On a late afternoon in October, like any other late afternoon in Autumn, I was driving home on a two-lane road from a temporary day job. As you get close to our town the road takes a long, gentle curve past a clearing, then a pond and a grove of pines that mark the edge the Fairgrounds. On the opposite side of the road a meadow sprawls over several acres. As I entered the shadows of the pines there suddenly appeared in my rear view mirror a plume of light and a wave of light, like silent explosions.
A road to Grass Valley is not the road to Damascus. There was no bolt of lightning, no one thrown off a horse into the dirt, no voice from the heavens demanding to know why I was persecuting somebody, just a middle-aged guy in a beat-up Datsun pick up truck enchanted by a vision of light. The vision became a revelation.
I penciled a couple of quick sketches into my book and then worked in watercolor for as long as the light lasted. Still a little rattled by the vision, I returned the following day and worked for a few hours on this watercolor. Gradually a larger context began to emerge. Trees tend to enjoy the company of other trees, so a single oak in the middle of a meadow is somewhat unusual. The contrast between the lonely tree and the groups of other trees in the distance captivated me because artists are constantly having to deal with the spaces between things. Then there were the contrasts between Nature (the forests), Humans (the meadow, fences and roads), technology (the powerlines) and especially the contrasts between light and shadows.
This oil painting is the “final” image of the vision.
As for the revelation, let’s not imagine celestial voices, just an inner awareness of what I now take to be a fundamental truth: We live in a world of wonders: artists don’t have to invent anything; it’s all beautiful– just as it is. We simply have to perform the most difficult task of all: we have to pay attention.
A few years ago our local Catholic parish, St. Patrick’s, purchased the meadow with the intention of building a church there. My reaction was, “Don’t bother; it’s already sacred .”