Wake up

Plans for the work I thought I had to accomplish last Wednesday evaporated before the sun was up. I winced out of bed and hobbled out to the kitchen to make coffee, unable to ignore the annoying hip pain I'd been greeted by for the past few days. Instead of fading, the volume rose until by mid-afternoon I was being infused with morphine in the back of an ambulance bound for the emergency room at Lancaster General, where imaging showed that a severely herniated lumbar disc and spinal stenosis had wreaked havoc on that big nerve running down my left leg. Nothing was alleviating the pain. Surgery on Monday appeared inevitable.

Things change fast. A combination of medications made the pain tolerable after a couple of bad days and nights. Friends and family brought books, my sketchbook, a vase of tulips. I called clients and colleagues and let them know what was up. On my feet and walking by Sunday evening, we cancelled surgery the next morning and I was home by late afternoon. Pretty remarkable. But the biggest change, and unexpected benefit, was one of attitude.

I've been allowing too much stress to overtake me in too many ways. Not an uncommon thing for perhaps most of us these days. Somehow, though, having to surrender to agonizing physical pain put things in perspective for me. Work needs to get done, and I want do it as well as I can, but minus the anxieties. They only take away from both quality and focus.

Today, I did what I needed to let my body continue to heal, took care of essential business and professional matters. One thing at a time. Then cleared my mind and drew in my sketchbook. The beat up leather briefcase I bought almost twenty years ago, on top of an old woodbox that I've lugged around for longer than that. My mismatched 1955 wool sofa facing a sagging Victorian era one across an IKEA coffee table, books and the vase of tulips from my hospital room scattered between. A tansu against the wall, recently discovered in an antique warehouse over the hill in Columbia, new to me but familiar from my obsession with things from old Japan. The wingback chair against the iron column that helps hold up the upstairs santuary floor in this old church turned into a home. Unremarkable objects that I live with and enjoy. The light and shadows, planned and chance juxtapositions in space. Yes, now I'm rambling. What am I trying to say here?

I just want to share these fragments, see and discover some of their connections. Take the time to notice and feel, not too many things all at once. Observe without much judgment how unpredictably time and experience flow. Every moment is an awakening.



living room from the dining room, 11-1/2 x 8, pen and ink


Woodland impressions

Another morning walk along the river trail that threads through the woods. Noticing that stretches of the asphalt path are blanketed in maple seeds, fallen from the canopy high above. Thinking that without seasonal sweeping, the pavement would soon be re-absorbed into the earth without a trace. Craning my neck to try to identify which tall broadleaf bore the delicate pitcher shaped purple blossoms scattered in a wide semicircle. A misty morning, the distant traffic on the Route 30 bridge nearly invisible and inaudible.

Struck by the view of a canopied bowl of tree trunks and layers of spring foliage as I crested the railroad berm and entered the woods, the image stayed with me as I meandered down the trail, until I turned around and walked back to that spot to sit and take it in and draw this impression.

spring canopy, 11" x 8", 9B graphite and Derwent Inktense colored pencils


Morning walk

It only takes me a couple of minutes to walk from my front door to a trail in the woods with the Susquehanna just a stone's throw beyond. I haven't been willing to go down there for months, to my detriment. Too preoccupied with other worries, but that's exactly why I should at least take a quiet walk there, if only a short one, every day. This morning before starting my work day, I took that walk.

If we could only slow down enough to syncronize our perception with the wonder of photosynthesis. We could see leaves emerge, blossoms appear, open, and fall to be reabsorbed by the damp earth. Watch tiny shoots become towering tress. We might let go of some of our desire to be in control of things. We might take less and give back more.

monday morning by the river, 8-1/4" x 8-1/4", Derwent Inktense colored pencils


Being with trees

Last fall, I read The Overstory, the most recent novel by the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Richard Powers. Speculating only slightly beyond what scientists have learned, he spurns conservative notions of mankind's supremacy, and urges us to consider a deeper connection with a life form that many consider as little more than a resource for human utility. It is an inspired, uplifting, and tragic story. It changed the way I think about trees.

Spring wouldn't be spring without the opening of buds, the unfurling of leaves, the world's forests awakening once again to procreate from the sun, rain, and soil. Resuming their myriad partnerships with the microbes and insects and birds. When we can manage to transcend our barbaric attitudes, there is an important role for us to play. Perhaps atonement. I hope it isn't too late.

early evening with trees, 11-1/2" x 8", pen and ink


Barn talk

I noticed this nice old barn when I had a little time to fill a couple of weeks ago. Drew an impression of it in pen and ink. Since I keep being in the same place and circumstance weekly, and the location is not conducive to working on a laptop computer, we seem to have started a dialogue of sorts, the barn and I. Last week the medium for conversation was watercolor. This morning it was back to the fountain pen. Focusing on them, I wonder if the building or the trees know that I'm there. I wonder if they care.

barn and trees, 11-3/4" x 8", pen and inkbarn and trees, 11-1/2" x 8", watercolor and pencil