Alchemy

Alchemy, pastel painting by Stephanie Thomas BerryAlchemy
pastel & watercolor on paper
19″ x 31″

I finished this piece last year but finally got a good digital image of it, and am posting it here as promised. I’ve been practicing geometric forms this winter for my next large piece, but I am so busy with other things that my artwork is on the back burner.  However, once the dust settles, I will be immersed in many exciting creative projects!

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keepsakes and wings

Winter Trees in the Sun

Yesterday it was warm enough to climb the ridge behind my home without a jacket, just a brilliant orange scarf wrapped around my neck like a flame. It’s not a long walk, but halfway up the trail gets steep and then is crossed by fallen trees. Several years ago one of the trees fell–a white oak–and I would either climb over it or walk the long way round. Now the fallen oak has shed its bark; it is soft and moss-covered and lays upon the earth.  I can merely step over it.  I don’t know why that’s important except that it marks how obstacles deteriorate over time.

Halfway up I here an engine below, climbing up the trail. It is my thirteen-year-old son, and he’s chasing me on his mini-bike, which is like a small motorcycle with fat wheels. Apparently he has decided, a little late, to accept my invitation for a walk, and is using this machine to make up for lost time. I wait for him.

He is all smiles. We climb the steepest part together, slipping on leaves and breathing deeply. He recounts the time he slid down the leaf-slick slope and ended up in flips, and considers a re-enactment, which he thankfully decides against. He praises our dog Simon for his cheerful ears and gleeful jumps and admires his eager nature. On the way back he finds a good swinging vine–a more thrilling undertaking than sliding down the mountain–and swings from it again and again. He is all smiles. “We should all do this tomorrow–as a family!” he announces as we come in sight of our home.

Later, after dinner, we are all piled up on each other with blankets and pillows. The latest issue of The Sun Magazine arrived in the mail and I have been reading aloud selections from Readers Write. The theme is keepsakes. As usual there are some real gems.

Later Denali places his hand on my shoulder.  ”Thank you for homeschooling me,” he says, his voice sincere and kind.

I lift my eyes to his and respond, “You are welcome.”

Denali frees a junco on a recent homeschooling expedition

He goes about his business and I return to my magazine. But I am moved by his tenderness and gratitude. Homeschooling has been a huge undertaking for me, as it is for any parent that chooses that path. It has been an uphill climb more often than not. There have been many fallen oaks and slippery slopes. But also swinging vines and frolicking pups. I do not regret one moment of the chaos. I know that our time is ending–whether or not he goes to high school next year like he is considering–he is growing into himself, stretching his wings, getting ready to soar, and his hand on my shoulder is my keepsake, something to hold onto as I learn to let him go where he wills.

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Bloodroot with Five Friendly Ants

a micron pen drawng of bloodroot blooming with five friendly ants and a border with seeds

It’s a bitter cold night here in the South Toe Valley, and I’m snuggled up in my bed thinking of all the little bloodroots sleeping in the frozen ground, waiting for their moment. It’s still months and months away, but they’ll bloom first, emerging from the ground with their one leaf wrapped about their one bud like a green blanket. There won’t be any leaves on the trees yet, but bloodroots are brave.  And cooperative. The seeds of the bloodroot come with an extra package of yummies called elaiosomes that attract ants. The ants carry the seeds to their nests and feed the bloodroot’s culinary creation to their larvae. Then they toss the seeds out into their very fertile trash pile.

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weekly drawing in progress: bloodroot

bloodroot in micron pens
I’m having so much fun with my drawing for this week! Sometimes–or maybe most times–I take myself so seriously that I find it difficult to enjoy myself.  And it can be hard to recognize that state of mind of being ever-so-slightly stressed.  But it definitely shows in my work, I think, and my weekly drawings are exercises in fun!  Which means some weeks they don’t happen.  This little drawing has a playful quality to it that means I’m smiling as I go.  Now if only I could carry that over to the more mundane work of daily living!

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approaching solstice

The days approaching the Solstice are small jewels, little rooms of gold light that close quickly upon themselves. A quick breath. A black shawl over the shoulders.  In the flush of summer I think back to winter days and can’t imagine this time, the days so very short, the mountain’s shadow cast over us by three in the afternoon, the chill that follows. It seems so impossible then, and yet here we are in the dark quiet of the year, the season of shadows, and the light of the Sun is so rare its never taken for granted.

I am often lost in thought, dwelling in the realm of my inner landscape, cultivating relationships with things that are not manifest in this world, but that present themselves as real, very powerful forces, in my life.  Dreams and spirits tangle and weave with my thoughts, I descend into their landscape, time folds, and folds again.  Such is the true nature of this season, that will present itself if we could still ourselves.  As busy monkeys, we never find this easy, and Christmastime?  Good luck with that!

Still, I carve some space in light and in dark to record my dreams and ponder their meanings.  I walk in the golden sunlight and am infused with warmth and pleasure.  I write, I draw, I muse.  I put aside the hurrying and incubate light and imagination.  I cut snowflakes and they are charms of goodness adorning my home.  Snowflakes from this year, and years past, that speak of the magic of the Water, blessed element.

And then I think about what gift I will give my son.  I’m still undecided.  One week to Christmas,  and oh!  There are people on my list without gifts!  Ack! Time to go shopping!   Monkey, busy yourself!

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