Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Painting and Seeing

Yesterday I noticed red shouts of color burning, branding themselves into the mountain. The scrub oaks are turning. In snatches now, with more coming. And the air is cooling. This is my favorite time of year. But I am finding it hard to say goodbye to summer.

Just a few weeks ago, I took Eliza to Albion Basin - an alpine bowl beloved by skiers, carved into the top of one of our local canyons. It was her turn for a date with Mom.

Red shouts of color met us there too, in the form of flower, rather than leaf.

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Indian paintbrush, bright and brilliant like this, cropped up at our feet.

Every August, wildflowers bed this basin in a glorious menagerie of color. Pictures don't do justice. Words don't do justice. It's the kind of thing you have to see for yourself.

I snapped a backpack on, Eliza tucked our lunches inside, and we set off for Cecret Lake.

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Bluebells were our first discovery. Wispy sprays of the faintest blue, dangling across the trail.

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As we wound our way up the mountain, Eliza noticed each new pine, how it grew out of the ground new and glossy, like a tiny Christmas tree waiting for the perfect buyer. How soft its needles were, as we ran the tips of its boughs between our fingers. The smallness of these trees enamored Eliza. She wanted her picture taken by each one. She spoke to them, said goodbye and hello, even hugged them on occasion. (The true definition of a tree-hugger.)

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We made it to the lake just as an afternoon thunderstorm rolled over the peaks. A few drops speckled our shirts, but nothing more. The hair on our arms stood up as we prickled at the sound of thunder, stuck our tongues out to catch rain.

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I spoke with this darling mother on our way up the trail who was carrying her newborn baby. She was friendly and kind - even helped Eliza spot a beaver who was sunning himself on a rock. This woman's husband and sons had gone ahead. But I saw them reconnect at the lake and climb out onto a large rock together. I couldn't resist this shot. I wish I had been closer. It says so much to me about family.

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The wildflowers were endless. We walked and explored, and Eliza climbed rocks. I had forgotten how extraordinary Utah summers are. Now that I'm getting out a bit more, I feel so thankful for the gift of living here. This wondrous place is only a half hour from our front door.

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Eliza took this picture as she stood in a field of goldeneye.

I rather like the angle.

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She also happened upon these asters, growing against all odds out of a diamond-shaped crack in the rock. Nature has such an indomitable spirit.

I cherish these one-on-one times with my children. They are rare. In the hustle of our busy household, I have to be deliberate about the time I spend with them. Taking them out of the mix on occasion so that I am alone with them is important.

Away from the kitchen chatter, they open up - tell me things I wouldn't hear at home. I notice the twinkle in their eyes, hold their hand in mine. It is so much easier to see them for who they are as individuals. I have more freedom to slow down. Long enough to hear what matters to them, and view the world through their eyes.

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Eliza's one request for our outing was to paint while we were in the mountains. So after our hike, we found a hilltop with a view. I pulled the easel out of the car. She donned her pack full of paper, paints, and brushes, and we climbed to the top of this hill.

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A family of moose (my Dad would call them meese) live in this canyon. We didn't see them on this day, but we've seen them before. So that is what Eliza wanted to paint. A moose.

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Could any setting be more picturesque?

Turn a circle here - pivot 360 degrees - and you realize you are truly standing in the tops of the mountains.

I painted too.

Tried to capture this panorama.

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Tell me it's about the exercise. The process.

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Not the finished (or in my case unfinished) product.

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It was a special time for us. Painting in this place together. I stepped away for a few moments and watched Eliza kick off her shoes so she could air her toes, feel the dirt, draw her brush across paper, free.

Seeing her barefoot against this green backdrop, with wildflowers at every turn, I realized we are all painting something. A life of our own. A life for our children. And what we see makes up the color, the size, the beauty of our work.

It's all about what we choose to see.

And who.

Last week, I was a bit mired down by the hardness of it all. I was having trouble seeing past the mess, the needs, the doing. But I am determined this week to see each day, each task, for the relationships being built. Not the job that needs to get done.

I smiled back at Eliza who glanced over her shoulder to see where I was.

It felt good that day, to see her.


11 comments:

  1. I love it. I love the photos, I love that hike, and I love your perspective. The mountains are such a sacred place. I've never been anywhere that compares with the Albion Basin.

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  2. Cath, i can really feel the power in these images and your insight. you really are administering. xox

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  3. I can't believe I live so close to such a beautiful place and I complain about Utah lacking beauty and trees. Thank you for this beautiful post. The words and the pictures are equally beautiful. I am determined to make sure our one on one time happens this month.

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  4. What an incredible place! Absolutely amazing. Those wildflowers are magical. What a beautiful day for you and Eliza. Could she be any sweeter?

    I love your words about spending one-on-one time with your kids. "Away from the kitchen chatter, they open up". It is amazing how just being with one child once in a while creates the right moment for connection and sharing. Eliza is one lucky girl to have you as her mama. The essence of Catherine is so good, sweet, and pure. What a blessing you are to your family and the world. Thank you for sharing.

    So sorry that last week was such a hard one. I've been thinking of you and wishing you joy. xo

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  5. Melinda - Sacred is a good word. I am loving your recent photography. My! you are gifted!

    Cristie - Some day we ought to talk about that word - administer. You can share with me your wisdom. I love you.

    Kristen - Compared to Georgia, it's definitely not as lush. But mountains like this are simply amazing, aren't they? You sound happy and good. Can I see you soon? Get a copy of your demo CD?

    Anne Marie - Thinking of you too. I will email when I have a few minutes. I hope you are sleeping well, and those empty school days are full of happy things. xo

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  6. What a wonderful opportunity you took to spend that time with Eliza. I'm sure she will remember that experience for a long time. It will encourage her love of painting. I love the pictures, especially of Eliza painting in such a beautiful setting. I think it could win an award!
    Your thoughts about the experience were touching, and a good message for all of us. Love you!

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  7. beautiful! i luv that you paint together. i luv the pig tails. moments like these should be frozen in time...
    excited to see you and the girls on saturday! *cami

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  8. wild and precious at it's best. I know your children treasure their one on one time with you-- you make me determined to work on that at my house (and I think we need to hike Cecret Lake tomorrow).

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  9. Great memories made, no doubt.

    Tonight as we traveled home from an early evening event the sunset burned in the low sky and I pulled over to let my kids feel warmed by it and I thought of this post, Cath. Could your next session with Eliza and her easel be spontaneous to capture a sunset? Wouldn't that be amazing?

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  10. I can't believe how gorgeous that all is...and just steps from your door! What a beautiful day to spend with that cute little Eliza.

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  11. I like your thoughts on seeing people. On really seeing your daughter for what she is at her center and the beautiful picture of what you have created and who she is, alone, as a daughter of her heavenly father. I like the contrast between what she is because of you and what she is because she was touched by The Master's hand.

    There are so many times in my life when I feel like I see people and I struggle to catch that image and capture it to remember later. My mother as she ruffles my 28 year old brothers hair, my siblings sitting together late one night after one of our family dinners; talking and laughing and hating the idea of being the first to leave, my friends during our quiet talks. The ones that give me goosebumps because of how thin the veil feels and I know that He is teaching us something just so important.

    I feel like the struggle is in living and how little time it takes to live each day. It really isn't long at all. As I see things for what they are, or what God intended me to see, each moment seems smaller than the last and I begin to understand what the Lord meant when he said, "The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord (D&C 130:6-7)."

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