Late February- the snow is deep and getting deeper. The past month brought sub-zero temperatures, blizzards, ice storms, rain, and even thundersnow. It's not over yet. Our patience and fortitude are being tested. They will be tested again when February's record-breaking snows melt and waterways rise.
Subtle signs that spring is tiptoeing our way are here- robins swooping in to finish off remaining high bush cranberries and crabapples, cardinals and finches singing their spring songs, and the woods have ever-the-slightest rose and yellow edge, indicating sap is beginning to rise. In the north, we understand that nature means change, even when it's not as swift as we'd hope.
The intersection of nature's reality and human imagination is seductive. The human mind believes in possibility, potential, and self-determination. Our behaviors, though, as those in all of nature, seem to follow predictable patterns. Discovering these patterns and how we, as part of nature, affect and interact with them is the life work of artists and musicians and scientists, nature lovers, engineers, and problem solvers of all kinds.
It surprises me to look back on photos I took on the trail during the time I was painting a particular canvas. Though the paintings are abstract and entirely unplanned, the canvases and photos evoke similar feelings in me, especially with the understanding that each painting is five feet wide and four feet high.
I believe the colors and marks that exit the end of my brush are a way of documenting Nature's complexity- data imbued with the power of revelation. When it's going well, paint barely clings to brush. It enters a swirl of color, pattern and form that records experience, maybe even thought, in a way as real as the brush in my hand- someone just needs to untangle the patterns to discover the algorithm.
In the meantime, I'm surely ready for a tranquil spring. How about you?
Artist and naturalist Michelle Louis has a vigorous curiosity about the natural world. She walks with intention in wild places at least 1,200 miles yearly, much of it on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. She makes art documenting her experience along the way and in her studio.