In an Evergreen State

Photo montage: Evergreen 1Visiting the region of my birthplace is a grace and a privilege in many ways. This past July’s visit was typically so; being around the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Washington, whose nickname is The Evergreen State (and despite the unusually dry year, still an entirely fitting name in more ways that one) renews and refreshes my spirits. Its seemingly limitless variety of tones, shades, and hues of green never fails to bring about a sort of awakening response in my heart, a deeper sense of belonging and of potentiality, something almost inevitable and just-about-to-happen, that makes me quietly giddy. Being enveloped in the green liveliness that is a northwest forest, ankle-deep in slopes of bursting greenery spangled with wildflowers, and looking over the green-tinged waterfalls and shallows of the mountain and coastal waters there are an elixir, a potion that surpasses the most wild and sprightly of sparkling wines and tinged with a faint zing of adrenaline.Photo montage: Evergreen 2

So when I go Home I am remade into a newer, shinier version of myself. This happens in other, similarly intensely green places, as I’ve learned, other places where by virtue of this quixotic and quintessentially pure life’s-blood of mine I find myself at home in the verdant glories: Scandinavia, the British Isles. While the turf from which I sprang will always be beloved in a unique way, home remains portable as well, so long as I’m immersed in the loves of person and place that shape and color its vital character.Photo montage: Evergreen 3

All the same, every one of these photos is from this summer’s visit to Washington. The Evergreen State that always puts me in an evergreen state of my own.Photo montage: Evergreen 4

Just a Little Thing

It doesn’t always require a huge investment of time, materials or effort to effect a notable improvement around the house. No matter how gifted I am at procrastinating when it comes to DIY and fix-it projects around the place, I’m always kind of amazed to rediscover how small a thing can have such large-scale impact. It doesn’t mean that I learn from my experiences enough to behave sensibly and just get the tasks done without resistance, but I seldom fail to be impressed after the fact all the same.photoTake front door painting, for example. There wasn’t anything especially unpleasant, let alone wrong, with the existing paint on our front door. It was, in fact, in good condition, and even a pretty nice color. I do like this trim color on the house in general. What was a bit unsatisfactory to me was that with such a dark color on it, the front door seemed to me to actively recede from view into the shadows of the porch rather than appearing to welcome visitors approaching on the front path.

So I decided to paint the door a sprightly and fresh color that might liven up the entry and seem a little more encouraging to anyone who might be coming to knock there. I chose an apple green that I knew would mimic the brightest greens in the plantings around our yard and complement both the existing deep green trim paint and the earthy mix of colors in our brickwork. I chose a semi-gloss paint to reflect light without glaring and make the door even more visible from the street and path.photoThen I waited. I put it off for weeks. It was only a couple days’ work to mask, prep and triple-coat the door, but I could find any number of excuses to do Other Things, even put up the also-evaded porch Christmas lights, as long as I could avoid repainting the front door. That’s how I [don’t] roll. Lazy People Unite!photoWell, I did finally get the task done. And it’s kind of impressive to me, yet again, how much this one little thing manages to change the look of the house. For the better, I think; in the name of fair play I must, of course, tell you that the manly member of the household is not yet convinced the change is for the better, but he doesn’t object so strenuously that I’m going to repaint it anytime soon. Besides, even if I do decide to repaint it, there’s no doubt it’ll take a good long while for the project to actually get done.photo

Ten Thousand Kinds of Green

 

photoIt takes very little time upon returning to the Pacific Northwest for me to be reminded of one of its central characteristics that became so imprinted on my heart and mindset through my many years of dwelling there as to be interchangeable with my entire concept of wholeness and well-being: the color green. The millions of colors that can be called Green, to be more precise. Having been born in the Emerald City of the Evergreen State, I can confirm that they have earned their titles both the hard way (rain–sometimes seemingly endless–rain–oh, and snowpack and glacier runoff in the spring) and entirely honestly. The city and the state are genuinely, deeply, exquisitely green.photoOther places may be green with envy. Yes, there are certainly other spectacularly green places on earth, some of which I have visited, among them to wit: Ireland, Allgäu, and the jungle that straddles the Panamanian border with Costa Rica (a tropical cloud forest) all rife with verdure and also with all of those forms of watery nourishment that bring about such burgeoning beauties in their respectively green-glorious regions. Each green place is unique in the character and flavor of its glowing, growing vegetation, and each gains its place in my heart as much through its variations of verdancy as by any other means.photoWhat it all comes down to is that these things grow on me as much as on the face of the earth, filling my senses and my emotional center in ways that few other things can. This recent return to my mossy, leafy, grassy, graceful green roots merely reminds me of what lies deep within me all of the time. The west coast is so rich in tints and hues and tones and shades and variations of green that I cannot imagine an existence without them and know that green will always be the color against which completeness and contentment and ecstasy are best measured.photophotophotophotophotophotophotoMourn the tiresome persistence of the rain at times, if you must, but once you have been drawn into the corridors of the green world you will likely find it irresistible, too. It bursts with the presence of renewal and strength, lures you with the dappled dream-world light that only a leafy and towering tunnel of trees can create, and makes the heart ache with that yearning form of delight best found in things that sing of secrets, promises and hope.

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.