Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Connection to Nature



Working with the earth has always been a love of mine. It is my connection to nature that is strong. When I graduated art college and could not immediately find prosperity as an artist, I began a landscaping company which thrived. Eventually, after 11 years, I was able to sell the business and find my way as a full time painter. Landscape painting has been my greatest success.


Life has a beautiful way of evolving, presenting us with new avenues for creativity and fulfillment as we venture through its various stages.
I reached my seventies, and my wife Amy and I acquired a home near Oaxaca, Mexico. It is a grand adobe hacienda on a big hillside property with varieties of trees, shrubs, cactus, and plenty of potential for improvement. My attention is drawn towards the raw beauty of nature and the intrinsic allure of architecture. Here, at our house in the pueblo of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, near Oaxaca, Mexico the stage is set for working with the earth, plants, and structures.
I typically begin the day working outdoors. Plants always need care. We made a patio, remade a cistern, repaired a porch roof that had earthquake damage with tiles needing replacing. Now I am constructing stone stairs in front of our home.


While the physical labor required to shape stone stairs may be demanding, I find solace and gratification in the process. Far from viewing it as toil, I perceive it as a dance with the earth; a collaborative effort between my hands and the materials at disposal. Sweat and aching muscles serve as tangible reminders of dedication and passion. I am surprised how much, after work each day, I ache from mixing concrete, pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with stones, laboring under a hot Mexican sun . . . Anyway, it is something I did many years ago and have not forgotten my landscaping skills.





In the golden years of life, our passions can take on new dimensions, weaving together diverse threads from our past and present. My love for painting, writing, and photography has found a companion in devotion to working with the earth, plants, and architecture. Amidst the picturesque landscapes of Oaxaca, I have immersed myself in the creation of stone stairs, where each step signifies not only toil but also his unyielding passion and love for our surroundings.






Last night a great storm came. First thunder and lightning, then rain, tremendous wind and hail the size of golfballs. It lasted almost an hour. A big potted plant came crashing down on the roof patio. Water came in the house in several areas⏤mostly from the storm hitting windows and seeping inside. The wind bent over trees and shrubs, ripping off limbs. The hail tore through leaves. It was violent nature.

Hail 

Today I went out and swept the stairs I have been creating. Stone is forever.



Sunday, March 05, 2023

More than Can Be Read In Books


 

I more clearly see an ending to this journey, with each day bringing me closer to a final scene. I want whatever time is left to be meaningful for myself and others. After seven decades on earth with myriad experiences, all inscribed in God´s cosmic records and my memory, I yearn for more wisdom, understanding and insight into life.

At times in the last few months I have had the feeling, What am I doing with my life? What am I to do with my time?  I have been an artist, writer, photographer, traveler, husband, father and friend. All has helped define me. Now, what more? Of course moving with Amy to a little village in Mexico flipped our lives. My art changed and I ask , Where am I? Who am I?


An excerpt from the writings of Baha├║´llah has been as a lantern in the darkness for me for many years: “O My friend, listen with heart and soul to the songs of the spirit, and treasure them as thine own eyes.” – Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys.


An urge recently  took hold to go alone on a vision quest, forsaking food and routine in order to get spiritual clarity. There is a a nature reserve called Cuatro Venados, or Four Deer, about 45 minutes from our house and the road there is paved, with little traffic.


We drove and Amy left me alone, agreeing to return on the third day. An old man took my 500 pesos ( about 25.00 USD) for two nights, then showed me uphill to a cabin made of adobe mud bricks and timber. It could sleep 6 people and had a fireplace. Basically a big room with bathroom attached. Windows with curtains on three sides. Other cabins were nearby on the hillside but I was the only one staying there. Very quiet and I soon felt alone. 




Nearby, a short walk down a dusty road and into the woods is a waterfall that is fabulous. It is part of the attraction of the eco-resort. Also on the property are little trails I explored. A creek runs through on its way to the waterfall. Especially I thrilled at the pine trees and greenery all around. At home, everything is dusty and brown from four months of dry season and no rain. 




Curiously, I had no hunger, and if a small craving came I enjoyed quashing it. My energy stayed good, but eventually I tired more easily during walks. The last night I woke and felt very strange including my heart. If I spiraled into something dangerous I was stuck without help. So I ate a bowl of granola and coconut water.




Everything around was speaking to me: the pine trees, birds, temperatures that went from hot to cold, stars in the night sky, silence and nature. I wrote in my journal: Just being, no agenda—The sound of a gurgling brook. Inhaling pine sap that has been warmed by sunlight. Water flowing over land and through the woods, meandering serpentine until a cliff interrupts its course, causing it to cascade through air, splashing on rock, falling more in spray and thunder until collecting in pools⏤only to resume an inexorable journey. I sit on a hillside that is covered deep in pine needles, under pine trees, while listening to the waterfall. The forest is dappled in light. Air is cool and balmy with gentle breezes wafting all around.  


“Nothing do I perceive, but I perceive God within it, God before it and God after it.” – Baha’u’llah


“Sometimes a tree can tell you more than can be read in books.”  ⏤C G Jung


Sunday, May 03, 2020

Plans for the Future


It was an intangible experience when my oldest daughter Naomi, who left this world twenty years ago, came to me while I was resting to give me the encouraging message that my youngest daughter and only surviving child, Sarah, would recover from the coronavirus. 





Although I heard no words in my ear and did not see a doctor’s report, my deepest self knew what I was being told was as true as could be. Six days later Sarah texted me that she had recovered. This is the finest springtime gift I can imagine. 




A few days ago, I wore shorts and went outdoors barefoot for the first time since last autumn. One of my happiest delights is getting my hands in the earth and coming up with wriggling worms. Years ago, I traded one of my paintings for a barrel of worms that was delivered to my home so that I could have the best compost for my garden. 


The seedlings I put in the ground a month ago are coming up as plants. Here in the high desert of Santa Fe, the earth usually is rocky so it has to be amended. The worms make the best  compost from vegetable scraps we throw into a pit.








We have some flower pots with blooming plants that have only begun flourishing. Our lilac shrubs have begun perfuming the air at our back door.


The other incredible sight is seeing the seedlings of elm trees falling through the air. It can be like a snow storm—blanketing the earth. 



Nature always plans for the future.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Loving Light Presence


The beauty of springtime arrives here right on schedule while the world reels from the horrible corona virus pandemic. My wife Amy and I are sequestered at home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, nestled high above sea level in the beautiful Sangre De Cristo mountains. We notice birds singing more often, buds on trees transform to delicate green leaves, flowers unfold their colorful petals and the world slowly unwrapping its winter cloak to breathe in the sun-filled air of renewal.



The worldwide pandemic of coronavirus recently became more personal for me when my 33 year old daughter Sarah fell ill while working with the nursing staff at a convalescent and rehab center in Albuquerque, New Mexico—about an hour drive south of Santa Fe. She had just taken the job. There were cases of covid-19 there and she worked in close proximity to them and others. Sarah has tested positive and is now battling the disease.


I don’t like the word disease. My older daughter Naomi died from cancer. She was diagnosed with terminal illness at the age of seventeen. She battled heroically for two years and passed away, suffocating when her lungs failed after cancer lodged there and she came down with pneumonia. So when I heard my beloved Sarah was “having trouble breathing” it alarmed me.

Yet, Sarah is strong, and she has been in crisis before. In fact, I believe it was the death of her sister and her own giving and sustaining nature that led her to be a healthcare worker.

Naomi, age 10, Sarah age 4

Since Naomi died, on occasion I have had “visitations” from her. Often it is when I am at rest in bed, very relaxed and in limbo between worlds. I can feel cat-like footsteps on the bed. I am not imagining the impressions. I also am aware of a higher consciousness present and the loving personality of Naomi.

Last night, just as sleep was arriving I felt the pressure of something moving around me. Instantly I knew spirit was with me and I ascertained it to be Naomi’s loving light presence. She came with a message. I felt her above me, face to face and the pressure on my chest. A message came first into my heart, then my consciousness—Sarah will be okay!



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Khaos

The ancient Greeks believed Chaos was the first thing to exist from which the primordial deities came; including Gaia, the ancestral mother of all life, Eros, a god involved in the birth of the cosmos, and Tartarus, both a deity and a place in the underworld—also the unbounded first-existing entity from which the Light and the cosmos are born.

The word khaos means "gap" or "chasm" being the space between heaven and earth.

Chaos has always been a partner to me in life. During early childhood, it was a natural part of magical life and development. Yet like everyone else, I was trained away from it in favor of order. Then it felt like waging war between good and evil.

When this happened a deep division came into my life. From then on I felt as though walking a tightrope. To fall was to descend into the chasm of chaos.

I remember being with other teenagers and driving out on the town one night. When the music was being changed between channels, static came on and I said "leave it there." Everyone laughed but I preferred it for awhile;  the little interval of chaos.

Shortly thereafter, I became afraid of dark forces in the universe and in myself, and turned against chaos. I suffered. Part of the equation of existence is that in life, mistakes happen, surprises occur, plans are upset, the unexpected happens. Chaos is in everything to some degree.


The "chasm" between heaven and earth is a fertile place. I believe, as did the Greeks, it is where creativity begins.

I have become stubborn about leaving space for it.

In my artwork, some of the best results come when there are "happy accidents". The mind comes to an impasse and sort of collapses into "unknowing" . . .  a place is messed or destroyed on the canvas yet in the destruction the hint of something with great beauty and clarity arises like a phoenix. It could only come about through destruction.

When I am out on the streets photographing, I often stop to study and take pictures of random textures and forms that seemingly come from chaos. Sometimes they are quite beautiful—the scrapings across metal, leaves floating in streams, random blazing clouds at sunset, or many other chance interchanges that leave marks upon nature.

I have learned in myself too, to make room for surprise. It is necessary.



Sunday, July 10, 2016

All Things Will Pass


Backyard of my parents former home, Santa Barbara, California
There is so much that I want to give you. You know Steven, when you turn to God, you find riches beyond measure. All things will pass, even earth and heaven, but God is forever. This is a message I received when my mother's spirit visited me today at her former home in Santa Barbara, California. 

I arrived here to gather with siblings as we sell off the remnants of my parent's estate before selling the house. I see so many familiar objects; tableware, furniture, books, kitchenware, clothing, tools, and hundreds of healthy potted plants around the housed . . . I am reminded of my parents lives. 

People lined up early to burst through the gate at 9 AM and begin sifting through things, gathering armfuls. With glee they collect for a fraction of the original cost or value. The house is emptying. Tomorrow it will be over and what is left will be donated. The money collected will go toward fixing the house to sell.

My father died a couple years ago. He was not a materialist and took after his hero, Mahatma Gandhi of India, who cared not for riches but was passionate about social justice. He left little in the way of things, but bequeathed a grand legacy of a lifetime of activism on behalf of poor and oppressed people. (See a tribute).

My mother died some months ago. She was highly intellectual, wrote, made art, and loved to garden until she became too feeble. Her great pleasure was nature. So it made me happy to see the joy in people as they bought almost all of her beautiful plants, still bursting with life and happily thriving in decorated pots. 

I had the thought that eventually we all end up in graves and our things are passed on or discarded. What we take with us is what we have accomplished in our life and our soul. Nothing else.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nature's Bountiful Harvest



One of the great pleasures of summer is partaking of nature's bountiful harvest in all its fresh vitality. Here in Santa Fe, two days a week, local farmers bring their fruits, vegetables and flowers to a farmer market. It is in a good location in the middle of town, near a train depot and shopping district. 

Especially Saturdays, the place is bustling with people wanting to buy the freshest food available. Meanwhile, musicians play for tips, the smell of fresh baked bread and roasting chile peppers fills the air, and the sight of flowers and fresh fruit and vegetables in fantastic variety dazzles the eye.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Sky Above, The Earth Below

The sky above, the earth below. So is human existence given reference and meaning by nature.

The sky represents limitless possibility, spirituality, constant change, and by the succession of light and darkness—advancement, retrograde, and the struggle for progress. The earth represents nature, sustenance, and the cycle of life and death.

How potent is the combination of earth and sky! In between is a horizon where the two meet.

Two days ago, the autumn winds blew chilly air over Santa Fe, and marked the end of summer. The skies grew dark with clouds and hail fell down with a rat-a-tat-tat sound. My gallery closed at five o'clock, and I knew by the battle going on above, with glinting light darting down through the moving holes in the clashing clouds, that I must find a place to watch and photograph the drama unfold. I asked Heidi Of The Mountains if she wanted to go with me, but she declined and said she would meet me at a friend’s house on the outskirts of town where we are house sitting.

I drove to a park that overlooks Santa Fe, and walked in the cold, blowing rain. Not a soul was around as I looked toward the sun, blocked by clouds in the west—but the view was a grey one. Nevertheless, I knew the potential existed for a fantastic sight because everything was changing rapidly. Cold, I got in my car and began driving to the house.


When I reached a two-lane highway going out of town, the sky was changing drastically. The setting sun was shooting rays of light low on the horizon and an ethereal color permeated the pregnant air. When I saw a rainbow, I pulled over to find a vantage point to capture it. I climbed a hill, but was stopped by a barbed-wire fence. Looking behind in the opposite direction I saw the plains and mountains veiled in supernal light. By now my artistic soul was completely enamored and excited. I had to find the perfect vantage to take pictures, even though I had no coat and was wet and shivering. Then my cell phone rang with Heidi complaining she was lost. I was only partly hearing her because my attention was focused on the sunset. Frustrated, she shouted in exasperation. I was torn, because the grand moment was about to disappear. I tried giving her instructions that she barely understood, and hung up. Turning once again to the drama unfolding, to my dismay, just then my camera battery gave out! Heidi called again, and I began driving back toward town to meet her. Along the way, I saw one of the most fantastic sunsets I have ever witnessed, and felt awe but also was chagrined that I could not photograph.
When it was all over and we safely arrived in the dark at the house on a mountainside, I felt something special had occurred, and while I “captured” some of it, the wild performance of earth and sky let me play along but could never agree to stop and wait.



Click to see more artistic photography.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Stopped In My Tracks

"As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness." Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau; July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) famously wrote observations of life while living next to a pond. There is no pond near my current home in Santa Fe, but there are beautiful views, it is clean, quiet, and spacious enough, and I am in a good part of town, near the art galleries. I do not have Walden Pond, but just a short walk down a hill from my house is the Santa Fe River. “River” is a misnomer, because usually there is only a trickling stream of water that runs from a reservoir at the base of the mountains nestled by the city. Stone walls have been built alongside it in the event of an unlikely flood, but for much of the way, it is easy to walk by the stream and hop across with a couple jumps over rocks. Intermittent paths allow people to hike and enjoy the ecosystem.

While in my new home only a few days, life along the river has already captured me. I have not been able to resist taking long moments to look at the dazzling display of fall color occurring now. Especially the old cottonwood trees with their thick, gnarly trunks that twist upward and lift big branches full with displays of golden leaves.

During early morning and late afternoon, sunlight slants obliquely through the garnished trees, and I have been stopped in my tracks to be gathered into the sublime scenery. Leaving the street to clamber down embankments, I pause beside the stream and occasionally hear cars pass by, or see someone through the thickets. When a breeze blows, yellow-sheened leaves are shaken loose and drift lazily to earth, rustling as they brush against limbs and brambles and finally come to rest. Include the gurgling of a brook, bird songs, far-off dog barks and children’s laughter, the smell of water and freshly rotting leaves, dappled light and invigorating fluctuations of warm and cool temperatures in the sun or shade—and then I understand why Thoreau was inspired to write his book about the poetry of a pond.




 

"Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something. "
Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Eros


“OK, now take your clothes off.” My model and I had been working together for about twenty-five minutes. I shot about 125 photos of her in my living room as she posed on a couch wearing a slip and holding dolls. I found an ambiguity and psychology that was both innocent and also confrontational.
“Oh Steven, I am not ready . . . I need to think more about whether I want to pose nude.”
“I understand,” I said, “You know that I work with nude models, right?”
“Yes, I looked on your website.”
“If you do not pose, then I will find someone else, because I need to finish with my concept. I want a certain vulnerability that will come with an image of a nude alongside clothed dolls.”
“I know, and I am sorry if I upset your plans.”
"No problem."

I have been told that my nudes are erotic, but never that they are vulgar.
Eroticism is a peculiar human trait that has to do with sexual arousal. It is a dance in nature that we see also in other animals that preen and show off in spectacular ways—all to better attract a mate. The word comes from the Greek word for the god of lust and fertility, Eros. Eroticism is nasty in some prurient thinking, but I prefer to stay with the Greeks who thought Eros to also be the creative urge of ever-flowing nature, the firstborn Light for the coming into being and ordering of all things in the cosmos, an attendant to Aphrodite, harnessing the primordial force of love and directing it into mortals. As an artist, I must have a relationship with eroticism because it gives passion and sensuality that fuels my creativity. See Michelangelo’s slave sculptures or the colossal David.

A nude human, male or female, is one of the most treasured subjects in art. Just look in the art history books, or check out the work of some of the most famous photographers. An artist makes looking at nudes an acceptable, sensuous, and awe inspiring experience. We all wonder what is beneath other peoples clothing because we all know we are naked and pure. Art reveals the truth of our nakedness.

After my model demurred from disrobing, we continued and in the end, the session was fantastic anyway. Eventually, some of the images will find there way into my new work that is a combination of photography and painting.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Thank You


I am in the habit of giving thanks, and at bedtime, always speak out loud before sleeping so that I hear the words, “thank you.” I think of the day I have just experienced, and then say, “I have no complaints.” Of course, I am speaking to God. I have a dearly beloved friend who is atheist who told me “you are thanking yourself, because of what you give to yourself.” There is truth in what she says, because I choose how to think and therefore experience accordingly. But in giving thanks, I am acknowledging the great gift of life, and I know that I have not given life to myself. No, everything has been given to me—the world of nature which is safe within regulated laws, my body that exists in nature and time, and the doors of perception through which I understand . . . these have been given to me and I could not have invented this. I am an infinitesimal part of an infinite universe which is beyond the grasp of humankind. Maybe that is why some throw up their hands and say God does not exist. What they are saying is it is impossible to know, so why even try? But I surmise that this is lazy thinking and that a simple solution is to acknowledge that the cosmos we live in is a creation and a creation must have a creator; a priori.
In my studio I have been spending my hours working on printing some of my 30,000 photographs. I am choosing portraits of people from around the world and then printing them on canvas; larger than life size. They are then mounted on board and I have been using an old painting method to cover them with encaustic; a hot wax and resin combination that fuses colors as it hardens. It is experimental, and I have no income from this now, but this year, I hardly have income anyway. I do not complain, but give thanks for the excitement and adventure of having opportunities to explore each day, and especially consciousness.