Life is full of endings, which are also beginnings. I am experiencing an ending now, and even when the end has been long anticipated, it can still take me by surprise, like the arrival of spring at winter’s end, or the first time it rains at the end of the dry months. We all know the idea of something can be so different then the actual experience, but even so we often still navigate through life by constellations that are only in our minds. At least I do. So I guess it should be no wonder that I am surprised when I arrive at my destination.
Part of me didn’t realize that May was slipping away. Today is the 28th already! In a matter of days I will be finished with a full 12-month cycle of pond paintings and will hang up my 61st painting and call the work done.
With this in mind I went up to the pond, perhaps for the last time, to finish this project. As I set about my routine, carrying my easel and paints, setting up the bench and the umbrella, I couldn’t decide whether this last painting session was particularly meaningful or practically meaningless. Sacred ritual or banal routine?
I suppose trying to bring painting number sixty-one to a good conclusion, was also in some sense trying to finish the whole year, and this one big piece of work, in a good way. I thought about other endings; school terms end, jobs usually end as do most love affairs, meals, parties, battles, trails, trials, sports events, books, lives. We grapple with a lot of endings. They are often attended by ceremonies; most humans like to end things well.
Standing in front of the tree yet again, on this beautiful May morning, noticing how blue the greens look, the idea of an “end” struck me as quite artificial. I know the march of time and change will continue, the grassy bank will turn golden then violet, the tree will slowly turn yellow then orange. When I am gone, everything will still be here, going on without me. I felt like I was tugging myself out of a relational fabric, separating myself, tearing away from the tree’s gaze.
Clearly, I am leaving the comfort of something, a pattern, and an engagement. It seems like I am leaving the guarantee of a beloved practice, leaving the kaleidoscope of infinite variations of earth and water, which I have found to be nourishing and seemingly inexhaustible.
Part of me yearned to sit there forever, to make this my life, this view, this task of painting it. A task I would never finish. It all felt bigger than my small self, like the cathedrals of old where people lived and died carving the stones that their grandfathers cut and that would be finished by their children or grandchildren after them. There must have been great comfort in that for some; others probably felt imprisoned.
Some months ago, painting this view every day seemed contrived, artificial and at times senseless. Now it is leaving the effort that seems contrived. Like I am breaking up a relationship with my head when my heart is still in love. Like I am closing my eyes just as I am really beginning to see.
Now my blog will turn to the task of taking a new step, finding the way forward, which sometimes is the way back. This blog is called a “creative process journal” and it is about to enter what I think is one of the most interesting parts of the creative process…figuring out what to do next, succession, progression, sometimes even evolution.
Whenever I look at these paintings I will be reminded of what is possible; that a deep and committed relationship can be fresh and exciting and that it keeps opening as I go deeper. Looking forward right now I think my task is to see that I am not really leaving anything. It is to stay in that relational fabric, that place of connection and reverence, that place of reciprocity. Over the last year, I have found infinity in the pond view, now I will seek to find all I love about that view everywhere else.