Nature Notes: Thoughts from the TreeSong Community

 Featuring Anna Wiancko-Chasman

     As Fall deepens, the days darken and leaves color, the hearth beckons and thoughts turn inward. Dampness moves us into our homes and into our dreams.

     But I do love summer. It brings play and sunshine, long busy days and starlit campfires. Birdsong and flowers fill the senses.  As an artist, inspiration is all around me, under the brilliant blue skies and vermilion sunsets or while walking mountain meadows and rocky trails. The delight of the natural world calls.

     Though the days are long and sunny, for me it is hard to be inside and miss anything. Taking to my studio is something I do only when all the outside chores are done and I’m satiated with natural beauty.  And summer joys of family, friends and barbecues, paddling on a lake, beach combing and garage sales……

     So I must command the muse to be still and wait.

     But now, in Fall, she rejoices in the cool dark drippy days. It is the season to create without the distraction of the ever exciting and changing plethora of birds to watch, deer and wildflowers to photograph, vegetables to water, and weeds to continually conquer.  For me, Fall and Winter are the renewed opportunity to be in my studio, conflict and guilt free. I greet my space like an old friend, getting lost among saved summer sketches and photographs, paints, clay, metal scraps and driftwood collected on sandy beaches. I apologize to misplaced and forgotten projects, half started, like partially opened gifts.  Others, less successful, are simply a reminder that summer art making can be hurried and disjointed.

     But now I look from my window as I work, watching raindrops give themselves to the gray swollen river as it urgently flows toward its timeless rendezvous with the Columbia. The Washougal now glitters with golden maple and cottonwood leaves being swept along on the river’s journey, while mystical pockets of fog rise up from the water’s surface, mergansers hidden within its mist.

     From my window I can see birds at the feeder, busily preparing for cold winter nights, or long miles south. These wondrous sights often captivate me, yes, but for now I am simply a spectator. The view is like a meditation. Watching the world outside my window becomes a dreamlike state that leaves me open to a deeper level of creative thinking and art processes. This inner world explodes with inspiration, problem solving, experimenting. As the river flows, so do my ideas, coming to me with fresh sensibilities and new perspectives.

     I organize my shelves and discard dried paint, display new summer treasures, restore neglected bags of clay and jars of glaze. I move overflowing beads to their new home, a clever and useful container snatched up at a garage sale. I add new shelves for papers, canvases and frames that were piled on the closet floor. I clean the “junk” drawer so I can find my Scotch tape, labels and thumb tacks. I remove unneeded boxes and clutter. Clutter on the outside creates clutter on the inside, but this prioritizing and organizing ritual clears my head and grounds me, allowing me to be more focused and fully present in this treasured space.

     With a fresh bag of white clay, I move to the end of my work table. Its smooth surface is bare except for jars of tools and bowls of water. The deeply stained wood of this surface, its solidity and thickness, is a constant reminder of its original task: as my horse’s stall door. He is missed, but here I feel his energy, smell his coat, and am inspired.

     Large windows offer their splendid view and in the soft warmth of the stove, as I wedge and work the cool clay, these sensations and sights, together with the soft tactile feeling of this earthy medium in my hands, bring me peace, gratitude, and joy.


Anna Wiancko-Chasman

For more about Anna and her upcoming ‘Creating with Clay’ classes,
click here.

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