This is actually an old piece I felt like remaking after cleaning out a drawer of paintings.
I walk into the dark woods
under the evening clouds
to sit on a log.
The woods begin breathing oxygen
and we menace each other
as the owls leave
their tight camouflage to hunt
and the moon chases the sun
over the edge of the neighborhood.
Darkness is soft at least.
On the way home the crows cackle.
The sound of shopping carts and aluminum cans
sharpen the silence as the sun fades
little by little.
A hawk flies into a tall pine
followed by an angry crow.
A towhee screes across the street
while I walk down the hill
from the neighborhood
into the woods
where everything is filling in
with new shades of green.
The mallards are in the creek
where I stop to sketch the trees.
It’s an uneventful session today,
drawing impatiently in the woods.
When I cross the road
from the trail head to go home
I feel my last chance
slipping away from me.
I walk under the freeway
and hear a Red-winged Blackbird
for the first time here.
Did they just move in to this swale
built between I-5 and Barbur
when the cattails
became tall enough to perch on?
It’s such a tiny piece of wetlands
abbreviated by the street
that leads back to my dry wall cube.
A townhouse that is suddenly more
than an address on an avenue.
It is a place just north of the swale
and west of the creek
in the nearness of wings.
A rainstorm comes in just as I leave for an early morning walk. My heavy cotton trench coat soaks through at the shoulders in the chorus of rain plunking through the trees and onto the ground.
As I burrow through the streets littered with flower petals and teeming with spring’s growth I wonder why I’ve been so diligently timing my walks during sun breaks or overcast moments.
Yesterday I walked to the office over the freeway under the gray clouds after several days of sunshine but I couldn’t remember what season it was for a long moment.
I don’t know the cause of these disconnects but today is my day to tend to chores and rest and walking in the soft deluge settles me into the goodness of ordinary tasks.
The neighborhood houses are dark still but each one holds at least one human’s heart. A person sleeping, making coffee perhaps—safe and dry under their roof while their dreams slip out to catch the clear light as they bounce off the asphalt with the rain.
When I return home I hang my coat in the garage to drip dry, leave my hat by the gas fireplace then sit by the window in damp hair and pajama pants soaked below the knee to re-calibrate to the gentleness of rain.
No one is on the street.
When the sun lights up the air before me it is alive with pollen and dust which settles into the cracks of the asphalt like a golden mend.
I find a log by the creek, eat a couple pieces of toast from a paper sack in my pocket, then paint the forest. The sun shifts the colors as I work. Green and gold trees emerge from black shadows.
When my hands are cold I pack up my paint and walk into the woods where some earnestness finds me in the early angled light. As if all my life my body wanted this one thing: to wake at dawn—to paint trees.
And all this time I’ve been making a nice breakfast instead.
The streets are quiet as I walk to the creek. I hurry through the ugly underpass, remembering a time when I loved the city and its grey places of decay.
In the woods, the sun lights up the bends of the creek where I sit on a log and draw two trees.
It’s not the forest’s fault I forgot how to love an urban eyesore.
On the way home a crow is in the underpass throwing his ingracious voice into the amplified cavern. I take a moment to consider the stately cement columns caught in the sideways light, then startle when a shadow slips along the street from the sidewalk above.
Who better than a loud crow to revive the glamour of an ugly underpass?
The other day I woke up on the couch after a nap and felt like an adult suddenly. Like my spirit was intact in my body, settled into my life choices and needing only to continue along on this amazing adventure with complete trust in my capableness.
Eventually I had to get up to shower and prepare for the next day and the feeling faded. But for a couple days after I felt unrushed, content to do the dishes by hand, eager to clean the bathroom because it’s such a rewarding task. Also, the hot-pink blow dryer I bought on sale was no longer a disappointment because it is useful even if garish.
I remembered my hermit days and how I loved to cook and wash the dishes. How one day a week I cleaned my apartment and it was my favorite day. It seems so charming until I remember how depressed and lonely I was.
I wonder if I can extract that mindful element of enlightenment philosophy and carry it with me on this inward journey into the depths of an engaged life.
I don’t see why not.
I consider Landscape Diaries and how it started out as an attempt to remove the idea of a boundary between my psyche and nature. What if I also removed the imaginary boundary between nature and my indoor habitats—my job, my home, my endeavors, other people?
We are all still mammals. Everywhere we go is our habitat, everything we do is part of our nature but there’s no reason not to seize the opportunity our divided brains give us to cultivate the best parts of our nature, to make habitat for ourselves that supports our beauty instead of anxiety and isolation.
I have no idea how I’ll do this, but I am up for the adventure.