Moving Through the Darkness

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For this is the truth about our soul, he thought. Our self, who fish-like inhabits deep seas and plies among obscurities threading her way between the boles of giant weeds, over sun-flickered spaces and on and on into gloom, cold, deep, inscrutable; suddenly she shoots to the surface and sports on the wind-wrinkled waves; that it, has a positive need to brush, scrape, kindle herself, gossiping.

Virginian Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

In my pre-dawn reading, I shuddered over this passage from Virginia Woolf. The exquisite beauty in her arrangement of words as she shapes ideas continually arrests me. I simply close the book, stare into the distance and wonder how on earth she managed to weave such beauty in language during deep and utter sadness throughout much of her life.

I recall the words from the C. S. Lewis film Shadowlands: “We read to know that we are not alone.” As I read this passage comparing the soul to a fish navigating its solitary odyssey below the surface of the waves, I thought of this past week spent away from public events. Preparations for my solo show and then speaking at the event sapped most of my energy, and so this quiet restoration has been soothing. Though spending hours alone, I don’t fee lonely; these gentle minds of lovely souls from the past continue to connect with me through their creations.

The Woolf quote explores the fish meandering about in dark obscurity and occasionally popping to the surface to rub against the school and engage in gossip. In context, Woolf described a solitary man forced into a social gathering around drinks. In my own life, I know that rhythm of solitude and society dynamics, and I still enjoy its richness. But I found another idea while my reading of Woolf was taking place alongside that of Heidegger.

In the midst of being as a whole an open place occurs. . . . Only this clearing grants and guarantees to us humans a passage to those beings that we ourselves are not, and access to the being that we ourselves are. (“On the Origin of the Work of Art”)

I am stirred by the imagery from Woolf of the fish gliding among the weeds, occasionally entering “sun-flickered spaces”. In Heidegger’s writings, I recall the image of a wanderer picking his way through thick woods and occasionally coming to a clearing. Heidegger’s word for clearing is the German Lichtung and is sometimes translated “lighting.” So, my thoughts this morning move along two different trains: the soul gliding silently in the darkness of solitude while occasionally stepping into the light of a social encounter, and then the soul moving silently among the darkness of thought, waiting for the moment of clarity when light enters, giving shape and clarity to an idea.

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All this just to say . . . during my quiet week I have been groping about in the darkness, searching for an idea for new art, new work, new play. Finally some things are beginning to take shape and now I am happy to add drawing and painting to my reading and journaling.

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While French-pressing coffee this morning, I found myself staring at this lovely mug I purchased last December from Randy Brodnax. While admiring its organic form and earth-tone colors, the idea formed to experiment with a composition juxtaposing the mug with a precision drawing such as found on a drafting table. By the time the coffee was ready, I had decided “Why not?” and found myself tinkering with this combination watercolor and drawing. Now I am interested in re-visiting coffee-related themes in my art. Going back over my file, I excavated this watercolor sketch done in my garage several winters ago.

Maxwell House raw photo

While working on the coffee themes, I also pulled a stack of my attempted sketches from last summer’s visits to the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Stretching a fresh 9 x 12″ sheet of 90-lb cold press watercolor paper, I played with this Grand Canyon composition.

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I feel that I am finally swimming out of the darkness and enjoying some time playing in the light.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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One Response to “Moving Through the Darkness”

  1. doubledacres Says:

    Love it. Great job. I can relate to it. You know I am pretty much a loner and like my life that way. My “light” time is when we get to spend time on the river. Our conversation is always refreshing and I come away recharged. Thanks for sharing my friend.

    Like

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