Summits and Valleys, Feet and Hands

J was away hunting last week for eight days, which meant I had the house and studio all to myself for a stretch of quiet and stillness.

I expand and contract when I'm alone. I feel myself filling the empty spaces, looking less at the clock, living more intuitively, moving with less calculation. I started and completed projects that have been waiting on the list for a season. I graveled the front walk. I bought chrysanthemums. I wandered out to stores to look at nothing in particular. I talked to myself. I worked in the mornings in my studio and went to the hardware store in the afternoons for tools and materials, and for things that will move our little household forward - all the things of daily life, but quiet and un-rushed, on my own time.

I feel small when I think of the enormity of the daily tasks of keeping up this 1940s house, this ramshackle garden, this studio with the uneven floor which has been buckled by tree roots, this leaky roof over the deck here, this drippy faucet there, the renovations that are slow to happen, the spaces my partner fills.

Living in this valley buffered clouds, by soft, wet hills, can make a person contract as well. On Friday I left the empty spaces of the house for the wide open of the wilderness. I wanted to see the Western Larches begin to glow on the eastern foothills of Mt. Hood. I wanted to hike to tree-line. I wanted to stretch my limbs and grow as tall as I could.

I work every day, and I am so thankful for it. I'm not referring to the workaday work of employment, though I do that too, and I am ever so thankful for it - that my employment is my life work. But my hands and heart and feet and lungs work, every day, on tasks mundane and plain to ambitious and frivolous, with the knowledge that this work will build to something larger. My hands draw, carve linoleum, set type, erase, wash the press, wash the dishes, gravel the front walk. My feet stomp on the gravel path to work it in, they bring me to 6000 feet for a view of the mountains. My lungs expand and contract, feeding my heart, which feeds my art. These systems do not operate independently.

Western Larches Fall

In the river valley, maples and alders are starting to turn and blanket the forest floors. The road dips up and down, riding the peaks and valleys of a story book. Mt. Hood looms large and quiet, blue in the early evening sky. I wonder what have I brought back in my heart that my hands might make?