I love this time of year when we still have some fall color, but we can also see more and more of the essence or “bones” of the trees. Trees are one of my favorite subjects for drawing, painting, sketching, and just plain looking at. They are more cooperative than dogs, cats, or people, and especially more so than birds. It seems no matter how quietly I pick up a pen and my sketchbook when my cat, Acadia, or my dog, Ramble, are sleeping, they immediately wake up or shift position in their sleep. But the trees in my yard generally stand fairly still and they hold their essential shape (with minor changes due to falling limbs on occasion), except when leaves are growing in the spring or falling in autumn. But those changes take place more slowly than I sketch.
However, even though the trees stand still, the light can change dramatically in a matter of minutes, so sometimes I need to observe closely and sketch quickly. As I sketched this morning and tried to capture the morning light on one of our venerable black locust trees, Paul’s words from Ephesians and Colossians about making the most of every opportunity came to mind and led me into meditating on the importance of being attentive to the opportunities God brings my way. I don’t want to miss the privilege of seeing his fingerprints in the world or cooperating with him in some work he has for me, and sketching trees always seems to slow me down and bring me into a place of mindfulness. I wonder if one reason God made trees to be stationary beings is for them to model a patient attentiveness and responsiveness to all that happens around them.
My focus the past few weeks has been to rest, refocus, and continue to develop a workable, helpful rhythm of life, as I mentioned in my post of August 14th. Grief seems to drain me of creative energy, even when I’m not specifically thinking of recent losses, so I’ve been doing a lot of reading the past few weeks since we lost our sweet Petra. Reading often calms my mind so that I can think constructively and, more importantly, seems to renew my energy and motivation for doing things that need to be done (laundry, cooking, etc.) and for creative expression, whether sketching, painting, or writing. I will often think I’m just being lazy or that I have lost all creative ability, but if I then spend a few hours reading, interspersed with a couple walks with Ramble, all of a sudden I find that I’m eager to start sketching or even planning a painting.
I’ve mostly been sketching trees, either with ink, which I love because of its simplicity and the way it lends itself to both bold expression and subtle nuance, or with watercolor and gouache as I attempt to capture fall colors. I’ve also continued to sketch Stephen as he reads in the evenings, and sometimes myself from my reflection in a window as Stephen reads aloud to me.