I love the lethargy of dumb motor activities. There’s an almost zen like methodology to raking, sweeping or starting a painting. letting simple repetitive actions ease the mind away from its morbidities.
Last October, the leaves demonstrated like Portland protesters: appearing in small groups at first, then turning swiftly into large, loose clusters. Impressive swaths of marigold, crimson, hansa yellow and hookers green, vivid against the dying grass. Like urban riots, colored leaves clashed and sashayed, clamoring for attention. I gathered them in morning sun, lifting fat armfuls with bare hands, pushing them deep into durable sacks.
My four brimming bags resembled Army duffels. Leaning them companionably against each other, I went AWOL (inside), to paint. The Northern light in my studio was at its afternoon peak, and I’d had in mind while raking, an image from Hoeffner’s Farm two miles away. Their farmland spreads across both sides of the road, an immense acreage that’s always cleanly tilled. Flicking little leaf twigs out of my hair, I rinse clean my yogurt container and fill it with fresh water. Lay out a sheet of cold press.
Simple starts: wetting the page and making a pale wash of newly mowed fields; an ochre base in cylindrical lines that defines the concentrical ovals of land. When it dries, I work the umber in. This is how the layering begins, the trance of motion and sweep of brush. The way damp paper romances the paint, and the eye has to choose what to accentuate and what to leave alone. If the mind is at rest, it’s easier. Judgement is ocular, no mental scrutiny or fuss.
Perhaps that is why I paint. To be mindless, yet omniscient. Unlike the ex-President, who dispensed executive decisions brainlessly, with the sort of blind ruthlessness that belongs to barbarians.
After Nelson Mandela became President of a free South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was tasked with creating the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”, to find more peaceful paths for the future and to begin healing the horrors of apartheid.
Twenty days into the New Year, and our nation has taken a collective sigh. Millions of shoulders and fists have released and lowered. Instead of the dread we faced every night for four years, we look ahead now to what good has come of each day. Biden and Harris, despite being disadvantaged by a lack of information and cooperation from T. and his Merry Republicans, have forged ahead with intelligence and political acumen. Thankfully, our new government is committed to truth and reconciliation.
Biden’s Top Ten List reads like a Humanity Wish List: rejoin the World Health Organization, stop the spread of Alaskan pipelines, postpone student loans, open Muslim borders, restrict travel to and from foreign countries, make masks mandatory on public transportation, halt the separation of immigrant families and welcome them to the country. Put Harriet Tubman on a twenty dollar bill. Introduce a trillion-dollar budget, in part to fund relief checks to every American. (It’s only a quarter of the first round’s amount, which Trump promptly used to fan out to his already-billionaire buddies and followers.) Biden also acted to ban the ban against transgender military troops and to oversee and increase the distribution of Covid vaccines and testing across the nation; something which the previous party decided to ignore.
Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama would chastise me for being so bitter. “Forgive and find joy”, they would preach in smiling unison.
I don’t venture out much these days; my painting desk serves as a meditation table for my “mindless” tasks. Small colorful canvases litter my room, like scattered leaves. Outside, naked trees and frozen earth. In the White House, the long-awaited thaw has finally begun.