Water Babies Athirst

There was a whopper of a rainstorm in Dallas recently. We were at our friends’ home, enjoying a little birthday party, and heard a few low growls of thunder in pauses between the chatting and laughter but had no great confidence rain would follow. It’s been overcast or cloudy often enough lately without granting so much of the hoped-for watering as it seems to promise, so we never take it as a given that we’ll be watered nicely. Not, in this instance at least, until the front door smashed open under the force of sideways gales and blasts of firehose rain. Bashed open once, and closed; then, a second time. And latched tight; the neighborhood was pelted well and truly until just a little before we left for home.
Photo: Drinking-Fountain Fountain

At home, it appears, no rain had come at all. Our gardens and spirits remained thirsty. I’m quite certain that a coastal-born person of my Washington upbringing and Scandinavian roots is a little more water-conscious, if not obsessed, than average. But the hints of rain that do arrive here, whether in sky-splitting gouts that last but an afternoon or in a steady series of lightly sprinkling days as we are sometimes blessed to see, are a fairly universally admired gift. And I find that north Texas is hardly alone in this.
Photo: Swan Like

The traveling we did this summer in Europe had very few rainy days among the many sun-soaked ones, and while we neither regretted the warmth and light of the sunshine nor bemoaned the drizzling times, we saw plenty of people in Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Stockholm, Port Angeles and Seattle who relished their rain-baths and their waterfront or fountain-side relaxation every bit as much as we did. Even the swans, geese, ducks and waterfowl seemed all the more pleased with their daily peregrinations on the days of and after the rains.
Digital illustration from a photo: Falling, Falling

I think that there might be in all of us a certain kind of thirst that mere water only reinforces and reminds us is different from the sense of desire and hope that can fill our spirits. River or fountain, a strong and cleansing rain, ocean or streaming tears of joy, the only water that can quite slake our longing for wholeness and growth and hope is the remembrance that we are primarily made of water ourselves, and as such, will always seek a way to the well or the shore that reassures us we belong.

Tough Neighborhood

Watch Out for those Kids

We were playing at boules and pétanque

In a park not so far from the Seine

But the children we played were so bloodthirsty there

That we vowed not to play them againdigital collage

A Park, a Pond, at Peace

photoNow that the temperatures are gradually sliding into what I consider survivable territory, it’s a lovely opportunity to go outdoors and simply take a leisurely stroll again. I was reminded of this on our little jaunt out to the west coast over Thanksgiving, when even though it was clammy and overcast and somewhat rainy it was a welcome thing to be able to step out the door and not be pushed back in by the blast furnace of the perpetual sun. I love sunshine, really I do, and I’m not sorry to live where I do just now, but it’s a delight to be able to get out and stretch my legs in the neighborhood without any necessity to dash for cover lest I turn instantly into cracklins.

This week, a walk through the surrounding neighborhood, exploring a few streets and walkways and pockets of this town that we’ve not seen before, was the perfect soother on a Saturday afternoon, and a rare treat at that. And it makes me plot further to spend some quality time over the brief winter cooling period just getting out to soak up the happy and calming atmosphere of our more tree-dense areas, our parks and lakes and ponds and the wonderful wild grasses and prairie native plants that make this such a good place to be. To simply step out on the patio from time to time and absorb the rustling leaf sounds of the backyard greenbelt and the obbligato of the birds whistling therein. To hike over to the university campus instead of having to take the shuttle just to survive the three and a half or so miles, and then once there not to need to tear indoors instantly.

I’m only too glad to have the opportunity to recall what is actually so great about the great outdoors and to relish the enchantments of a lightly ruffled pond or the distant competitive singing of a yard full of hounds or even, should I be outdoors and doing the right thing in the right spot at the perfectly right moment, to feel that exceedingly sharp joy found only when one is not enclosed by walls and roof. What a fine joy that can be indeed.photo

A New Lens

digital painting of a mixed media original

My world is water-colored . . .

Having spent much of my life near the coast, both at home and abroad, I am less of a swimmer than you might expect, though most of my water time has been spent near northern shores, if that explains anything for you. But I am greatly comforted by being near water without needing to be in it. Rivers, oceans, lakes and ponds, streams and waterfalls, puddles and pools alike all have their appeal and the sight and sound of them soothes my soul like few other things can do. A walk along a riverbank or beach boardwalk, out on the mud flats or wading in the cool fringes of a foaming inbound tide–all have the power to send the complications of life fleeing, if only for a while.

Not so surprising, then, that many of my artworks play with the cool hues of water and the shadowy welcome of its associations. Whether in the impressionistic and abstract styles seen here or in images quite specific to the sea, the hold that water has on my heart must make its appearance often just to comfort me.digital photo-paintingAll the same, as a northerner by birth and years of residence, I have always been wildly fascinated too by the idea of those mythic turquoise tropical waters whose gem-like clarity would surely entice me in, offering the siren-like assurance that I must be utterly safe in them since I can see practically forever in their depths. I know that this is not entirely true, but the appeal of their warmth and seemingly pure glassy transparency has its potent pull on my imagination anyway. So it was a bit of a fait accompli that I should love it when I did at last have my chance to step into the perfectly sheer aquas and blues of the Caribbean for the first time. It was everything I’d hoped, and of course a little something more.mixed media + textSwimming in Warm Water

I:     Skimming along as if in flight Just under the surface of a lake, I can look up and see through its tinted lens A circular and absurdly distorted universe Of inbent trees examining me in kind, Of ship-sized cumulus zeppelin clouds whizzing by, The pillowed prows of ducks plowing past me And convoluted birds careening In zigzag traffic from shore to shore.

II:     Looking down, I see dazzling curtains of kelp Dyeing mottled sunlight as it Cooks the lake like a giant kettle full of fish. Flitting, darting shapes shoot up to nip me Or casually brush by And I exult in floating a subtle touch Toward a parti-colored veil-tailed fish When it fixes me with its dully silver, Unemotional lidless eye.

digital painting made from an oil pastel drawing

Perhaps I shall always be looking for a sea change . . .

Because for all that we know and admire about its clarity and simplicity, and surely for its necessity to life, water is also still a source of great mystery and power and its depths both literally and metaphorically may never be fully plumbed.