Friday, August 1, 2014

Attempting to Create Nature's Impression

While reading an issue of Old Port magazine, I came across a quote from artist Rick Dickinson:

"The joy and frustration that comes from attempting to create [the impression] that nature provides; the smash of light, the atmosphere of the season, all modified by the time of day and weather."

Now that we have a dog, I go on multiple walks every day. No matter the weather or time of year, the dog and I are out and about in the neighborhood. These 15-20 minute jaunts unfold at an easy pace, with lots of stops and starts to accommodate dog sniffing and marking. The walks provide a chance for noticing, a way of looking that's not possible when running or driving by.

Since we walk the loop of our street so often, I notice many small occurances in our neighboorhood scenery. The tangle of wild white roses, thickening the air with heady perfume. A tree in a corner of our yard, heavy with blossoms and countless buzzing bees, flowering after the other trees bloomed. The neighbor yard with three perfectly formed roses, cream-colored petals edged in hot pink. Snakes and frogs tempted by warmth and rain. Unable to return to safety, dead in the road.

air thick with rose perfume
drunk in my head
like bees digging into
a swollen petal
Here in the summer months - walking in flip flops, bare arms hot in the sun - the winter walks in
gloves, bulky jackets, and boots seem like an impossible memory. Nature has a funny way of falsely suspending us in time. Stretching single days out with leisure, while simultaneously rushing us into the future. The wild white roses have transformed into unassuming layers of leaves. Bees no longer flock to our corner tree. The neighbor roses dropped their petals.

The mind wanders on these walks, and one day it happened upon the idea of a chronological poem. It might be fun to write a poem over the course of a year, to chronicle the subtle details and shifts as nature morphs from one season to the next. I got a few lines down before my enthusiasm faded. Writing about nature can be frustrating on multiple levels. It's hard to find the words to accurately describe the way nature looks, smells, sounds.
Moving beyond face value, it's even harder to infuse the chosen words with deeper meaning.

How to describe when a certain tree or slant of light reminds you of the view from your childhood bedroom? The person you were at various stages, looking out. The world seeping through the open window on a subtle breeze.

Nature is a gateway description. Awe-inspiring in its own right, with the power to lead us below the surface. Nature is not only beautiful, but also useful for allegories, metaphor, symbolism, etc. The transcendentalists were on to something.

I think writers and other artistic folk are born observers, prone to noticing specific details. They are also compelled to honor what they notice - with a phrase, the click of a shutter, a brush stroke, a musical note. Does the artist ever feel that they successfully capture that which prompted them to create? As the saying goes, the journey is more important than the end result. It seems that Rick Dickinson agrees. His quote from above continues on as follows:

"The appeal is that the results may not fully meet the objective. The truth is that I hope the two never meet because then the learning may stop and the game may be over."

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