Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Desolation row out here. Didn’t see a single soul for the few hours I spent on these cliffs a good distance from any of the more visited headlands in this region. I’ve been told this is the site of one of the oldest human settlements in North America. Long departed now, nothing remains but a man made hill of shells and refuse surrounded by the windblown dunes built up around it. That and the wind. The wind has always been here.
As I was scouting the headland doing the legwork of composing this painting there was a large platform of bare rock extending just below the vegetated bluff that was begging to be explored. The views from this platform were suitable as they were, but as with any time you find yourself in a spot like this, you have to walk out to the furthest edge as well. A finger of rock with a maybe 10 foot flat area extended from the platform a good 30 feet or so, sheer cliffs dropping straight to water on either side. From this vantage out on this ledge these 5 seacaves became visible while from just 20 feet back on the broader platform none of them could be seen.
If you’ve followed my notes about painting these on-site paintings, you know what an issue strong winds can be, and the difficulties they can bring. The wind this day was already blowing steady with undertones of far greater force to come and it was still only mid morning. It takes about 3 hours to set up my gear, tackle a painting this size, and pack it up again, so I knew that by the time I would finish a painting here, I’d be dealing with a fairly tense situation.
Now I had a dilemma. I forgot to mention that the broad platform from which the finger extended was rimmed by ten foot eroded dirt bank that provided excellent wind block at many locations. The view I sought was out on that finger though, and as it was the wind was blowing from off the open water directly behind the formation, slamming into the face creating all sorts of turbulence, and rushing onward toward these caves.
In these times of decision I always take a moment to seek direction from the Silence around me. Even in the noise of life there is always Silence around each of us, and within that Silence, a Voice, easy to miss, but impossible to ignore.
Go out to the edge and paint. Beauty is never without risk. I am with you.
Ok then. It was quite a chess match getting set up here, requiring total concentration on each movement and considerations of weight and flight risks for each element involved in my painting process. Rocks were gathered. One item at a time moved into place while the rest remained weighted down until bit by bit, all was in order and the painting could begin.
In the midst of all this, other voices were present in the wind. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned. Not threatening voices, but not welcoming either. The Silent Voice seemed to be speaking back to them and something in me was in awe of the conversation taking place around and within me while standing out on this precipice unknown and unseen by a single soul. They were ancient voices, but not as ancient as the Silent one. I couldn’t understand their conversation but continued on unsure of what to expect. I began to wonder if this was a sacred site, and my presence was in some way violating an unspoken boundary.
I noticed mists of white blowing past me as I painted, always passing between myself and the headland to the left, as if to separate me from the land I came from. They’d blow over the finger I was standing on and swirl down seemingly into the cave below. At first I thought they were stray bits of marine layer caught up in the wind but then looking back to see in the direction of the wind and seeing nothing but bluebird blue skies out there I figured maybe they wisps of moisture from the breaking waves below. It wasn’t until I was nearly finished painting that they began to hit me directly and I was a bit surprised to find myself being pelted by sand. From where? The nearest dune around was literally the base of the mound left behind by the ancient civilization just a few hundred yards behind me. That gave me a moment of pause in appreciation of nature’s poetry. A more appropriate body for these voices I’d been hearing could not ever be found.
I also took it as my cue to wrap it up out here and proceeded to methodically deconstruct my mobile studio in reverse order. If there ever was a windblown disaster in the making (thing gear flying off cliffs, painting blown out to see, artist vanished) this was it. I attribute this painting surviving to be enjoyed today (sand embedded in the paint and all) to the One who is with me always. Many thanks to Silence.