Early Morning Thoughts from Pedernal Casita at Abiquiu Lake

Pedernal in the Evening

Pedernal in the Morning

As bees gather honey, so we collect what is sweetest out of all things and build Him [God]. Even with the trivial, with the insignificant (as long as it is done out of love) we begin, with work and with the repose that comes afterward, with a silence or with a small solitary joy, with everything that we do alone, without anyone to join or help us, we start Him whom we will not live to see, just as our ancestors could not live to see us. And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood, and as gesture that rises up from the depths of time.

Rainer Maria Rilke, letter to Franz Xaver Kappus, December 23, 1903

My heart is flowing with gratitude for life, for this vast space of quiet and beauty wherein I can pursue my desires. The top of this mesa where I am privileged to reside for five days is so still at all times of day and night, it is as though Someone has punched the mute button. And the silence is indeed intoxicating. Already I have painted en plein air five times in two days, and sketched in the sketchbook on three occasions, and am reading with deep appreciation the letters Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to the young aspiring writer Franz Xaver Kappus. Rilke’s profoundly personal letters are beautiful literary works, even in translation. From sentence to sentence, he makes me shudder as he addresses the creative gifts rising from solitude, and the values of the still, introverted life. Not since reading Paul Tillich have I felt so intimately touched by one who passed from our history but not from my consciousness. These beautiful souls abide.

I have also had bounteous time to read biographies on Paul Cezanne and Georgia O’Keeffe, with their fixations on their respective mountains–Cezanne at Mont Sainte Victoire and O’Keeffee at this Pedernal that greets me each day (how marvelous to wake in the morning and look from my bed to see its magnificent face).  With four sittings in the presence of this mount, I feel the opposing struggles between Monet (realizing that nature continues to change color before our eyes with the shifting of light and atmosphere) and Cezanne (struggling to depict the solid form and fixed facets in the mountain itself). And I ponder that argument between those artists as to whether it is the color that creates the form or vice versa. As I have spent three days now staring at the Pedernal, I have marveled at the shifting colors on its surface, and the complexly faceted surface that faces me each day. And as I paint, I am continually revising, questioning, and (happily) changing my palette and techniques. The experimentation is more daring than I have ventured in a long time, and it feels good, not fretting over whether or not paintings will emerge that are worthy of framing. I feel that I am back at school to discover and record new observations. And what I do to the painting is nothing compared to what the act of painting is doing to me. Martin Heidegger wrote that the artist creates the art, and the art creates the artist.

About twenty years ago, I heard for the first time Richard Burmer’s song “Across the View,” and as I listened to it, I saw in my imagination canyons and mountains as I had seen them in the movies. My heart ached to be present in such settings. I waited nearly twenty years, but finally I can say that I have visited this portion of New Mexico for the third time–all three times in this year–and I feel those deep, deep stirrings that I knew the first time I played that song. I am situated half-way between Ghost Ranch and the Pedernal that Georgia O’Keeffee believed if she painted it enough times, that God would give it to her. I visited Ghost Ranch yesterday, and will return today. Back in April, I had the pleasure of doing a pair of plein air paintings at Ghost Ranch, and after I do the tour today, I could very possibly begin a third one from that site. But meanwhile, I am very happy looking out  my back door to Ghost Ranch, and the front door to the Pedernal.

Thank you for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


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2 Responses to “Early Morning Thoughts from Pedernal Casita at Abiquiu Lake”

  1. Dian Darr Says:

    So beautiful! Love this blog post. How wonderful to find the place where learning never stops! I love that you see such many facets and origins in your work. I’m sure God is ready to give it all to you, as well as to Georgia!!


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