I forgot to tell you!

Watch oil painting “Cardinal at the Cabin” come to life

in about 2 minutes (time lapse)

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.

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Anxiety

Watch me paint “Waterfall Flowers” in 1 minute (time lapse)

This is a fictional landscape, just something from my imagination, but it was based on a real place in Northern Wisconsin. The place I was inspired by was a wooded area with a waterfall and a single picnic table nearby. There were no flowers, and the scene was slightly different from what I imagined here, but my painting expresses the general vibe for what that place was like.

It was a sanctuary, a hidden retreat from a family camp we were attending. The camp experience had been the wrong fit for us and we were anxious about the whole adventure. We escaped here to this place, to get away from the camp and think about whether or not we were willing to stay until the end. Even though we’d pre-paid for the organized activities for ourselves and our children, the situation felt dysfunctional and pressuring, not our style at all. 

I don’t recall how early we left, but we didn’t stay as long as we could have and we dropped out of planned activities. Years later, my favorite memory of that time was when we escaped to the waterfall alone as a family. We’d never have seen that place if we’d not been feeling anxious and in need of a retreat.

Anxiety is defined as an unpleasant emotional state with feelings of dread. There are other definitions as well, including clinical disorders, but for the purpose of this blog post I’m focusing only on the occasional anxiety that is common to all humankind. We all have times when a situation is so miserable that we dread it, maybe even fear it. At the least, we feel stress and apprehension.

When we feel anxiety, it can be helpful to physically remove ourselves from the situation and find a waterfall. But, that’s not often possible! In which case, we can retreat to a spiritual waterfall, as in… calm ourselves into a state as close to “waterfall relaxation” as we can. And in this retreat, we may find lasting enjoyment. Sometimes a miserable feeling pushes us to escape to new positive experiences, habits, and lifestyle changes.

Maybe it helps to watch people like me paint relaxing art? Maybe music is therapeutic, either playing it or listening to it? Maybe physical exercise, a warm cup of tea, reading a book, or sliding under a weighted blanket for a nap is comforting? Whatever your spiritual waterfall is, during challenging times we need to prioritize ways to manage anxiety.

Remember that you aren’t alone. All of us suffer from the human condition of anxiety from time to time, while others may suffer from it chronically. It’s normal to feel anxious when the world feels chaotic, confusing, disturbing, hostile, dark, uncertain and frightening. Find your spiritual waterfall and restore your spirit. 

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