A couple months ago, with the cooler temperatures and the start of the school year, I was able to resume my morning walks. I typically keep a fast pace and track my mileage, walking primarily for exercise, and covering up to 500 miles in a year. Walking is also a great opportunity to think about my painting goals and plans, get inspired about what I want to paint next, plan exhibits, and brainstorm opportunities to show my work.
These walks often find me wandering on paths through local forests. Being in the trees is so therapeutic for me - I find it incredibly calming and centering and inspiring, like looking up at the stars on a really clear night or watching the waves crash onto a beach. When I enter the forest, my pace slows and I try to pay attention to all the details - usually I am trying to find the deer that I know live in the woods, but often end up seeing other special things: a coyote crossing my path, big bullfrogs in a puddle, lizards on a tree, a turtle in the leaves, spiders spinning their webs, interesting plants or rocks or tracks, giant ancient trees, or areas where, for no obvious reason, all the older trees have died and the undergrowth is enjoying the access to sunlight. I pick my way over logs and across streams, stopping to watch the birds or squirrels, peering into the leaves at any rustle. Sometimes I will stop on a bench along the path and close my eyes and focus on the sounds and smells (it is so difficult not to look at every little rustle or birdsong) and was rewarded once with a fox walking very nearby when I finally opened my eyes.
It was on such a walk about a month ago that while watching the birds in the treetops, I was so impressed by the crows flying with them. They are such smart birds, and really quite beautiful, that I couldn’t wait to get home so I could start painting them.
Six crow paintings resulted from that little obsession. The four that remain are a welcome reminder of that day and my many walks through the woods, and how good things come when we slow down and pay attention.