I uploaded this painting video to YouTube today and I struggled to come up with the words to put into the description. What started off as a simple project idea turned into a story of loss and healing. My grief journey began when I was a child, but when Mom died, it felt like I lost Dad all over again because she was the one who kept his memory alive.
But it has been several years now since she passed, and now my journey has me on a path where I’m hopeful and focused on the new roads ahead. Every now and then, though, my spirit needs a retreat to the cabin in the woods. Here is what I wrote for the YouTube video description:
What does this painting mean to you? Art is a language and it speaks to you however you want. This is what it means to me: When I painted this, the project goal was to paint from my imagination (no reference or plan) and paint however the emotions and inspiration leads. My thoughts were of a cabin in the woods, a peaceful and restful space, a spiritual escape from the stresses, chaos, and darkness of this world. But as I painted, I found myself lost in the scene with additions that changed the story. The empty rocking chair and the cardinal in the tree- the chair reminded me of Mom. Her chair is empty and her tea is abandoned, as she left it. The cardinal is Dad’s spirit, who died almost 25 years before her, when he was 37 years old. This space holds the spirits of loved ones who’ve left this world, yet they live on where time and physical distance has no meaning. When the burdens of this world are too much, let our minds escape to this cabin in the woods, where peace is forever standing still, and we are forever loved. But let’s not linger there too long. We are blessed to be alive. We have so much left to do. I have hundreds more paintings to reach my 1k finished oil paintings goal. We all have a destiny, a purpose, and reason to be here.
In my blog post “New Painting- Peaceful Landscape” that I shared with you in June, I said, “I’ll talk about what this painting means to me in a future blog post. For now, I just want to share it and let you let it speak to you.” But I forgot to follow up! I never did tell you what I was thinking when I painted this.
This was a landscape from my own imagination, in which I didn’t look at anything while painting, nor did I plan it out. I intentionally let the art tell the story and evolve, as I listened to music and let myself feel whatever came to my heart. I meant to paint a scene that is warm and inviting, and would appeal to me as a retreat, but that’s not quite what happened.
Instead, it seems that I painted the deeper feelings; the reason why I wanted a special place to retreat to. Because this place doesn’t look relaxing to me. It’s very remote and a bit lonely looking. Quiet, and pretty, yes, but it looks like someone’s missing from that empty rocking chair, as if suddenly taken from their favorite spot and the tea or coffee cup that never got cleared. There’s probably still a last sip in it.
The cardinal is observing the scene, as if he understands and has empathy. The flowers are still in bloom, the fields reach toward a clear blue sky, and the evergreens are as fresh as ever. But the walkway has no feet upon it. The steps are vacant. The rocking chair is not in motion. The last sip will never be drunk.
Reflecting on those we’ve lost, and realizing the passage of time, and feeling the weight of the dark world upon our shoulders, sometimes it feels as if we need a retreat from the burden of broken dreams and better days that must wait, or may never come at all. But in imagining a retreat, I instead inadvertently, subconsciously, painted the emotions that were driving me to want a retreat.
Maybe next time I’ll paint the actual retreat, but by the time I finished painting through the feelings I didn’t even know I had, I felt as if I’d already had my retreat. It was me observing the cardinal in the tree, from my vantage point on the other side of the canvas looking in. Seeing the scene through his eyes was enough to restore my spirit for another day.
Nature goes on uninterrupted. Seasons change. Flowers bloom. Trees grow. Then all of it repeats. There is something comforting in the sameness, and even more comforting is the pattern of change. This (spiritual) season will change. Meanwhile, we can embrace the quiet, the steady stillness, and the cabin that waits for someone to come back. When we are blessed to be here for another day, may we never leave the last sip to grow cold.
“If Savannah, Georgia doesn’t bring this fantasy fall scene to mind, I understand. I thought of palm trees, sandy beaches, romantic Southern trees, and didn’t even know if the Deep South has a change of seasons. Well, they do. There are many trees that change color and drop leaves. It’s not as colorful as up North, but there’s definitely an autumn vibe.
Madrac Farms is only about fifteen minutes’ drive for me, and forty minutes from Savannah. If someone was looking for fall beauty right in Savannah, Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens offers Autumn Gardenfest. There are also family pumpkin patches with corn mazes, duck races, pick-your-own pumpkin off the vine, and other autumn fun, thirty minutes to two hours’ drive. Some offer farm events like steer roping, cow milking, pony rides, and a mini zoo with donkeys and llamas.
There are also fall plants and flowers on display. Because the weather is still mostly warm- or even hot- there are many opportunities to decorate homes, doors, steps, yards, and storefronts with autumn displays. When the weather does get a bit cool in the evening, many people opt for a real or artificial fireplace instead of turning their heat on. So, this fanciful autumn cabin picture isn’t as far off for Savannah as we’d think.
This was a pleasant surprise for me, as I’ve always enjoyed fall. Up North, it sometimes snowed for Halloween and it was miserable for the kids to go trick or treating. Here, it was cool one year, and the next it was warm, but it was not so cold that the children had to wear winter coats over their costumes. My kids would have loved that!
Now too old for trick or treating, they help make it fun for the little ones who come to our door, by dressing up in fun costumes. When my daughter dressed up as Belle, several little girls were in awe – a “real” princess! It is nice to see community involvement and neighbors sitting out in chairs to keep an eye on the children. Fine weather makes a difference! Many years, parents never got out of their cars as they drove their frozen children door to door. So, while some may be wistful for colder crisper air, I’m plenty fine living in a place where cheerful flowers are still blooming while the pumpkins are ripe.
List of Oil Paintings in this Collection, linking to their pages here on the site, and also citing physical pages in the hardcover book: