Friday, December 16, 2011

Clear Sight

Bird of Paradise/Island studio
I’ve been doing some thinking on my vacation; going away is often a way of coming closer to myself, of discovering what’s been stored up inside me for lo these many months.

Landing in Kauai, I assumed I would magically relax into a state of being where one activity flowed into another--not the hurried hula I find myself performing on most working days.

While there were indeed many delicious activities; ocean walks, tropical flowers and rainbows, I was surprised to meet up with some of my oldest and most familiar demons; the ones that incessantly wish to compare myself to others who seem to be more, do more, achieve more.

Birds of Paradise in situ
A hold-over from childhood, these thought pests seemed more intense than usual, even creeping into my dreams. My sister, who had joined us, noted that sometimes in Hawaii, it seems that one’s stored up issues just seep out like lava--a kind of “detoxifying” if you will.

While the gremlins nibbled and morning doves cooed, I tried to set up a studio practice--sparer than my normal routine, but something to do in order to counter my inner detractors. I decided to sit down for an hour a day with watercolors and just paint something. I picked the simplest forms I could find; lemons and limes picked from trees  growing in the yard and tiny birds of paradise that grew by the outdoor shower.                                                                                                

Bird of Paradise
As I painted, I observed my initial antipathy to mixing the color green. It brought up memories of phthalocyanine blue and viridian green oil paint in undergraduate school and my messy complicated affair with oils. I persevered and, finally, loosened my association of mixing colors which matched my mood and began instead to evoke a feeling of relationship with the fruits I studied.

What I also observed, as the days peeled off, was that after painting I experienced a feeling of clairvoyance--clairvoyance in the French sense of the word, which literally means: “clear sight.” The fabulous leaf and flower forms that surrounded me seemed heightened, standing out as if I were staring at an intricate Indian miniature. I experienced an intensity of seeing similar to the high that practitioners of yoga describe. I felt loose and clear headed. I breathed effortlessly.

Lemon Thoughts
I’d like to claim, after this time away, that I’ve returned to normal life with no worries, sustained clear sight and a pack of good watercolors. But reality, like river water after a storm, is muddy. Spending time with transparent colors and resplendent foliage allowed me to see the landscape through the mist; there are always more layers--I understood again that we can never really remove ourselves from the complex relationships of people and situations, the endless rich entanglements of this world. However, like finding a blossom in the Hawaiian jungle, I can always locate something to focus on.


  1. Beautifully articulated, Hannah! The agony and ecstasy... unavoidable, but it's the rich experience of living. Can't wait to see the paintings in person.

  2. Hannah---Aloha island girl.

    ...some little gems you've shared. Aren't the island colors just a light switch waiting to be flipped? I love the foliage, smells, slower pace.

  3. The simplicity of these paintings make me think you had a very peaceful holiday and I can well imagine you found clarity.I always think an extra week would work wonders if only we could extend our vacation time.

  4. Such a lovely post to look at and to read. Knowing there are others who are trying to find clarity at the end of the year is comforting. Where have we been and where are we going, I think are universal questions. The latter can only be answered with a crystal ball. Much love and peace to you and yours in the coming year.

  5. Beautifully written, as always. Despite our knowledge based on years, we still linger in childhood don't we? Glad you had some time to look back - and forward.

  6. This is a wonderfully- written post, Hannah. I can so identify with what you say about those inner thought-demons; they seem to dog me every day. From my perspective, I can see the "clear sight" you experienced when I look at those watercolors you did. Clear, simple, and essential- they speak eloquently of the state of transcendence you were in.

  7. Hi Paris--yes--the fragrance laden air, the deep aqua blue sea and verdant greenery reach out and take me in their embrace every time...

    Robyn--that is so true--and after the Christmas rush in our hospital, I've been wishing for just such a week! : )

    Beth--I love what you said--"Knowing there are others who are trying to find clarity at the end of the year is comforting." That captures my feelings to a T--because it's not so much about wrapping up the year as it is understanding its significance.

  8. Patty--yes, indeed we do! I loved that moment of moving past the sludge of oil that remained in my mind.

    Sharmyn--thank you so much. I appreciate your honesty--it helps knowing others are out there questioning and persevering.