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,
...the kind of change and transformation that you can feel occuring deep below the surface of your skin, muscle and bones. The kind that is like a wind which can steer the vessel that you move in in strange and unexpected ways. You know that you are being set on a course...
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I get up very early in the morning...before the Sun rises. I typically will go and sit outside for a few moment and take in those glorious moments before the dawn starts to shine her light. This mornng as I was sitting outside holding my cup of coffee, I was watching the play of light and shadow and remembering the dream that had come in the night. This particular dream came on the back of another dream that I had received two days prior. I have been "calling" for a dream. I did not expect to wake from that first dream gasping for air and desparately looking around trying to determine which reality was the one that I found myself in. It was a "shock" dream. One in which you have no choice but to acknowledge or "wake-up" to the message that the dream is trying to convey. I am usually very skilled at dream interpretation, especially my own, however, this one left me shaken and unsure of aspects of its meaning.
If you have been following these posts then you may remember the one in which I shared the story of the painting The Creation of the Firmaments. The dream that came the other night had some of these elements...a completely white building perched on the end of a vast and expansive sea. The arrival of a great whale...except this time the whale arrived transported in the arms of a massive and swirling storm. I am still unravelling the message that were sent in that night vision. The dream that came last night provided a clue or a further unravelling of the first one's meaning.
So...back to me sitting with my coffee, watching the veil between night and day shift and looking up at the night sky. As I was sitting there wandering in my thoughts and the waking of the world, it happened - a shooting star went streaking across the sky. In my life story, shooting stars have historically signalled that a large shift and/or transformation has begun. One night, a long time ago, as I laid on a pile of wooden boards in a small rural village in New Mexico, it was a shooting star that was the final determining moment that precipitated my move to that land of sky and sand. So, this morning, I watched as that streak of stardust tore acrcoss the sky. I have felt its coming for some time now - its arrival confirmation for what I could feel but struggle to have words for. What I still struggle to have words for. What I do know is that I am changing. Of course we are all always changing, for how could we not be, but I am talking about the kind of change and transformation that you can feel occuring deep below the surface of your skin, muscle and bones. The kind that is like a wind which can steer the vessel that you move in in strange and unexpected ways. You know that you are being set on a course. For me, this always simultaneously occurs with a feeling of uncomfortable restlessness.
My most recent painting, The Becoming of Persephone also speaks to this feeling.
This was not how I originally envisioned this painting. In some way, shape or form, all of the paintings are autobiographical - how could they not be. It is not unusual for the paintings to take on a life and/or will of their own, but this one snuck up on me. I am typically working on more than one painting at a time. This number can range from 2 or 3 up to about 9 or 10. At some point while I am working on all of them one will jump to the forefront and let me know that it is ready to be completed (at least in regards to my role in the process). If you would have told me that when I originally began this painting I would later title it, The Becoming of Persephone, I would have been extremely doubtful for I never envisioned it/her becoming what she did or having the feel that she does. This is not one of my facorite paintings. On the day that I completed her, I found myself choosing colors that I would not typically combine in order to convey the feeling of unease or uncomfortableness that I was experiencing as I watched her morph from the original inception that I had for her.
There are certain paintings that have marked a transition or a moment when my painting style shifts or changes, or when I am in the process of incorporating some new aspect of working with the paint, brushes, my soul and the images. This is one of those. She is what I think of as a transitory painting; a painting "in-between" larger movements of my life. What will follow...well...I do not yet know. I do understand that it is about rhythms and cycles that are at play. I do know that in order for her to return in the spring she must let the previous season sleep, become the compost that will nourish the new growth of the following season.
What will I do now? I will go after the riddle. I will spend time researching the images that swim through the dreams, I will research Persephone in all of her various forms throughout time. I will look for the clues that have been left for me to follow. What else will I do...keep painting and keep dreaming...
In Love, Gratitude & Art,
Heather J Geoffrey