at the end of the year
We bless this year for all we have learned,
For all we loved and lost.
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.
--John O'Donohue, from "At the End of the Year."
For me, 2015 was a year of new experiences, new and deepening friendships, and exciting expansions of my art career. It was also the year my mother died, on January 20, and thus it has been a year of mourning and adjusting to her absence. It was the year I traveled to three foreign countries--Sweden, Italy and Ireland--for teaching and painting, and those exhilarating experiences and rich memories have fed my work. It was the year I began a new project, co-authoring (with Jerry McLaughlin) the book Cold Wax Medium: Techniques, Concepts and Conversations, to be published in August of 2016. It was the year I put 8,000 cross-country miles on my car (mostly alone behind the wheel) and taught twelve workshops, and finally recognized the wisdom of slowing my pace for the future.
It was not a quiet year for me at all, yet O'Donohue's poem resonates with me. No matter how busy, exciting, or stressful our outer lives may be, our inner processing--the integrating of experience, reaction, and intention that happens in a year of our life-- is indeed a quiet process. To me, our "invisible destination" is that which we reach toward spiritually, emotionally, mentally. As artists, it is what pulls us along--a tenuous vision that is at the same time ahead and just out of reach, and yet has always been with us. The urge we feel to reach it is our source of creative energy, as old as our years and as immediate as today's studio session.
What I take from O'Donohue's words is the idea that our creative energy does arise from experience, played out in the days that unfold over a year. As 2015 ends, it seems a good time to ask ourselves what we have learned, what we have loved, what we have lost, and in what ways these are present, consciously or unconsciously in our work. Because these connections to our own experience are what what make our work authentic, vibrant, personal, and capable of growth.
(The painting above, Trails (40"x60"), oil and mixed media on panel, is part of a new series in which lines inspired by maps and memories represent travels, wanderings and trails I've taken. )