This morning while driving home from Freeport, after leaving Bekah for her summer job at J Crew, which was after leaving David in Pownal to embark on another trip to Labrador, I made an impulsive decision to pull over beside a meadow full of Queen Anne's lace, goldenrod, clover, and other assorted wildflowers and grasses.
For weeks I've walked by the blooms in various neighbors' gardens-- daisies and daylilies, bee balm and coneflowers, Siberian and Japanese iris (way back in June and early July!), and I've thought about coming back without the dog and equipped with pen, pencils and a sketchbook to draw.
And have I actually gone back to draw? Not once.
So today when I noticed myself yearning toward the meadow and thinking, "Hmmm, I'd love to come back here and draw--or find some other similar place near home," I caught myself. Why not just stop and draw, right now?
At least this time I was a little bit ready. I had hastily stuffed a bottle of water, a sketchbook and some water soluble colored pencils in an old backpack, just in case I decided to go somewhere to draw and doodle. So I pulled over, parked, and got out to draw.
Never mind that I hadn't thought to put in any sunscreen. Never mind that I couldn't remember where I'd left my favorite sun hat and had grabbed one of David's many hats that didn't really fit me. Never mind that the pencil I had tossed into the backpack came out with its lead broken and I had no sharpener with me.
Sitting on a log on the edge of the meadow just off the side of the road, with my paper on my lap and broken-leaded pencil in my hand, I remembered what I've always loved about drawing outside. I remembered a big part of why I had found so much delight in painting outdoors two years ago, my first summer painting with oils. (And yet I haven't actually painted outside since the fall of 2008--for reasons that both embarrass and sadden me.)
To state what may seem obvious, when drawing or painting outside, there's so much more going on than what I see with my eyes. So it's not just about "capturing what I see." There's the sun's heat on my skin, the movement of breezes on the back of my neck and the hairs on my arms and legs. There are all those little noises of insects and the chattering and callings of birds, mingled with the sighings and stirrings of leaves and branches. The shifting of light and shadow, the swaying of blossoms on their wiry stems. The whole dynamic symphony of life that's way bigger than me and yet that encompasses me and sets my heart singing, delighted to be alive, "a bride married to amazement" (Mary Oliver). So there's ecstasy, too. Every day garden variety nature-inspired ecstasy.
As I write this, I am reminded of something I copied down from an article about the Maine painter Lois Dodd: "Nature is a wonder," she said. "There is nothing more wonderful than going outside and being outside all day, and just watching stuff. It's just a good way to spend time. It's probably the way fishing is to people who go fishing. Just go out there. You are working, observing and thinking, and you feel like you haven't wasted the day because you have been in it."
An active, grateful participant.