egg tempera painting of Drift Inn Beach, Port Clyde, Maine, by Daniel Ambrose

This One. 1st Version. Egg tempera

Two Years Ago

The morning after I got the news, I went to the beach before sunrise. I walked out onto a granite outcrop. Standing quietly, I stared into the darkness, listening.

Sounds of unseen objects and beings moved across the water. Sounds of life.

I open my paintbox, place a canvas in the lid, and scan the ghostly shapes forming on the horizon in the gray light. Searching for something to focus on, searching for clarity, for anything other than the story replaying in my mind.

Distant islands appear than disappear in the mist. Birds circle and cry, dip for fish and fly away. I watch the tide come in, lap at the rocks, and retreat.

All things must come and go.

What remains? What is eternal in this endless cycle of beginnings and endings?

One form continually becoming another. Emerson said. “We dance around a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows.” What is certain, is the eternity of the circle.

Still, what “secret” is this that causes our eyes to appreciate beauty, that makes us feel love, that we know when we feel it, and we know when we do not? These questions that we ask of life, of ourselves, when events take a course different than our expectations, circle this holy secret.

Rilke advised “… try to love the questions themselves… Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.”

Be present in the moment. Truth lives in the moment.

That morning in Maine, a dark pyramid appeared out of the silver stillness. A young tree. My thoughts lingered on that lone pine.

This moment… This one.

Silver light bleeds into pink, surrenders to golden yellow, becoming… always there is this thin becomingness.

I choose a paintbrush, mix gold on my palette, and touch my brush to the canvas.

I will paint this one.

Two Years Later

A silver dawn is breaking on this solitary Maine shore. What remains? Sea, sky, rocks and still, that tree… tangled up in memories.

But the memories had not arrived yet. Not that morning two years ago when I painted that tree in the sunrise. Memories arrive after the event has passed into time. Memories are the embers of life’s fires.

The tree is still holding on. By Grace I am still here. But now I come to this beach, carrying in my heart what is not here.

Five beautiful souls passed into memory since the year I painted that tree in the sunrise. One by choice, four by death. Beloved, irreplaceable souls.

Soulful tones. I’ve been thinking about tones; musical tones, tones of color, tone of a thing, of paint, of place, of voice. Tones of emotion.

The rich tones of life hum in the sea, sky, trees and all livings. I imagine the beautiful spirits of loved ones shining in ethereal tones of light. Their memory alive in a spring bud, in diamonds of sunlight dancing on water, every rainbow a blessed reminder of the joy they brought to my life. One thing becoming another. I honor their memory, the memory of all I love in my art. Memory lives in the wind. Love never leaves. It is always present, reborn in another form.

I will celebrate this rebirth.

I open my paintbox, open my sketchbook, choose a paintbrush, carefully mix a transcendent color, and touch my brush to the paper.

I will paint resurrection.

This One.

Initial color sketch for This One. Oil on paper, painted en plein air

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun.

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