As the spring uncoils so does the opportunity to paint outside. Just being in the open air, by the bubbling beck opens the heart and loosens the arm.
She’s a tricky customer laying havoc to my peace of mind. How dare she invade the inner recesses of my contentment with her withering whimpering calls for attention! Just when I thought we were over the hump. The faulty tap and downstairs drain/sink had been fixed with a minimum of fuss and maximum of efficiency by a very competent plumber. The foundations of the house did not need to be dug up and life as we know it could go on without any concern. What a relief! Well – for a day until last night the oil boiler stopped working and didn’t respond to my repeated proddings of the restart button. Time to call the repair man. And here she comes again. Galloping through my heart in triumphant rampage. Annie Xiety. Causing me to curse, swear, and turn into a jibbering wreck imagining the worst scenarios. How little it takes! How quickly the mood changes from contentment to sheer panic and depression. Lizzi helps to put into perspective and the morning brings a greater awareness of what’s going down – and who the real enemy is.
I had a favourite tree to play on as a young boy. In fact I had more than one. They became great friends – faithful and places of refuge . My first packet of cigarettes (5 Park Drive!) was concealed under a bush there in a hole dug out with the precise purpose of being my “fag den”. I couldn’t help wondering why it took so long to light the blasted things, not appreciating that they were damp and sodden of course. I explored these tress like foreign lands – mapping my course round and up them as I ventured forth. Their contours were tactile and living proof of growth and experience. Jumping off the thickest branches onto the heads of imaginary passing badmen in true Robin Hood or Lone Ranger style. Always there, rooted solid and dependable. In later days I loved songs about trees – Mike Heron from the Incredible String Band’s own “The Tree” and Michael Chapman’s elegaic “Among the Trees”. And now – how beautiful they are on their lonely fellside outposts or cosy moorings in household gardens. Just to appreciate them is enough. There is a tree in Setmurphy woods just outside Cockermouth that I call my meditation tree. It has a special vibe – and its where I can go for spiritual nourishment. In many ways they are easy to draw or paint, because they don’t move too quickly, but actually capturing the spirit of tree through art isn’t easy, possibly because they are so aesthetic and solidly real in themselve standing like nature’s own sculptures. Who needs a picture of a tree – when you can go and see the tree itself. Anyway this year there’s an opportunity for me to try and draw/paint more. As Mike Heron says “Oh lord – how happy I am!”