As the pandemic continues to reach out and wrap her fingers around all that she can touch, and as the weeks of quarantine and social distancing stretched into months, I found myself becoming more keenly aware of the preciousness of life and the beauty that exists in what may seem like simple everyday moments. These moments have become so precious, and so comforting in a time when there has been so much uncertainty.
Moments filled sitting side by side with my love while reading, sipping coffee, lingering in bed, watching movies.
Moments filled with the sweet softness of a warm cat curled and purring on my lap while I sip tea and watch as the snow falls outside the window.
Moments filled with the wagging tail of a golden retriever as she bounds down the trail in the woods that follows the river.
Moments of quiet introspection and reflection as I wander the neighborhood in the small town that I call home.
Moments of cooking meals and feasts to be packaged and left on the porch to be picked up by friends and loved ones who cannot sit down to share a meal.
All of these beautiful, everyday, seemingly simple moments began to reveal what the Christian mystic Thomas Merton knew, “Life is this simple. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable. This is true.”
Nostalgia can be defined as a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.
What you cannot see in the painting is perhaps more important than what you can see. On one particular day before COVID settled into our daily lives, my beloved and I drove to the Country Girl Diner in Chester, VT for lunch. I have a love of diners. I have a love for vintage and retro aesthetics and I had not yet visited this particular one. We sat across from each other holding hands, listening to the bustling sound of diner customers and the clinking noises of the preparation of diner food. We people watched as booths filled and emptied. I looked around wondering when I had begun to find vintage and retro imagery so appealing. I was content in that everyday moment. I also had no way of knowing just how much everyday moments would grow in their meaning and in my appreciation.
As I worked on the painting I thought about how it is understanding and remembering that someone’s hands had built the walls, table, counter and stools in the diner and that somehow this understanding and remembering was what really seemed to be of importance and mattered. I thought about how someone’s hands had filled the salt, pepper and sugar shakers. I thought about how someone’s hands had tended and cut the flowers in the bottle and how someone else’s hands had placed them in the bottle and on the table. I thought about how someone’s hands had turned over the closed sign to open early in the morning hours. I found myself wondering how all of those someone’s were doing in the world. I wondered if they were nostalgic for a life that once had been. I wondered if they too were noticing all of the precious everyday moments. I thought again about how what is not seen in the painting is in many ways more important than what is.
I do not think we will be able to return to the happiness of a former place and time. The world is changing and I believe we must change with it. I also believe that happiness can and will be found in those most beautiful and sacred of seemingly simple everyday moments. So...I am going to keep looking into them and welcoming the understanding and beauty that is shining through.
Maybe, just maybe, when the world opens up again and we can safely share spaces I will find myself sitting in a booth in a diner somewhere next to you and, if I have used my time wisely, and I have done my job well enough, I will be able to look and see the divine that is shining through you.
Until then, I wish you millions of beautiful everyday moments.
"I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprises of its own unfolding."
Rivers have been flowing through my dreams and conversations. They always seem to call to me, and in their powerful and mystical way, they always seem to be calling me home to myself. There is no definitive thought or tidy conclusion in the writing that follows. Perhaps, as you proceed, you could think of these words as a winding river. There is no end destination that you or I need to be aware of. Rather, we will move, flowing together. I suspect that we may still be in mid-current by the time the words cease to move across the page.
I once had a teacher who spoke to me of rivers. Pointing down to the flowing river and then pointing up to the sky she told me how, "as above, so below" is a truth revealed by watching and knowing the movement of the river and its sister river flowing in the sky - the air stream. They move along the same currents. Did you know this? A body with circulatory systems in the ground and in the sky.
I used to believe that I fell in love with rivers when I lived in New Mexico, however. I have come to understand that I have always been drawn to these winding fluid bodies. Perhaps, it is more accurate to say that the time I spent in the desert illuminated my love and longing. Interesting how time spent in a desert was the inception of my actively seeking the footpaths that follow their movements, always on my way to or in search of spots along the bank where I could rest myself and wait. Wait until I could begin to hear the song and sit in moments when time is intersected by eternity.
Each river has her own language and each river sings her own song. Movement over the rocks, the formation of the riverbed, the direction in which the waters run , the creatures who move within her waters, along the banks, all in relation to one another, all contributing a thread of the melody of each river's song. If you sit still and listen she will sing her song for you. If you ask, she can assist in carrying away heaviness and the worries which tug at the corners of your heart and soul. If you are patient, curious and respectful, she will reveal herself and her nature. When her movements are just so, and you see the light jumping across the surface of her skin and her shimmering scales, do you feel wonder? I do.
The Banks of My River
Will you sit by the banks of my River?
If I welcome you to my shores
Will you wait until you can hear the rhythm of my blood?
If my heart begins to beat in the knowing of you
Do you know your presence can change the banks of my River?
If I swell, if I recede, If I rise to meet you, If I quench your thirst
Do you wonder where I am moving to or where I am moving from?
If you look into me and see your own reflection
If you leave will you return?
When I am tired and the rains do not come
If you learn my song will you remember it?
When I no longer remember my name
Rivers have been flowing through my thoughts and through my body. I have been practicing noticing, becoming aware. Aware of the sensations that arise within me. Aware of where I have constricted the flow. Aware of where I have built dams and diversions. In much the same way as I have sought out the banks of rivers to listen and come to know their song. I am attempting to tune in and listen to my own.
You see, if it should be that there comes a time when I am called to your banks, to your river, I wish to know how to be in your presence. I wish to know how to hear your unique and beautiful song. This means that I must come to know my own. If I am welcome and you offer me a seat at the bank of your river and I look into the surface of your waters I want to have befriended the stillness that would allow me to see my reflection in you.
When I rest my head on the pillow tonight I wonder if I will again dream of rivers. I wonder if I will dream of you, waiting with me by the river. I wonder of we will be waiting for the rains to come.
I Am Carried by the River, The Saxtons River, VT,
The Language of Rivers Collection, Vision Shift Gallery
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
In Love, Beauty & Hope,
I am often amazed when I look back and see what has caught my eye and imagination each day. They (the images), much like my paintings feel like communion. An interchange or sharing of thoughts and emotions and a process in which messages, whispers and stories reveal themselves through a process of co-creation.
A Sense of Place (2007)
In 2007 I began a project that I called A Sense of Place. A project in which I made a commitment and a promise that I would actively and consciously engage in a practice of strengthening my relationship with the land that I lived on and the community that I was part of. The commitment was simple; everyday I would carry a camera and I would walk through the community in which I lived. My definition of community included my neighborhood/town and the natural world that was embedded, inseparable and interwoven with the constructed world of of our human interactions, inhabitance and the society had been built up around, through and upon it. I carried the camera to document my adventures, what was revealed through the process, and what my eyes had been opened to that had previously gone unseen.
I experienced and learned much in that year. I learned about the watershed that supplied flowing life to my everyday world. I learned about the cycle of life, birth, growth and death. I learned of the plants and animals that I shared the geography of my existence and the world that we all knew as our home. I learned about the impact that we curious humans have on the world around us. I also learned that the more I became aware of the movements of the world around me, the more I knew of my own rhythm, impact and my purpose within it.
The "framing" of this mysterious and gorgeous world through the lens of the camera allowed me to shift my vision. It afforded me the opportunity to slow down and see from a different perspective what on other occasions I had been moving to quickly to acknowledge, notice and see. There was something exquisitely beautiful in returning to and/or passing the same giant pine tree everyday and watching as its gorgeous, aromatic, sticky life force flowed in the spring, gummed in the summer and froze into magnificent blue, purple, white and pink crystalline structures in the arms of winter.
Interestingly enough, I do not enjoy carrying a camera when I travel to a place that is new to me or when I am a "visitor". I have a natural resistance to doing so. The further away from where my life is centered and lived on a daily basis - when I am a "tourist" so to speak, the carrying of the camera can somehow feel rude or strangely wrong. My eyes, being and senses are already so engaged and swimming in the multitude of new sounds and sights that the camera can feel like an unnecessary intrusion. In these times it can feel like I begin to rely on the camera to shift my vision and only succeed in creating a distance between myself and the newness of the environment and experience. It can also feel like I am using the cameras ability to "remember" instead of my own. I travelled to New Mexico twice a year for 5 years and completely moved my life there before I ever took a photo of that land.
However...in the place that I inhabit, in the place that I rely upon as a daily source of my existence; the camera becomes a pause and a shift in the way that I can see. It is an opening and an invitation to the world around me. I am called to notice, to see differently, to not take for granted what surrounds me as a result of the regularity with which I pass by and/or my familiarity with it.
Vision Shift (2017)
I have now been living in my current home and location for little under 6 months. I have once again found myself carrying a camera for the same reasons I did in 2007. The reason or intention that I am engaging in the process is the same as it was ten years ago. It is the process itself that is now slightly different. Technology sure has come a long way in the last 10 years.
After taking an initial photograph I do a very similar process as the one involved in the creation of my paintings. I "shift" aspects of the image; altering qualities of light, hue, distortion, inversion, contrast, etc. I think of the process and its actions as a series of doors. One door opens to reveal the next - each door revealing what had been previously unnoticeable or unseen to my eyes.
Writing on Communion (2007)
Sometimes the way a painting begins and takes form is a disorienting experience for me. Although I always feel at peace and at home within myself when I am holding the brush in my hand and watching the colors swirl into formation, sometimes I feel as if I am being deconstructed. Through the experience of creating, I am being taken apart and then recreated in ways that I do not always understand.
When a painting comes into being in this way, it usually happens with a simple and yet overwhelming feeling that some intangible form, feeling, force, thought or aspect of change is lying just beneath my surface. It feels as if it is lying in wait underneath my very skin until I am ready to accept where it will lead me, until I am ready to allow it to rise to the surface and transform my existence from the world and messages of my inner being. It is reminiscent of an alchemical process in that my senses, body, and spirit have taken in ingredients that are being mixed and transformed within, in order to be transmuted and thus transform the outer.
I have learned much from the paintings that have come through me in this way. One of the most important things I have come to understand is that I do not always need to understand. The messages of the paintings that come in this way are not meant to be instantaneously integrated, understood or easy to dissect. They are the very reflections of change themselves. Some aspect of myself, my spirit, my body, or my being is in a state of transformation and change. I have learned to accept that I do not always have neat explanations, eloquent prose, or a nice, neat, pretty bow to wrap a painting up with.
The images that take shape in this way, often continue to transmit their lessons to me for years to come. I have had the experience of looking at these paintings years after they have been brought to the canvas and understanding things that I did not, or could not have understood when the painting came into existence. I often find myself chuckling at such moments, for what I have come to understand or see has been literally right in front of my eyes for quite sometime. I will chuckle again after additional time has passed, and I come to the realization that what I thought I had finally understood had an entire additional layer and depth that I had not yet been privy to. They are my teachers and I am their student, and I experience and accept them as gifts from places and realms that are Mystery to me.
As I look at “Communion” now, I have more questions than I do answers. Is the sun setting as a result of society’s disregard and inability to be aware of the gifts and beauty of our Mother Earth, or is the sun setting because of the simple and glorious beauty that is a sunset? Is the figure on the top layer of the Earth male, or is it female? If the top figure is male, does it represent the suppression of feminine energy and the dominance of a patriarchal society or does it simply speak to the beauty of true intimacy and communion between all living forms? These are just a few of the questions that I am left with as I walk away from laying the paint on the canvas.
In Gratitude, Love and Art,
I invite you tp click on the word COMMENTS below to leave a thought, comment or question.
Heather J Geoffrey