The fog hangs low outside my window this morning as I write, reminding me that colder weather is coming. I am one of those strange folk who enjoy the cooler weather. I try to remain content in those warmer months, but when the temperature rises to ninety degrees and the humidity rolls in thickly, I long for the chill of autumn or the crisp air after a fresh fall of snow.
I spend a great deal of time outside, and in this hard year it feels extra important. Being outside in nature has been proven time and again in studies to be a boon to mental health. In this year of loss, I have needed it more than ever. This world that I believe God made for us is, not surprisingly, good for us. And even in it, He speaks to us. He shows His love in its beauty, His care in its provision for us. The colors are incredible, even after most of the leaves have fallen. The oaks and young beeches hang on to their leaves, sometimes through the whole of winter, and those muted tones become bolder against the browns and grays of bare branches which surround them.
I find I always more ideas than I have time to get out onto paper. Which is good in a sense when you are an artist. I woke up one day recently, and thought in a panic, "what if I run out of things to paint?!" After a cup of coffee and some slightly more rational thinking, I realized that each time I go out into the forests and fields I come back with reference photos and ideas. The Lord has laden the world with wondrous things in each season, and filled my mind with wondrous ideas of how to echo them.
This year, I have finally been able to start on an idea that has been brewing for some time. This idea began percolating in my mind more than a year ago. At the time, my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. It was one of those ides that I hung on to and whispered to myself "someday." But I talked about it with my creative and trusted friends. I talked about it with my mom. I dreamed about it. I got nervous about it, doubted it, and then renewed my hope for it. Finally, finally, I have tried it.
To give you some context, I have to say I love painting. I know, that seems obvious! It was my first love, really. I have been painting since I was small. Through my mother's work, however, I developed a delight in embroidery. How, I wondered, can I make these two go together? What would it look like? How can I make it happen so that it is the best medium to depict the images I choose?
I started small. A couple necklaces, some with stitching, others without. I fell in love instantly with this method. Some are scenes from a trip to Maine, and some are flowers that I love. Foxglove and a wild flower I have a photo of but have yet to identify (I am still and always learning).
So I moved on to something only slightly larger. It's still not quite finished, because I got too excited. I'll show you more of this when it's done. Halfway through this piece I learned many lessons and began something else I was even more excited about.
This photo to the left was the fuel I needed to really push forward. Sometimes you see something and instantly know how it is going to look. And yet, you are still completely taken by surprise when it comes. That's how this piece was for me.
These are New England asters. set against a field of other wildflowers (mostly white asters and goldenrod) and a big patch of bluestem grass, which turns the loveliest copper in autumn. Next to it you can see the background layer. As soon as I painted it, I knew this was going somewhere. I loved the rich colors and contrasts.
And thus a new kind of piece was born for me. I painted on a piece of linen and then I stitched over it with various cotton and wool threads. The painting is loose and wispy, giving splashes of color here and there, hints of detail in other places. The stitching does not necessarily add detail, but rather it highlights the parts of the scene I found important, and adds a structure to the piece.
I, too, am in the midst of a turning of seasons. New ideas, a new way of life in the wake of big changes in my life. In the midst of the dark and cold season of grief, even there the Lord sends colors and light. So as colors fade from trees, and fog seems to overtake my soul, I think of the colors of the past year. I look for the colors that are here still, though muted, which remind us of the life before. And then, taking up the flame of hope, I look ahead to the colors to come.
Someday I will see my dearest mother again, and she, like this earth, will be made new and perfect. So I remember and hope in tandem.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" Revelation 21:3-5a