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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Natural Wonders can Supply a Tapestry of Beauty

"Seedlings from a beechnut tree"
I’m a saver, a scrounger, and a lover of nature. If there’s an unusual seed or leaf out there it ends up in my house.

We were in Phoenix for my grandson’s wedding, when a black twig caught my eye as we were walking. My son thought it was a twig of seeds from a beechnut tree. Although they were black from the cold winter mornings, the pods had dried perfectly, showing a split that revealed the empty seed pockets inside. I brought it back home in my suitcase. It still adorns a table in my living room.

A few months ago, I spied a large palm frond. The leaf is usually trimmed while it's still growing on the tree, and the remaining woody husk continues to grow and harden. The one I found on the ground had already bleached out in the sun and the green had long since disintegrated. 

I took it home and brushed off the dirt and grit, sprayed it with Raid and left it for a few days. After washing it off with water and drying it again, I began my search for the face that was hidden inside. The shape was a little off, but I turned my woody palm into a Florida panther which will one day hang on someone’s wall.

"Florida Panther" for SALE on Etsy" (16 x 21)
Another piece of palm is awaiting its identity. I know from experience that many coats of paint are required to satisfy this thirsty wood. After its features are complete, I will seal both front and back with coats of varnish to give it sheen and a long life.

If I had my “druthers,” I would decorate my home with accessories only from the natural world of nature. One of the most enchanting Christmas trees I've ever seen used a long-needle pine and had only pine cones and bright red velvet bows on its branches. The students who decorated the tree could not afford expensive ornaments or trim and had used what the surrounding terrain had provided. The tree was simple and elegant. The smell from that pine was a gift from Heaven!

One February, when we lived in Phoenix, I dragged home the woody branches of an old Joshua tree that had died in the desert. I loved the way its branches told a story of strength, dignity, and endurance. I placed it in my flower garden by the back fence. When I shared this story with friends, they had to see it.

(Gazebo and butterfly garden completed by the Garden Club for the community)
When I showed them the cactus that I had embellished with pride and an artist’s vision, I saw their faces slump. Their expectations were higher than the reality they saw. “Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.” We must remember this as we put paint to canvas to reveal our inspiration and imagination. Nothing is ever what it seems to be. We all see things through our own prism of experience.

I’m always saddened by people who rush by and can’t see the color and richness that abounds right under their noses. A car commercial showed the manufacturer's pride and joy racing over the Sahara desert. They wanted you to focus on the car and its tremendous speed and agility. 

As for me, I scanned the rolling hills of sand, the flowing ripples of each dune. What I saw was a masterpiece of serenity, texture and rhythm. The car I barely noticed.

Some people may never give your artwork the nod. They don’t know that you struggled and nursed "your baby" into existence and new life. They may view askance at your efforts to capture a singular shape or a few grains of sand on a canvas; skillfully layering it with values of monochromatic color and harmonious blends. 

We keep painting because that’s who we are. We convince ourselves that the joy of overcoming will one day triumph. But what if it doesn’t? My friend, what better way to spend your time than in pursuit of perfection? The brush grows lighter with use. The joy of creation is mother’s milk to the suckling artist. We indulge. We drink. We become.

(My next acrylic on canvas will be titled: "The Cook" using Amelia as a model)