From across the valley, the cool breeze carries the undertones of mud, hay and smoke. The crisp October air is easy to breathe in deeply. Drawn to the sunlight and shadows on a grassy area bounded by trees and an earthen wall, I remember other meadows, other dances of light.
I pull out the tripod first and set it in the still squishy pasture, made uneven by the hooves of sheep and deer. I unpack the easel, canvas panels and brushes. I screw on the palette extension, hang the brushholder, weight the tripod, fill a cup with water, add cleaner to the brush washer. As I assemble and arrange, I look frequently at those bright contrasts of lights and darks, squinting to see variations in value.
Each step of the preparation is done more slowly and with increasing anticipation. Now comes the pleasure of laying out the fat juicy worms of color from the tubes. The last step, mixing the palette for this moment, is playful but requires patience. Today I mix three tones of green, two of blue, two of yellow, four of brown. Each of these will lead to multiple hues on the palette and canvas.
For me, the preparation for painting has become a sacrament, a holy rite of mind, body and spirit. This sacrament allows a gradual narrowing of focus and purpose, a movement out of linear time, an opening in the heart, a deepening in the soul.
I plant my feet on whatever ground holds me. My senses awake to the orchestra of sights, smells and sounds of a particular place in the universe, of the intersection of this inner with this outer. My skin vibrates with the movement of air around me, the softness of fabric around my neck, the warmth of the hat.
Mixing the paint makes me feel like an un-selfconscious child, wondering what will happen when I do this , or that? And I paint best when I hold onto that curiosity.
We humans love our rituals. Our most important ones are designed to connect, renew, remember, embrace, recreate. Whatever we enter into mindfully has potential for a sacramental celebration.
Which rituals matter the most to you? Are they still fresh, meaningful? What practices create openings for you?
What I find is that there is a different ritual when the painting is finished or the light fades. There is a moment of fullness, a change in breathing. Satisfied or not with the outcome, the process has served to shift time and perspective and I am different than when I set up the tripod, more whole than when I first looked at white canvas. I clean the palette and brushes, put everything in the backpack, and walk gently into the long shadows crisscrossing the meadow.
"Color directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one or another purposively, to cause vibrations in the soul." -- Kandinsky