Saturday, December 10, 2011

December Light

A brush of a small, warm and furry body against my leg in the cold afternoon ~ come, 
he says, come to the green wood and remember. So we step gently onto the mossy 
path, pausing often more than we walk, feeling and sensing, more in body than 
thought. I need this, and I wonder what it is for him. Sitting on the log bench, I 
watch him settle onto the stone under the small hemlock, our usual spots. We sit in silence, two beings who have been together for fifteen years, he and I, cat and 
person. The way we are in silence together is a treasured meeting of souls. 

In the forest, we have entered another realm, but do not mistake it only for a 
gentle place of peace and silence, for you'll have missed its power. We find our 
freedom here, the raw beauty of a place mostly left alone by humans. We are 
sharply aware of each sound and movement - and he of each smell - it would be 
risky not to be. It is quiet, but not silent, and the peace I feel comes from 
touching the edge of wildness, not from escaping. I am a visitor, and most of 
what lives here has slowly slipped into the shadows, and watches. Soft wind blows 
through high hemlock boughs, a distant raven calls, a gathering of chickadees 
flits about nearby.  

In the more cultivated clearing, an early mornings frost edges the thyme like a
coating of sugar. I wander to see simple forms transformed and dipped in golden 

December seems filtered through a veil of white light by afternoon. Even a 
bright blue sky feels cold against the bare branching of the oak. From the front 
steps of the house, I glimpse the little cottage through the trees.  

I walk to the studio, and watch as the light fades behind the snow-dusted trees.
Settled into the forest now, the cottage seems sure of itself, awaiting the final 
details and finding its form. I imagine the souls of all the trees that were taken, 
coming together to find one song.  

On a very cold evening, I ventured down the hill to sing carols and go for a wagon
ride. As we stood awaiting our ride, I couldn't help but be inspired by the steaming 
horses and flickering lights. 

Something in the image below looks to me like a still from an old movie. I imagined
a cobbled street in England or a desolate outpost in the American west, tumbleweeds 
blowing down the street and guns hanging from holsters. 

Steam rising from horse silhouettes and bright spotlights to guide the wagon 
resulted in an image that might be mistaken for a sunset over a mountain ridge. 

I found myself writing to you in my head the last two weeks, awaiting the moment 
when life slowed enough to actually post something. Alas, what came in the moment 
is nothing like what I imagined. While raking leaves and cutting plant stalks I thought 
to tell you of the scent of chocolate mint and how much I love it, and to share with 
you the sound of dry baptisia pods - black and empty - clacking in the wind, and to 
tell you of awaking in the night to listen to the coyotes singing somewhere close by in  
in the dark and creaking forest.  


Sweetpea said...

There's something so special about the light in December, even more special are the furry ones who wander with us, unasked...I enjoyed this visit today very much. And ooh, your studio - that is a wonderful gift in the making!

illustration poetry said...

your cat is the loveliest living creature in December light ^___^

Ms. ∆×∆p×≥h/4π said...

I know that feeling of alertness in the forest where other creatures become invisible, but are still palpably there. Pasha is a beauty, and still so agile at 15. this I know too, that long lived and intimate animal companionship, though I have no animals now (after the last left--there were many many many canine, feline and avian over the years--I decided to withdraw for both economic and other reasons. But there is nothing so tender as that bond, nor so painful (No love without loss)--I miss them still. I visit friends with cats and dogs now. Lovely to see the frost, and the studio under your longing gaze, and the town in its holiday mystery with parts showing and parts obscured in the dark. I really, really loved your last lines, which, though they say there was much you didn't say, said so much, and touched me. It's a full moon tonight! Sweetest dreams.

Ms. ∆×∆p×≥h/4π said...

I came back to say--visit me at my place (
listen to the harp song.

Suz said...

this was such a delight to read...and to imagine...I too love the smell of chocolate mint

susan christensen said...

Pasha crossing on the log - so intrepid. Your studio is coming along! Thanks for sharing your Forest with me tonight, when I am far from my own. love, sus

Tammie said...

so lovely to see you and your fur friend enjoying December walks and details. Your studio is looking wonderful!

stregata said...

Sitting here, in the early light of dawn - so enjoyed this visit. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and moments.
Your cottage/studio looks wonderful already.

woodland wanderer said...

the snowless ground in december has made me bit sad. you have had more snow than in our village.
i do love how your cottage looks between the trees. how magical your forest walks are. and i wonder what kind of forest beings lives there...

WrightStuff said...

What a beautiful post. I love being in ancient woodland too - definitely something magical about it.

Pusscats have a special bond with us. Mine know just when I need them to be close.

Margaret Johnson said...

Such beautiful images, such a special place you share with everyone. Your studio is sitting perfectly in its surroundings waiting to feel your prescence. Always so calming, reading your words and feasting upon your images. Thankyou for sharing your place of Spirit. ox

Penny Berens said...

So much to think about here but it is the image of Pasha carefully crossing over that leafy puddle that I love the most.

Valerianna said...

Sweetpea - yes, a wonderful gift, and JUST in time for Christmas!

Illustration poetry - he thinks so (and so do I!)

Ms - Believe it or not, Pasha is probably 16 or 17! He came to me 15 years ago, but was already full grown, the vet couldn't tell for sure, but we thought one or two... so how old he is exactly we don't know, but he is definitely agile and spunky for his age!

Suz - I was so busy with everything that the big October snow came before I could harvest my chocolate mint this year! Oh well, I did feel quite intoxicated while raking...

Susan - Yes, Pasha is quite "intrepid" as you say! I love our walks, he is up and down trees the whole way!

Tammie - thanks, can't WAIT for January in the studio!!!

Stregata - Early light of dawn is so magical, isn't it? I've missed it lately for some reason I;'ve been in a longer sleep pattern than usual.

woodland wanderer - We often have more snow than we do this year, but sometimes it waits til January and then hits us all at once and doesn't go away until spring. In these woods are deer, fox, bob cat, mountain lion, bear, coyote, moose, fishers ,weasels, mink, skunk, raccoon, owls, hawks, turkey, grouse, and on and on and on.... and, of course, all the forest spirits!

WrightStuff - Aren't they amazing? Pasha, too knows when I need him.

Margaret Johnson - thanks, I like the way the cottage sits in the forest, seems to belong.

Penny - I like that image, too.

Linda B said...

Yes. YES! This is exactly the way I feel when I walk in the woods next to my home. I need that time among trees and creatures, and when I can't be there daily, something feels vacant within me. I love your studio, and your cat.

henrietta (aka ani aka zani) said...

i live in the city, a big dark and not so pleasant place so when you take us on your walks, it is a joy to let my mind wonder/wander along with you. the studio is starting to take on the look of a magical place in the forest - an updated version perhaps of another forest spirit - tasha tudor. she would have loved to be here, but perhaps a little to modern for her. i was working on a oak leaf, stitching away, for Jude and i decide to leave the edge ragged and unfinished. I did think it warranted a applique but more natural. now i see that the reason being was that early morning frost, powdered sugar - only seen at first light. thank you for sharing your walking. i always find ways to dream when i stop by.

Els said...

You are one lucky person living there in those beautiful mysterious woods (and Pasha agrees)
The cottage is becoming such a wonderful place !!!

Michala Gyetvai (Kayla coo) said...

Your photo's are always so inspiring as are yor words.( I would love to be apart of your forest)
Do you know the artist andrew goldsworthy?
I think you would find his work fascinating.

southernwitch said...

what a beautiful post, enjoyed your pictures too.

Velma said...

and you did tell us. i find it hard to tell of things past, especially when it's rushed. i often sit down to just...the present. the sky, the land, the dog at my side.

Kimberly Wachtel said...

Ohhhh, I like the way the pictures of the steaming horses came out. Very cool images and quite a fun night!

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

so good. so very very good...the
Post, the comments.
we wait with you for this forest
place. it looks completely and
totally welcome by what is there.
thank you for giving all this...

Trish said...

beautiful...I love your words and photos. I could feel the warm breath of the

gz said...

A beautiful and inspiring post.
To walk with you both is marvellous, even just in blogland!

The new studio looks good.
I can't wait to get in my "new" studio too, it is a good feeling.

The Moon has been so beautiful too, these past nights.
Bright Blessings.

elena nuez said...

those are gorgeous!

congrats and greetings from Spain,

Swan Artworks said...

Wonderful winter forest pictures... it looks a wonderful place in all its seasons, and the new studio is so great nestled amongst frost-rimed trees... I love how you describe its creation here -
'...I imagine the souls of all the trees that were taken,
coming together to find one song.'
And I also love how you describe the coyotes singing in the creaking forest - I really hear and feel them in your words.
Keep warm!

Stille Linde said...

Dear Valerianna, thank you for the efforts to share all this beauty. I just want to tell you, that the door you have chosen for your cottage of dream and creation, looks exactly the same as my door leading into the room where I give my Seiki / Shiatsu meditation touch to women ... the same color, same number and size and proportion of these little windows in the door :-) really great :-) blessed be your door and cottage :-) greetings :-)

Valerianna said...

Linda B - such a blessing to live near even the smallest patch of woods! I've lived within a small gathering of trees and a huge forest as I do now, both have so many gifts to give.

henritetta - oh, I love Tasha Tudor. She might have wanted to trim a bunch of trees if she lived here to grow all that she did. I sometimes struggle with loving both the forest and meadows, but living in the forest, I only have a small area with enough sunshine for a garden, and growing some things is just impossible. I think she would have liked the studio, but with a plank door and strap hinges!

Els - thanks, I do sing my gratitude often, and Pasha purrs his, to live here.... but its not for everyone!

Kayla - Oh yes, love him! I've known Goldsworthy's work for many years... he was a favorite of my mentor in graduate school, so luckily I was introduced to him early on. If you go to my "Land Art' page at the top of my blog, just under the header photo, you can see work that I do with students here in the forest, very inspired by Goldsworthy and others like him.

southernwitch - thanks, glad for your visit.

Velma - get it... totally.

Kim - yeah, sure was!

grace - waiting, waiting.... just a LITTLE more!

Trish - warm and WET breath of the horses!!

gz - I've been so loving the moon these days as it rises cool and mysteriously through the trees.

elena - Gracias y much gusto!

Swan Artworks - Sometimes I'm a bit crazy, like a mother who is asleep but has her attention on the nursery. I am sort of programmed to wake up to owls or coytotes or even the mumblings of the porcupine, sometimes I barely awaken out of deep dreaming to hear them...

Stille Linde - oh, how great! I love that, matching doors... though mine might become some other color in the spring when its warm enough to paint! I do love it, though, it brings in a lot of extra light. I have one in the front and one leading to the forest, very sweet to look out into the deep wood through the little panes.

Terri said...

A beautiful, atmospheric post.

jude said...

this is all so storybook to me. especially the light

dori said...

Fascinating the walk with your cat through the wilderness!

Valerianna said...

Terri - That's a good word for it here... "atmospheric", I like that.

jude - sometimes its like living in a storybook - like the Wind in the Willows or a book of fairy tales. I wonder what kind of book YOU see here?

dori - thanks, we have fun!

Donna~Q~ said...

Oh my ~ a post full of Pasha goodness and gorgeously pretty woodsy things! Delightful, as always :~)

Gwen Buchanan said...

So romantic.. the depth of the forest..the night shots...

and exciting... the process of building..

layers said...

Beautiful winter images-- I especially love the one with kitty walking across the fallen log in the stream.. priceless.. and with such wonderful December light too.

Rowan said...

A beautiful post, I've really enjoyed reading this. I didn't realise that Pasha is 15 years old, he seems much younger than that.

acornmoon said...

I shall have to imagine the smell of chocolate mint!
I am sending you my very best wishes and hope that somewhere in Ravenswood Forest you pick up this message to wish you a Very Happy and Peaceful Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Your studio looks wonderful - and in such a beautiful place!
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
~ Zuzu

Clare Wassermann said...

what amazing light in those surroundings. You also have it in your heart

Valerianna said...

Donna ~ Q- "Pasha goodness" he brings me LOTS of joy as do the woodsy things.

Gwenn - I'll keep that word in mind - romantic - while looking around at the light, and building!

layers - that photo of Pasha crossing the water is a popular one!

Rowan - actually, Pasha came to me 15 years ago, but he was already full grown. So he's 16 or 17!

acornmoon - I DID get the message, thank you! And I do hope you'll search around for some chocolate mint for your garden, its the best!

Zuzu - thanks! I'm about to get heat in the studio, and then painting the walls and building shelves and moving in can happen, yipee!

Clare - thank you, your comment touched me in this moment.

rivergardenstudio said...

Your thoughts as you walk through the forest with your cat, so quiet, and then with your friends in the night and the steamy warmth of the horses are very beautiful. Happy new year to you. roxanne

Lauren said...

what a beautiful, poignent walk in the winter woods you take us on, Valerianna. I felt such a pang of "home sickness" for the days I lived in Vermont, and watched the turning of the seasons you so beautifully document here. And I remember well the silence of the winter woods, the smell of distant smoke, and that deep intensity and power you describe, sleeping just underneath........thankyou and Happy New Year!

ArtPropelled said...

Always a joy to walk with you through the forest.
Wishing you all the best for 2012, Valerianna.

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