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. 


Carol- Beads and Birds said...

I really enjoy your posts. I hope your heart lifts with the coming Spring, which is taking its sweet time getting here. Interesting that the owl found his food with you so fear at all. Poor mouse sat quietly hoping to be overlooked. Nature takes its course and we can only wait to see what the next day will bring. I'll be glad to see a picture of sun shining through your trees. :)

ELFI said...

j'aime les mêmes thèmes.. joli... il fait encore froid chez toi...

Charlotte said...

There is a serenity to that snowy wilderness. Best wishes to you and hoping Spriing is beginning to poke her nose above ground.

LeeAnn at Mrs Black's said...

Wonderful drawings and photographs. I love the sketch of P. Your mouse tale encompasses the saying about nature being red in tooth and claw. I know exactly how you feel, that thought of what part we play, and whether we should rescue. Nature is always the greater force. x

ArtPropelled said...

My heart gave a wrench too knowing what was about to happen as I read about young mouse. So comforting to know you are surrounded by wild creature companions.

Wyld Oak said...

Thank you for showing us your journal sketches--the owl and the crone, it all seems to come back to that. The image of the Raven Woman is so YES, she must live inside of us to have that instant resonance & recognition, and oh, sweet Pasha cat, ready to prowl the springtime woodlands with her person by her side.

Tammie Lee said...


your mouse story is more than amazing. wow.
your photos are beautiful, the glimpses pure art.
also i very much enjoyed seeing the faces your breathe life into. they are full of feeling.

india flint said...

Those puddle pictures are rather gorgeous and what are you bringing the owl for supper this evening?

Sandra Dunn said...

Thank you for sharing your heart and journal drawings. Your wild owl companion is amazing. A comforting presence for sure. I wonder what went through his mind when he saw YOU set the mouse down....? hmmm :).
I hope spring breaks thru soon there!
Much love,

Gwen Buchanan said...

You're right Valerianna, he has been a mean vengeful old man winter who has settled down upon us this year and he just won't leave. The rain you received has come to our area in the form of another icestorm.
Your story of the mouse and the owl is so poignant, I can feel it in my bones. and it goes on. and your drawings so full of emotion..
I'm wishing for us all a stretch of fine weather that boosts our spirits and energy. someday soon.

Mo Crow said...

the owl is truly your friend V!

Barry said...

Hi VA - the long winters are the hardest - freezing the spirit and mind. No wonder we so love the light, warmth and wonder of spring. I'm glad you have your animals spirits to keep you company. Go we'll. B

Valerianna said...

I think maybe we are starting to thaw here... just maybe! I think there will be sun this week!!

Valerianna said...

Hi, Elfi!!

Valerianna said...

There are small moments where I smell spring in the air, fleeting, but I do think its coming!

Valerianna said...

Ha, yes nature being red in tooth and claw. The question of rescue is definitely a hard one. I had a rescue experience long ago that ended poorly, should have left the raccoon to die with dignity - maybe with more pain and slowly, but in the wild instead of at the hands of uncaring folk. How I regret that... long story.

Valerianna said...

It was an intense moment, for sure, Robyn!

Valerianna said...

She's pretty intense, that Raven Woman!

Valerianna said...

It was really something Tammie!

Valerianna said...

Seeing those puddles through your eyes, I realize why they resonate so with you, India. They are kind of like photographic versions of some of your cloth, no? And, nothing to bring the owl this evening, though I did put a few bruised apples under the feeder, which might attract rodents which might feed the owl :)

Valerianna said...

I wonder, too, Sandra - maybe not thought, just oh, there is that person and there is a mouse. I can't imagine analysis of any kind, just present observation, don't you think?

Valerianna said...

phew, yes, I think we all on this eastern side of the continent could use a bit of fine weather. Well, seems most of this continent would smile with a good warm, sunny run!! We got ice today and my commute was treacherous with an extra half hour tacked on!

Valerianna said...

That was something, huh, Mo?

Valerianna said...

I usually LOVE the winters, Barry, its just that this one has been at the end of a long run of losses, I think, and a deep inward journey that needed to be taken. So, springs newness will be a welcome shift this year!

Sandra Dunn said...

Pure raw survival in his mind. I heard an owl hoot out back tonight and I make sure that Zody is under my shadow. :)

thewiildmagnola said...

very enchanted forest.

i know you miss you kitty baby, Pasha....i believe. ((hugs))

Acornmoon said...

I envy you raccoons! I want some.

Velma Bolyard said...

it HAS been a winter to go deep and deeper. the puddles are beautiful, if still cold.

A mermaid in the attic said...

Valerianna, I love the peep into your journal, and those mysterious women with such deep, wise eyes. I hope Spring comes soon for you, I know it's been a tough winter, not just the cold. Here, though the sun shone bright today, the air was chilly, and the nights are getting colder. When I sit out on the deck, I can hear the ocean crashing in the distance, the great southern ocean winding up for wild, wet, nights to come. I'm looking forward to this new kind of winter, down here among the trees on the very bottom edge of this continent.

barbara said...

I feel so happy seeing these new drawings, Valerianna, there's new life in these lines, new awakening, all the gentle fresh promises of spring inside! ... And ah! the creature behind the tree! <3 Many Blessings, Barbara

jan said...

Yes, Spring is most welcome this year...more than most years. Here in England we've had some warmer days. I've managed to plant some seeds in pots, and even risked putting some seeds in the garden, under glass. Planting seeds; seems to me gardening is belief in a future. That things will grow, and change. I hold to that; even when things seem to be bleak...and not just the weather. And owls. It feels a privilege to see/hear owls.

Ruthie Redden said...

I love to read & see the deep connections you have with the wild Valerianna, so much beauty there. Here in the hills I am waking to the business of Spring, yet the mantel of my Winter stillness has yet to slip away completely and there is a small part of me that already misses that frozen state when the self goes ever deeper inward, when the looking & listening is an intrinsic part of daily life. Loving the beautiful sketchbook glimpses too.

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Hello Valerianna
For some reason you keep popping in my mind recently. Perhaps its our first glimpse at spring in Northern Indiana and watching the neighbor's cats walk through the yard that makes we wonder how you are doing. I hope you are well, and drawing happier faces.
xx, Carol

Valerianna said...

Yes, Sandra... a lot lately :(

Valerianna said...

They are lovely, though many people think of them as pests. There was a mother raising babies in the attic here when I first moved in. I let her stay until they were raised, then, the following year, when I heard her climbing up the side of the house, I went outside and told her no. She kept trying for a few evenings in a row, but each time I went out and discouraged her. She eventually gave up!!

Valerianna said...

Finally getting warm, eh, Velma? Since its taken me a long while to respond here!

Valerianna said...

Hoping your days are shifting gently towards winter, here, we are finally getting springy!!

Valerianna said...

Hi Barbara - yes, the creature behind the tree... maybe the echo of my Pasha, or, a new kitty making its way to me?

Valerianna said...

All this what you way about spring and planting... and, though I hear the owls a lot, I haven't lost my wonder in their visits!

Valerianna said...

Thanks, Ruthie. I look forward to visiting your neck of the woods - or hills - someday, and make a connection with the land of my ancestors!

Valerianna said...

Interesting that you've been thinking of my, Carol. I've been newly sad as I've begun to clean up outside in the moss garden and I'm missing the ever energetic, Pasha, dashing up and down the trees with exuberant joy of being together outside :(

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Perhaps your thoughts sent a message to the Universe for healing energy.
xx, Carol

Judy Martin said...

Those photos of bark and puddle reflections are very inspirational. x