands, judge at a glance, and comment on.
Regarding the process of the painting that I brought into existence at Willowtail, Hidden in the Woods, I started with observing trees. On my first day I immediately found trees by the lake that were thin yet closely growing together. Despite their proximity to one another, I could still see through them and feel the breeze through them. On a personal level, I have been searching for the balance between being open and still being protective of myself. These slender trees along the water seemed to be the perfect picture of that, and so they went into the painting first. Nonrepresentationally, of course!
I left one of the "trees" as a strip of raw canvas while painting all around it. I do try to leave some raw canvas in my works if I can to not only show the authenticity of a piece's humble beginnings, but also to relate vulnerability. There is a place for vulnerability in our lives to be revered by ourselves and acknowledged by others.
The next day I sat under a "grandmother" tree on the property. Her seeds were spread everywhere, as were her offspring that had taken root recently and long ago, and took off all around her reaching for the sky. Her seeds are represented in the painting as new life, opportunity, a promise of fulfilling potential. While my display of them are obvious in the picture above here, if you look back at the finished painting, the "seeds" are pushed into the background, into the dream---the fertile soil of our hopes---where they can find the resources they need to germinate healthily. To let the "seeds" remain on the top layer would have lead the artwork in a different direction, with a different visual focus, and perhaps would have lead to a dissatisfied artist and viewers alike. But they are safely in the depths! Let us carry on...
In the peace of my stay, I began to realize that the stories of the natural world weren't just about the seeds or the trees themselves, but also in the soil. I contemplated the earth and the rocks and the roots and the little happy beings (bugs, fungus, etc.) that live within the ground. I thought about how their existence and jobs aren't so much recognized by us as we trod on top of them, but we can enjoy the fruition of their labor swaying in the sunlight above. Such are the underground workings of our hearts and minds. What we try to accomplish may not be obvious to others in our day-to-day toils and joys, but take solace in knowing that somehow, somewhere your intentions, prayers, thoughts, and minute actions are actually having a ripple effect to others everywhere.
And what of the Jungian archetypes? What about the Warrior, the Lover, the Mother, the Child? Yes. All present. The Queen, the King, the Magician? Yes. All the time. Slowly what began to accumulate like cards filing into a deck into my body in my waking, my wandering, my doing, my spacing out, my slumbering as we rolled around our Sun over that week was that there is a sacredness to the cycles of our lives. Stillness balanced with constant activity---and not necessarily forced activity. Ego balanced by the Unconscious. Every day I encountered the wisdom that is generously spread out by our planet and every day I went into my human head and stardust heart and found lessons. The gorgeous femininity of the forest gave me a place to absorb quietly and without rush. The robust masculinity of the weather, the sun, the winds and clouds, filled my senses, especially those of smell and touch, with bursts of vitality. I wanted that experience. I purposefully scheduled my residency at Willowtail Springs to overlap with the Vernal Equinox. I wanted to experience the balance of the seasons and I did. What do you want? Ask for it with awareness.
In the end, it's really about understanding what is special and what is not. What is deserving to be in my (and your) life? What loses its luster as soon as the masses run over it like crazed, mindless cattle? Hold things in your mind's eye with balanced discernment. My experience is that the most hidden things tend to be the most sacred. I am not explaining every detail of my time at Willowtail in this post because I had thoughts, teachings, and ideas that need to remain hidden in my internal "woods." While I have been fairly open in my writing to you here, there are many aspects of my time that are still worthy of my protection. I am striking the balance.
Besides, my experience is my own. Go to Willowtail Springs yourself and be in that place for at least a couple of days. A week or perhaps two if you can. You don't need to be an artist or a writer or anything. Go as you are! Put yourself in a place where deadlines have no control, where ideas have room to become actions, and where all societal expectations of who you're "supposed to be" don't matter. Opposites can exist side by side at Willowtail peacefully. Do nothing and find that you are indeed evolving...it's the constant activity that isn't forced. Return to who you have always meant to be. I will be back there, and I will bring friends with me so that they can wander and wonder and eventually come to the parts that are really special---on the property and within themselves.