My art supplies (probably half my studio) are packed and loaded in the car. The small amount of remaining space is stuffed with warm clothes, hiking boots, and field guides. The time has finally come; tomorrow I leave for the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park to start my time there as artist-in-residence. I rarely feel that the clock moves too slowly, but it seems like much more than 18 hours till tomorrow morning, when I will start my drive into the fall foliage of New England and into an extended time of focusing on nature and art.
From time to time when I need a quiet day without interruptions, I go to a nearby monastery. Once I stayed there overnight, and experienced the "Great Silence," during which everyone refrains from conversation, except in case of emergency, from 8:30pm to 8:30am. I loved it. Time to think, to be silent long enough for my mind to stop churning, time for the quiet whisper of creativity to be strengthened to a clear call. I'm told there's almost no cell phone signal at Acadia National Park, so I can count on being pretty much uninterrupted-- a Great Silence, this time surrounded by mountains, coast, forests, and surf.
During my time at Acadia I plan to immerse myself in the unique wonders and beauty of that piece of creation, sketching and painting what I see and experience in order to more deeply ground myself in the present moment and place and also to be able to share it with others. I'll be working with a group of middle school students (an age group I love working with) one evening, doing night sketching, something I love to do. I hope to help them develop a sense of wonder at the awesomeness of the heavens and the quiet beauty of the night. I'll also be sharing some of my sketches and paintings one morning with a group of artists who will be there on an art retreat. That should be a great time of sharing and learning together, as I always appreciate the opportunity to see what other artists are doing. Other than those times and perhaps one or two other presentations, I'll be exploring, sketching, and painting, hopefully from before dawn to after sunset every day.
Stephen will join me for part of the time, and we'll plan on venturing out on some of the more rugged hikes during that time. He likes to read or just enjoy the view and ponder the deep questions of life while I sketch, so we have good teamwork for outdoor adventures. The rest of the time I'm there will be a time of Great Silence for focusing on the gifts of the natural world and on how to share them through my artwork.
(Photos from Acadia National Park by my son and daughter-in-law, Jonathan and Minet Fischer.)