What inspires the upwelling of creative expression? Often for me, it is Place. Deep in the Redwood forest something happens, akin perhaps to my Welsh genes; wildness stirs.
On the valley floor a fern forest responds to the wet sounds of rain. The fronds unfurl, spread their green wings, bend under the symphony of drops falling from the canopy. Giants support and are supported by a community of biodiversity, life cycles which have generated one another for endless centuries. This particular grove has never been cut by humans. It has been struck by lightening, burned, held it's breath in drought, careened in furious winds, had its roots bared from flood and covered with silt from the hills. One senses that nothing is particularly easy here, yet the peace which permeates is not deceptive. There is, what I call Spirit, alive here.
An ancient forest regenerates. This baby may tower in the valley 1000 years from now. Presently in the nursery, cradled in the belly of an ancestor, small yet tall and straight, learning the art of rain catching. There's hope in the rotting, untold genius in having all its needs met in this present moment.
Red wood. Slabs on the peat, straight grained, looks freshly cut. Nothing is dated. My eye, drawn by the stunning color, notices the complimentary green arching over wet red.
I am nourished here, in this forest. Back at our cabin a book lies on my bed. The Gift, Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, by Lewis Hyde. I was compelled to purchase it a couple of weeks ago, after spending hours at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, immersed in the infinite creativity of David Hockney. Why did my eye fall upon its simple cover, it being the last copy on the shelf? Picked it up and in the same motion pulled out my coin purse. I did not want the exhibition catalogue, as I was intrigued with merely being in the presence of this prolific, stream-of-consciousness body of work. While the exhibit has rooms of portraits, I was drawn to the walls covered with huge drawings, paintings and digital images of Place. I recognised a kindred spirit; One Who Stares.
Lewis Hyde has taken me on somewhat of a roller coaster ride, from tales of the Pacific Northwest; capitalism; a story of the Wise Hare, being a Future Buddha; an explanation of how AA works on gratitude as a true teaching; how Ford Motor Co. cribbed a cost-benefit analysis and sold thousands of dangerous Pinto cars and trucks whose fatal flaw would cost hundreds of human lives, and on page 84 asks, "How does a person go about deciding to give someone a kidney?"
The artist appeals to that part of our being... which is a gift and not an acquisition --- and, therefore, more permanently enduring. Joseph Conrad.
I do not pretend that I fathom where this book is taking me. I do know that there is a force within me which stops me in my tracks when I look into the clear water moving through the Redwood grove, its surface dancing in concentric circles, flashing white light on the underside of ferns draped over the bank.
In the perfect system, sky is mirrored below. Somewhere in this sensory miracle a painting begins.
A Redwood gathers water from the sky and channels it down its truck. It knows how to do this, bringing the water close to its body, directing to the soil and its own shallow root system the life-giving moisture, even during drought years when the coastal fog is the only source of mist. Therein is the gift.
All of this knowledge, of which the human is aware of a fraction, is contained in the seed of the Queen of Trees. Already here, it awaits the perfect moment to begin its journey which will span centuries. The Redwood is a gift, a grove a treasure, the Spirit and inspiration of the forest is priceless.
I am grateful.