The Nearness of Angels
The studio, almost midnight, my young cat leaps on the windowsill and yowls at the full moon.Ocean breeze wafts the linen curtains. A distant train sounds its horn as it rattles over the bridge near my old river home. It thunders over the remnants of the road built by the British in 1744, The Kings Road. Bits of it remain throughout town. Time and forgetting has renamed it Old Kings Road.
Almost a quarter of a century ago, British troops camped in my neighborhood. Their axes felled trees and their fires crackled and sent sparks into the smoke black night. Barred owls hooted unseen from moss draped limbs while hungry alligators glided the river. Egrets and other birds fished in the shallows. Souls, an ocean from their homeland, gazed at the stars in the primal darkness. Ain’t it strange how a thing can be absent and yet so near. What did they believe in?
Tonight I am at the easel, in a battle with indefinable forces to take this egg tempera painting of a snowy egret into another realm. Knowing it will not be of my doing if I succeed.
Mechanically, I mix water with French ocher earth and grind it into paste with a palette knife, then add egg. My hand moves the brush over the surface, meditatively building form and space, darkness and light. There is an intangible element of mystique in painting that eludes me.
When my father was dying, his gray eyes saw another world. I seek that mystery in my art. The elusive moment when the act of painting ceases being a conscious process and crosses the threshold from banality to divinity. The instant it becomes a presence.
Down that river from my house, on the bluff of an old fish camp, I had a studio and gallery . Oyster shell paths that crunched pleasantly underfoot meandered through a garden of flowers. A dear friend helped me create the studio and gardens, and in kind I taught her how to paint. She taught me how she walked with God.
My grandmother once shared with me a book written by Dale Evans, Angels Unaware. But I never believed in angels until, at 49, my friend died and became one. My grandma, too, passed that same year at 105.
Long ago I was on a self-destructive path. Art saved my life. Daily practice in the sanctuary of my studio, soul tethered to the easel, painting prayers of gratitude, is my portal to the Divine.
In long walks along the water, sometimes I see a white feather floating by, polished by the moonlight, and remember the nearness of angels.