Towards the end of last year, which felt like a giant’s step forward and dusting-down-yawn-stretch in the journey of me, I started on a new painting; had a canvas specially made to the size I wanted, knowing just what I intended to paint for my year’s finale. It was of a long path tapering gently uphill towards a skyline of some trees edged with tinges of the bright light just beyond; this horizon expanding into a dramatic, glowing winter’s sky, the kind where clouds become like a net strung from corners of the sky holding golden light like so many balloons waiting to be released at some future celebration. The path, being based on a ‘real’ one I often walk, was deeply pot-holed, its mud-and-gravel surface riddled with flaws and yet every hole had become a glass-like puddle after the rain and so had taken on its own golden radiance, doubling the overall effect.
I was aware of the metaphor unfolding even as I painted it. Like my own life, where – at last – there was no longer any ‘flaw’ or ‘pot-hole’ so deep that I regretted it anymore, seeing (as I now did) that the very light of my life had radiated out from them all, here was that same life-path, its inherent beauty made possible by its very erosion, wear-and-tear which now held so much water like mirrors to the sky…but then, suddenly, it was as though the metaphor delivered its goods and was spent before the painting was finished. I grew weary of doing that same ‘walk’ with my brushes and, when Christmas interrupted my flow, the canvas got put away in a room and left.
As Spring breezed into the open windows of my world and lightened the very themes I was gathering in great handfuls from the fresh air it brought in, this half-finished canvas flagged itself back into my attention and I knew that being left half-finished, as it had been, didn’t feel right either; not for this one. This painting needed to be continued or, I suddenly knew, transformed… rebirthed in some way. With only the smallest hesitation, I chose the latter. Though common practice for artists in days gone by, I seldom reuse a canvas, sensing that the energy of something incomplete or unsatisfactory may continue to linger beneath an otherwise satisfactory piece. Yet, this time, it felt completely right; felt like an intrinsic part of this painting’s story to allow the beginning chapters to become part of the very fabric of its metamorphosis, just as a caterpillar uses the building blocks of its former life to fuel the creation of the very butterfly it becomes.
What birthed was a tree in full blossom; one I had encountered just a few days earlier and, enraptured, stuck my head deep inside its scented branches to take angles with my camera that gave me such delicious petals-against-face intimacy with its tenderness and all the bees and butterflies that were weaving in and out that I could hardly tear myself away. The very antithesis of the time-worn puddles that they superceded, these tiny flower-heads held such a quantity of light in all their newness that you would have thought they had been doing it forever…and yet they were so freshly arrived and, by last week’s walk, before the paint was even dry on my canvas, they were already a memory, scattered to the ground like confetti.
This transition from old wounds holding light to transient ‘in the moment’ beauty holding light felt profound; felt like its counterpart was to be found within me; was the new state that, could I but give it a name or even adequate description, I am feeling course through me, to my very bootstraps, this year. And the pot-holey road that got me here, still holding its light, remains as the very primer beneath surface paint, yet no longer needs to be so in-the-face that its there to be looked at every day, or to be so manifest in the very landscape of my world that it preoccupies my ‘work’ (I find I want to relabel this ‘play’) going forwards.
And where blossom was, vivid green leaves now unfurl..and on and on…always something new and wonderful to be appreciated in each rebirthing moment.
I came across one of many oaks felled by winter gales on my walk yesterday – completely horizontal, its centuries of amassed bulk tipped over like a matchstick, yet I marvelled to note that it has started to sprout new leaves from its branches; that, still having some roots in the ground and for all we may look at it with sad eyes, it doesn’t consider its life-adventure to be over, or redundant, at all. It has simply, quite literally, reinvented itself and, having completely altered its perspective, is busily rebirthing itself in each moment of NOW. Whilst allowing that the world looks completely different from where it is now experiencing it from, it is so obviously unfazed and accepting of that, without the burdensome conditioning that tells it that blowing over in a storm was ‘bad’ or that it needs to be standing upright to continue being a tree because that’s the way its always been done before.
I’m feeling so profoundly how I am ready to do that too; to accept that where I have been along my pot-holey path has been quite perfect, seeing the light in it all, allowing it to fuel my transformation into something else entirely, yet where I am now is (ever more consciously) a great adventure of multiple, flowing, never-ending, rebirths; where inspiration can be drawn just as readily from something so fresh and transient that it is literally here today, gone tomorrow…like blossom on the breeze.
See the glorious tree that inspired the painting in the collection called Exceptional Light on my photography website.