Saturday, December 17, 2022

Comfort and Joy, please

                                              Winter Copse watermedia on paper 19x14 inches

 I didn`t know I needed a break, yet after the Open Studios in October, I`ve been in thoughtful retreat. Next year I`ll be 70 and I want to meet that milestone with eyes open,  receptive to the privilege and challenge of being an undeniable elder. Should any of us be lucky enough to reach that venerable age, I`ve read it`s a particular time of significance. Battered and exhausted maybe, we finally give up on Plan A for one uniquely our own. The life waiting to be accepted and with an updated identity.  Bring it on. Meanwhile I`ll be working on my flexibility. I need to be as mobile as possible and recent struggles putting on my socks have forced me to admit I have to limber up! Friends, older than me by many years, have no trouble tending to their footwear. Decades of running and now walking have given me outstanding cardiovascular health but with the flexibility of a matchstick.

 This prolonged period away from painting is the first voluntary withdrawal I can remember. So what have I been doing if not making art? Netflix. At last I understand some of the cultural hum around me.I also wanted to experience just being. Without the artist persona.

Lots of ideas and strategies are percolating. I tend to think best when I`m actually painting but now I want a consciously different approach. I know what interests me visually, but not how to express it. Whatever kind of image I make I know there must be an element of chance in the process. You can`t build in accidents but sooner or later a leap is required.  

                                                                             by Roz Chast

 This how I reacted. How can we be caught off guard year after year? We know the short days will be upon us soon and yet still there is shock and dismay. I would love to spend a winter in Scandinavia and see how the experts cope. A tour guide in Iceland said the public pools and spas were essential. Dark at 3 pm? go talk with friends in the pool. She said most people do. This strategy seems sensible when facing such long nights. The latitude of Portland Oregon where I am is north enough to only have daylight 7:30 to around 4 in  December. That`s hours more than Fairbanks but still seems ridiculous. In a  week the north we will begin tilting back toward the sun, and hope will slowly return. It`s all about the light. The temperature is blamed for the bleakness but it`s the light we crave. Even if the sun is blinding us every time we try to drive somewhere. Those days are rare however, most Northwest days are made even darker by piles of heavy wet clouds bearing down just above our heads. I`m a winter enthusiast but sometimes it is just comically too much. I stood on my porch the other day around 1 pm and surveyed the dark soggy and freezing cold yard. Most of the people I know who live in other states would struggle mightily with this bleak reality. It is the only question that matters when considering a move to the Northwest. Can I endure if not thrive in this climate? This is when human interaction is critical and I`m glad I live in a city.

                                                                  oil on canvas 15x60 inches

  Many years ago my mom asked me to paint a backdrop for her snowy miniature Christmas village. I tried to ignore her but year after year came the request. It was relentless. Finally I woke up enough to realize I would regret not doing it when she was gone. So in 2005 she got her mountains. They were supposed to be the Alps but I`ve never seen them. The Rockies I have. She left this world seven years ago and all the art of mine she had came back to me. Unfortunately.                                                                Anyone want a winter mountain scene ? Two 15x30 inch canvases hinged together. Perfect for a winter diorama of your choice.

                                                              Sea Cave watercolor 16x12 inches

 On vacation last Sept. we drove down the coast from Newport on the way to Ashland. If it still existed, I knew we would pass the Sea Lion Caves. This reliable tourist trap was healthy and had been remodeled. My parents brought me to it while we were camping in Honeyman State Park to the south. I was probably ten and found it completely amazing. You take an elevator down into the rocky headland and emerge into a rough dark 'room' maybe 20 feet above the sea. From this side view you see into a huge cave lit with dim light from an opening to the sea which isn`t visible. There is a mysterious gloom that fascinated me then and now. No sea lions in sight. It was summer both times and they sensibly preferred being outdoors. Caves are winter lodging. So I was given a raincheck for a free visit when hopefully the cave would be occupied.

 This is what my grocery store had on hand when I tried to buy assistance for the illness that was overcoming me. I got it from John and the clinic told him he had influenza A. We are both up to the minute on vaccinations and I don`t like thinking about how much worse it could have been. It is a big deal let me tell you. I haven`t been sick in a long time and forgot how miserable it can be. Four days of sleeping almost nonstop, night sweats, aching muscles and joints, constant coughing, zero interest in food and a true loss of time. Please be careful. It is definitely time for masks again in public places. 

It doesn`t seem to be getting the attention it deserves. China is on fire with Covid. An estimate I heard on the news today was of 800,000,000 new infections in the next few months. That is too staggering to believe but what their government did defies logic. In an instant, a policy of zero tolerance of covid with massive unpopular lockdowns, quarantines and constant testing to nothing! No interim period of mass vaccinations, just boom, it was over. ??? Oh this is bad. If that prediction comes anywhere near the truth, the world is in for some hurt. The disease does seem milder now but new variants keep coming. The world economy is so dependent on China, a real catastrophe there would affect everyone. Every time we think we are 'safe' there is something new to threaten us. How in the world does the war in Ukraine end? Atomic bombs? Dear god.....

 Well at least the election offered some hope that democracy is alive in my country. I braced for the worst and was so encouraged by the results. The new voters of Generation Z turned out and proved all the pollsters wrong. Again. A denial of reproductive freedom is indeed unacceptable. I thought, if this doesn`t motivate citizens, nothing will. But it did. Those 72 million Trump voters still make me nervous but they are not a majority. Most Americans still have common sense and can recognize a liar. Like him or not, Joe Biden has proved to be a wily politician. The things he has accomplished are remarkable. The country is so much better than it would have been. 

                                                                 Nathaniel Russell

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