Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tending to Stillness

the owl and me, journal drawing, VClaff 2014

The wild ones must be sensing my need for creature companions as I have almost
nightly visits from the owl and a pair of raccoons who pick through the fallen birdseed
for treats. I quietly open the back door and step out onto the stones to greet the 
owl. I stay for just a moment, look into her eyes and thank her for trusting me. 

owl, journal drawing, VClaff 2014

One evening, a pre-teen mouse kept me company in the living room. Darting 
here and there and seemingly not able to find his way back from where he had 
come. Without a cat around, the mice have become quite bold, but this sweet 
little one was a bit too bold. I caught him and decided I would just bring him 
outside, thinking that for sure he would come right back in with the rest of the 
family after the evening forage. I put him down on the snow, expecting him to 
bolt away, but he stood frozen there, looking up at me. It crossed my mind that 
he might not have been the smartest mouse around, when, in turning to go inside, 
I noticed the owl on her perch. Hmmmm. A moment of decision, wondering if I 
should move the mouse. I like mice - all creatures, really - but I'm also clear that 
life eats life. My moment of hesitation was enough, and I turned to see the owl 
swoop down from her perch and whisk the mouse away into the trees just steps from where I stood. It was both heartwrenching and amazing...  life. 

creature behind a tree, journal drawing, VClaff 2014

I have been tending to the stillness calling me, and listening to the deepest, 
darkest parts of myself, in this coldest of winters. On days when I am not 
teaching, my mornings are long and slow and spent writing and reflecting in 
my journal, listening to the cracks and pops of the fire. The word that best 
describes my state is frozen, like the land, waiting for some new cycle to 
warm me and inspire a flow. In my journal, quick drawings emerge along 
with the writing - all the art I have been able to make. There have been 
moments of despair, but also moments of deep presence, and I have become 
good at trusting the dark over the years, knowing the gifts that come from 
sitting still and listening. 

a face, journal drawing, VClaff 2014
I have drawn people since I was a small child, but it has been many years since 
people have made it into my paintings. They find their way into drawings, like 
the root people drawings - but not into other work. I think because I imagine the landscapes paint to be what I am walking inside, and want to wander only in 
the wildest of places on the edge of mystery. 

a grandmother, journal drawing, VClaff 2014

raven woman, journal drawing, VClaff 2014

As I write, the rain is pouring down, a shift from the endless frozenness of these 
last months. Spring Equinox was a day of ice, rain, sun and then snow as if the 
spring was determined to get a word in edgewise with this bully of a winter. 

A moment in the sunshine to welcome spring. 

Today is warm, and was dry until the end of my walk 
up the road, but then the branching reflections in the 
puddles were a great distraction. 

My night friends who, really, have been quite polite as 
they do not disturb the feeders with all that seed hanging 
right above their heads. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Snow Skies and Crazy Ravens

Storms. Snow, sleet, and then rain the past week. 
I don't love rain on top of beautiful, fluffy snow, but 
the visual inspiration was rich. 

Early one morning, trees were frosted and a snow sky 
suggested that my drive home might not be so pleasant. 

I was taken by the muted sky tones and branching lines of dark trees. 

As the sky told me it would be, 
the drive home from work that day was treacherous. 
We were crawling along iced roads. 

A few days later, the sun came out and with it a warm that 
hinted at spring so off to walk I went.  

What exquisite form and color - an oak leaf emerging from 
the snow. I loved the arching fullness. 

For many years, Pasha and I sat outside in the fading afternoon light - our 
"last rays ritual" before he needed to come in before dusk and predator time. I've 
found myself outside several times this week, sitting on the stoop, watching the sun 
dip behind the trees, missing my dear friend. Today, just as I sat down, a crazy raven called from the forest. I remember once reading that if you go into the forest and 
hear some crazy sounds you can't identify, its probably a raven. You will also hear
the dripping, melting snow on the tin roof. 


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Deep In Winter

Deep in winter.
I have nothing else to offer, really, 
but views of a world gone white,
and to tell you that somewhere in the depths, 
the seeds are stirring. 

I was moved by the outpouring of emails and your heartfelt words and 
remeberences at the news of Pasha's leaving. I'm still getting comments from folks 
who have just wandered by and read the news. It is lovely to feel so supported by folks I have never met, or who have never commented here, but felt they must now. I felt 
somewhat shocked out of my own grieving, when, a dear friend who has been a rock of support through my recent grievings, had the most horrible loss of all - 
the death of her son in an accident. Just as I began to feel a shifting towards a place of grounding, the shocking call came, and off to her side I flew, to be a support, 
not at all sure I could be a rock to her in the fragile state 
I felt myself in. It has been an intense, intense time. 

There has been no time - and frankly no desire - to visit my little studio. 
Truth be told, there is an inkling, but I have needed rest, and really good 
self-caring, and herbal potions and massage and deep dreaming and a book 
or two by the fire. I feel distant from my work, and yet, 
this is the work of the moment - the healing. 

After the arctic winds let up a bit, the storms have come, 
bringing layer upon layer of snow, and flocks of birds to the 
feeders, and little scurring creatures just below the surface. 

Dark and stormy days are followed by sparkling, blue-skied days, 
and late afternoons of red cardinals on green hemlock boughs 
covered in snow crystals and ice.   

Then there are the full moon nights,
 when I need to work at sleeping, 
lest the call of the wild forest prove too strong, 
and I am drawn out to the freezing, cracking wood...  
the squeak of cold snow 
beneath my feet.

"Night", watercolor, Vclaff 2008