Tinker's Dell, 9 x 12" Oil on canvas
Last weekend I did a small 9 x12" painting of a patch of woodland in the park not far from my home. The wood has a slightly unkempt feel about it, but this appealed to me as you can almost forget you are in the middle of the city.
It reminds me a lot of an English woodland, so I liked the idea of creating a painting that could almost have been painted a century ago in some hidden valley in the downlands of England.
Today I visited the the wood again, taking with me a bundle of books to read. A red-shouldered hawk flew onto the dead branch of a tree, obviously on the lookout for a lunchtime snack. Eventually he swooped down to the ground creating a big arc with his black and white barred wings and ascended with some unfortunate rodent in his talons.
I was reading a poem by the 16th century poet, George Herbert:
My comforts drop and melt away like snow:
I shake my head, and all the thoughts and ends,
Which my fierce youth did bandy, fall and flow
Like leaves about me: or like summer friends,
Flies of estates and sunshine. But to all,
Who think me eager, hot, and undertaking,
But in my prosecutions slack and small;
As a young exhalation, newly waking,
Scorns his first bed of dirt, and means the sky;
But cooling by the way, grows pursie and slow,
And setling to a cloud, doth live and die
In that dark state of tears: to all, that so
Show me, and set me, I have one reply,
Which they that know the rest, know more then I.
I must confess I don't always find Herbert's poetry easy to grasp. But after reading this poem, I happened to read Psalm 39, which seemed to tie-in with Herbert's poem. Here are a few verses:
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath
Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
He heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
The real-time nature illustration that unfolded before me and these short readings were a reminder of the transience of life. We can place so much importance on the activities we busy ourselves with, and yet forget to turn to our creator who gives us the very breath of life.