I have been thinking about nature large and small. A couple of posts ago I wrote that I wished I were a bee or a wee fairy, and could climb inside a flower. Sometimes when I look at the lilies of the valley blooming in my yard, or the last lilacs, I want to inhale them and stay, find "heaven in a wild flower". (see Auguries of Innocence by William Blake here).
I read this Georgia O'Keeffe quote twenty years ago, and never forgot it:
Everyone has many associations with a flower - the idea of flowers...nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small - we haven't time, and to see it takes time, like to have a friend takes time. So I said to myself -- I'll paint what I see -- what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking the time to look at it -- I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see.
Pink Tulip, O'Keeffe, 1926 oil on canvas, 36" x 30"
Seeing a flower, finding eternity in a grain of sand the way Blake did, is possible for almost anyone outside of prison. Experiencing nature on a larger scale is not as easy. I've written a bit here about my childhood in the woods of Virginia, the rivers of Maryland, the California mountains and coast--how these environments are integral to who I am. My father worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. I helped develop an environmental education program for a camp and after school program I worked for during college.
That frequent intimate connection with big nature faded when I moved to New York, had children, urban jobs, a complicated life. When we bought our house in the Catskills ten years ago I found it again. We had been looking at charming old farmhouses, but then we saw this waterfall, and time stopped.
The house is an ugly boxy 80's thing - the interior was entirely painted the color of Silly Putty - every wall, every piece of molding, even the ceiling fans. The kitchen and bathroom cabinets and counters are still Silly Putty colored laminate. But houses can be changed, and we fell in love with the waterfall, the creek, the surrounding woods--an entire wilderness environment.
I felt like I belonged there; like my vision had been fuzzy but now it was clear. That I could really see nature again, write about it. Paint. It was wonderful to see my children wading and wandering, exploring without limits.
When I opened the store I had the idea of sharing my love for nature with my customers, recreating it somehow, inside. I've accomplished that to some degree. But now, when I go to the country, I spend most of my time in the store. I take walks around our property, but I don't go hiking or do anything in depth. I don't have the time to look at everything up close, to breathe, to really see it. I want to be outside again. And have time to linger at the farmer's market, try kayaking, explore new places. And maybe get involved in environmental education again.
So I will be closing the store, a bittersweet decision. Sad, but also a relief.
Jack in the Pulpit No. V, O'Keeffe, 1930, oil on canvas 48" x 30"
"In the woods near two large spring houses, wild Jack-in-the-pulpits grew -- both the large dark ones and the small green ones. The year I painted them I had gone to the lake early in March. Remembering the art lessons of my high school days I looked at the Jacks with great interest. I did a set of six paintings of them. The first painting was very realistic. The last one had only the Jack from the flower."
*Quotations and flower paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe.