Saturday, April 29, 2017

Personal Power

I've been thinking a lot about personal power. I have a bumper sticker on my back windshield, quoted from The Wizard of Oz, that reads, You had the power all along my dear.

One advantage of getting older is that you learn how to use that power. You learn when to say no without offering excuses. You reject clothes, 'suitable for your age' in favor of ones that make you feel wild and free, and you learn to say, To hell with anyone who doesn't approve of the way you live your life. These are hard-fought lessons to learn since we girls weren't brought up to step outside the box.

But along with that power comes responsibility and hard decision making. On this day I had the power of letting a bird live or die, or letting another go hungry. It was an extremely hard decision because it was being played out right in front of me, and I couldn't turn my back.

The dove was enjoying an afternoon snack of seed on the table under the pergola, totally unaware of the danger lurking less than three feet away in the form of a young Sharp-shinned Hawk. The hawk seemed puzzled about how to snag his dinner which gave me an extra few moments to make my agonizing decision. I walked out to the pergola. The dove escaped and the confused hawk flew up to the cherry tree. He stayed for a very long time, occasionally looking straight at me with an accusing red eye. I still wonder if I made the right decision and if I should even have the right to do so. Is one life more important than another? I don't believe so yet we all make judgments on this very topic every day in one way or another.

These decisions we make on a daily basis hold immense power in themselves. When a friend asks if they should buy that skirt, do you tell them the truth or do you fib so as not to hurt her feelings? And is that the right thing to do in the long run? Do we cheat and eat bad food even if we know we won't get caught but also know it will hurt us in the end?

Buddhists don't believe in killing anything. It's as much the intention of killing as it is the act itself that is unacceptable. And this rings true more and more for me too, because I find the most abusive form of using my power is when it affects other sentient beings - the spider that mistakenly got into my house or the mosquito I swat that was just looking for a bite to ease her hunger.

A friend of mine won't tolerate English Sparrows because they push other baby birds from the nest and take it over. He doesn't like Cowbirds either because they lay their eggs in another's nest so their baby will be properly cared for; kind of like leaving a baby at the door of a firehouse or hospital. But by my friend interfering with his personal power, he is affecting instinct; what God, Mother Nature or other force you believe in designed for that bird. Who are we to question the purpose of its existence? Like the Lady says, "I was born that way."

As for me, I am slowly learning to first take a breath and think about the decision I am about to make which will affect everything around me. And I will always try to use my power for good - for every living thing. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

World Book Day April 23

I never went to school for art. That surprises a lot of people. I rarely took an art class in high school either because I didn't want to spend hours working on something near and dear to my teacher's heart but not my own.

I was fortunate to have a mother that saw my passion at a young age, going so far as to convince instructors in adult art classes in the community to let me enroll in their classes. As a teenager, she encouraged me to continue to take classes at a local museum. And I talked to every artist I ever had the good fortune to meet, picking their brains asking how they did what they did. I also had a father who set a great example by pursuing his passion, turning it into a successful career as a professional golfer. A very good example for a budding artist.

But if asked how I really learned to draw and paint and develop my own style my answer would be - BOOKS. I read every art book I could find no matter what the subject, style or even if I didn't like the artist's work. I felt I could still learn something and I did. Being well-rounded so to speak, I even delved into the self-help and marketing books, a necessity for running a business, art or otherwise.

Books became incredibly important in my life. As I write this post, I am anxiously awaiting a book I have coveted for a long time but didn't or rather never felt I could justify the expense. But getting older puts a new spin on decisions. I ordered the book last week. What is it you're wondering? It's called, A Sea View, the work of Sarah Adams. She echos everything I feel. Her Alligator River is the Cornish coast with its sea caves and inlets. I am quivering with anticipation over the arrival of this book.

Books take many forms. I have tons of the usual kind, mostly non-fiction, ranging from field guides to art books to books on crystals and symbolism and many other subjects too numerous to mention. I have tons of sketchbooks spanning 30 years or so; my go-to field sketching, spiral-bound ones to my handmade artist books using antique book covers. Some books I've crafted are accordian style while others are housed in vintage compacts and old Mothene containers from the 1930s.

So this year, on World Book Day, take a few minutes, grab a cuppa and pick up a book, even if you just look at the pictures!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Lure of the Ooze

I live at the edge of primordial swamps; that borderland, that margin between the firmness of the earth and the place where you begin to slip into the ooze. I don't know why but this is the place I am drawn to. I love painting the dunes, but spending time on the beach doesn't do it for me unlike the thousands of visitors to our islands who come for just that purpose. I simply cannot drive by a patch of wetland without slowing down and stopping if at all possible to get out of the car and simply breathe in the greens, yellow slime and muck.

I've said it before, Alligator River Refuge is my all time favorite haunt. It calms me, absorbing any tension or worries into its mire, and I return home in a much better state of mind. I sketch it more often than any place else and visit every chance I get. To me, this primordial world is mystical, enchanting, enticing, luring me to come to the edge of the ooze, daring me to dip my toe inside.

One of my favorite book is by Barbara Hurd called, "Stirring the Mud", and I have read it more times than I can recount. She whispers things I feel but cannot articulate as well as she does. But the one thing I can't recall her mentioning is the subject of portals, and Alligator River is chock full of them.

I am considering doing a series of paintings - The Portals of Alligator River. These entries appear one day and close up the next, never to be seen again. I was speaking to my friend Eve about the portal we discovered the day the bobcat approached us, a magical day to be sure. We had both returned to the refuge separately a day or two later, and the portal had vanished like a primordial Brigadoon. To this day, when I venture down that side road I look for it but have never found it, and the spot where it appeared is now becoming hazy. Did we really ever see it in the first place?

Perhaps the bog elves or faeries allowed us a glimpse into their world by parting the sodden curtains of vegetation before changing their minds, deciding the human race just can't be trusted. These are the latest portals I've discovered. I returned to these spots just last week and couldn't find a trace of either of them. But I swear I heard rustling and soft laughter.

Finished Painting

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Mellow Yellow

I had to travel to Elizabeth City on the mainland this week for a doctor's appointment. It used to be that the road was sided by field after field of cotton dressed in whites, maroons, ochre and sepia depending on the time of year. Things change as they tend to do, and now vineyards have replaced the cotton fields; the vines turning their tendrils up at the thought of cotton sharing their neighborhood.

But this week, besides seeing the newly awakening vines, I was awestruck at the fields I saw on either side of the road, mile after mile. Like saffron-clad monks bowing low in prayer, these brilliant, yellow fields are crops of rapeseed and will make their way into our kitchens as canola oil.

I've read that when the ancient Indians looked into the jungle they could always tell which leaves were about to fall from the trees, because they were either yellow, orange or brown. Consequently, in India, yellow became the color of renunciation. Monks and nuns wear yellow robes as a constant reminder of the importance of not clinging, of letting go, of giving up.

Change is hard because it usually relates to time. When things change, we are reminded that we too are aging. Things are no longer as they were. Some try to stave off time and change, but inevitably they too realize its time to let go of the past. Change doesn't have to be a negative thing. This week I was thrilled to put my past behind me, walking out of my oncologist's office with a clean bill of health. I will admit though, it still saddens me not to see tufts of cotton littering the roadside in the fall.

But like the monks I am learning to let things go, not to cling to past thoughts and ideals. This allows for new ideas and opportunities to come wafting in. I will no longer hold onto the image of cotton fields every time I cross the bridge to the mainland. Instead, I am replacing that past with the present rapeseed, imagining the fields to be blessed full of earthly prayers.

Copyright E.M. Corsa 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tunnel Vision

I am claustrophobic, big time. I begin to sweat at the thought of entering an elevator, preferring to climb the 20 flights of stairs. I don't like being placed into a tiny doctor's waiting room with no windows and mobs of people around me at an event is not my idea of a fun time. Even the phrase tunnel vision makes me think of that tunnel I keep hearing about you must go through upon your last breath before the white light enfolds you.
Copyright E.M. Corsa 2017

Merriam Webster defines tunnel vision as this:

1. constriction of the visual field resulting in loss of peripheral vision
2. extreme narrowness of viewpoint; also: single minded concentration on one objective

I find I do have tunnel vision myself, at times becoming so absorbed in my work that nothing else exists for me. Not always a good thing. If I'm not careful I fear I'll become one of those people that hole up in a cave wearing the same paint-stained clothing day after day, living on a loaf of bread and a pack of bologna. (My brother would laugh at this reference.)

But there is a tunnel I love, one that holds no threat to me in any way. It's at Pea Island Refuge on Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, my home. I have many memories of walking through this wild, wind-shaped sculpture of trees; limbs embracing you, keeping out the cold while birds flit back and forth across your path. This tunnel does not restrict your field of vision and eventually opens up to a vista of marshland and ponds full of herons, ibis, ducks and swans.

I can only hope the tunnel vision I now observe in politics, whether it be about the environment, the arts, or social issues will eventually open up like the tunnel at Pea Island, allowing the bright light to enter once again.