It was a very hot and humid day when we set out to explore the wildflowers of Pheasant Creek Coulee, with small sketchbooks in hand. Each sketchbook had several line drawings of flowers we hoped to find, with a space to name it ourselves, and a space for the common name. I had anticipated moving quickly across the pasture to the hills below but this gaggle of 5 girls and 2 moms stopped to look at and appreciate every wildflower – they did not miss one – and gave each some very fun names. We collected a few to paint later and proceeded to a very steep hill full of western wild bergamots and a scary climb down (for some!) that ended with a slide several feet down to the road!!
We returned to Kerry Farm a little overheated, but cooled down with a delicious potluck lunch. We found some shade to really look closely at our wildflowers and experiment with watercolour painting. Along the way, we visited Grandmother Willow (for a little tree climbing and some feather collecting) and said hi to the horses. We ended the day with some flower yoga and gymnastics as you can see.
Sometimes seemingly disparate parts of our lives meet up and enliven each other. Here are some disparate parts which came together in me to create this small watercolour entitled “Dance of the Neurons”.
I am learning to dance. I am afraid to dance publicly. This has been helped by my participation in Journey Dance with Michelle Brass, a free flowing dance and spiritual adventure. But I want to be able to dance with my nimble footed husband, to waltz and fox trot and polka with the best of them. Each week I spend an hour with my neighbour Donna, starting with basics. Listening for the beat. Step one, step two, step three. Beginning with very slow waltzes. Some mornings, Shane and I practice in the living room. I am slow but I am learning. Shane is very patient. I no longer fall apart when I miss a step. I can find my place again. I have had a few moments of forgetfulness where I simply enjoy the movement and the music. As I gain confidence, I know this will come more. I can imagine loving dancing. … someday. I am tickled by the notion of adding a new morning ritual to the shared coffee and walk we presently enjoy – a dance every morning. This morning it was the Tennessee Waltz!
I am reading One Hundred Words for Love by Diane Ackerman. When Paul West, Diane’s husband suffered a stroke, he lost the function of most of the language processing parts of the brain. Ackerman and West are both writers, and some of their shared joys were complex, imaginative wordplay and inventing new words and phrases. Slowly with Ackerman’s help and ingenuity, West recovered parts of his brain and his language facility. Ackerman deftly explains how new neural pathways can be made even when the prospects seem grim and at any stage of life.
I am playing and experimenting with ink spills on paper. While preparing for an art lesson, I made a mistake, but loved how the ink spills and water spread on the paper. The resulting ink spill suggested flowers and paths, and before you know it, I was at play on a new painting. Mistakes have been one of the best ways for me to try out something new in my art practice. This has resulted in a whole series of small paintings which start with an ink spill, a dash of water and sometimes a sprinkle of salt. Playing in this way has opened up some new territory in me.
“Climbing the Hill”, watercolours and inks, 9″ x 12″ . This is the piece that began as a mistake.
So, the painting “Dance of the Neurons” is my salute to our neural pathways being sparked by learning new skills like dancing or shifting long held patterns and ways of thinking. (Back to dancing for a minute….when searching for a title for this piece, there is so much information about dance and neuro plasticity on the web, including a beautiful dance piece called Dance of the Neurons.)
When some people attend a Fearless Watercolour PLAYshop, they are afraid and sometimes just plain terrified. I understand because it is the way I feel about dancing. I am scared I will make a public display of my ineptness. Having a good teacher break it down for me helps. As a guide in Fearless Watercolours, I love to watch as people slowly relax, forget they are painting, watch with wonder as they fool around with water, paintbrush, liquid colour. As new possibilities blossom on the page, they also stimulate our nerve signals and they shift our body memory. Plus, we have pure fun!
Someday, I will be a fearless dancer. While I practice, my neurons are dancing to their own tune.
“Follow the brush,” writes Lynda Barry. “The paint travels down the brush and the brush travels across the paper. Once I noticed this I found I enjoyed watching the paint meet the paper. I liked watching it so much, I forgot I had a part in it!”
Here are some photos from a recent Fearless watercolour PLAYshop sponsored by the Lumsden and District Arts Council. With thanks to all who made it possible and for the fearless participants, teachers each and everyone of them.