There’s something about winter that makes me want to paint night scenes. Probably because in the northern hemisphere there is more darkness this time of year. Night can be magical and mysterious, which is what I’m trying to convey in this painting with a dramatic sky and a full moon shining through the clouds. “Creatures” tend to become more active at night, though in the dead of winter, I’m not so sure. I bet most sensible animals slow their heart rate down and buckle down until warmer times. I like to think of ourselves as slowing down too, to take a breath and look around? Nah, of course not.
Well, the sun has set on our 5-day Into the Sun blog series. Thank you, thank you.
It has actually been more than 5 days; I have skipped some days and the reasons vary – rain, laziness, too much work at work. But, when I did write, I found this little exercise very refreshing. It has helped me use a different part of my brain (or use the brain differently) – that is, the act of writing creatively. And, it has definitely helped me to notice and celebrate the sun during this season of change. However, no matter how mindful we try to be; it is inevitable that we get swept away by a wave of confusion, anxiety, and haste. Maybe this wave is a byproduct of the society that we’ve created, I don’t know. But, if we can bring ourselves back to noticing things and get out of the funk every now and then – bravo!
Lastly, I leave you with some fun facts about the sun (from https://space-facts.com/the-sun/). Cheers!
- The sun is not a perfect sphere. It is imperfect by just 10km between the poles and the equator.
- The sun is a yellow dwarf star (main-sequence G2V star).
- The sun is 4.6 billion years young.
- The sun is 70% Hydrogen, 28% Helium, and 2% other stuff.
- Our planet can fit inside the sun a million times.
Hopefully, you are inspired to learn more about the sun or just to look up once in a while.
Hello, again. If you recall, in the initial “Into the Sun” post I pledged to be more aware of the sun (for 5 days, anyway). And, so far I have done nothing, but shower that big shining ball with praise – the star of aesthetics, the giver of life, yada yada…
I think it is time to be mindful of how irritating the sun can be, especially, when you’re driving home from work at 5:45pm. At this time, the sun (purposely of course) positions itself at precisely the perfect angle along the horizon, where it pierces your eyeballs and you struggle to correct your vehicle away from incoming traffic (protective eye wear is futile). Then, the police car on the side of the road starts to move, but hesitates and then remains in place. The eager law enforcer must have realized that I was not intoxicated yet, sensing that what made me swerve was the same thing that kept him concealed in plain blinding light. So, as the teaching goes: we aren’t always comfortable when we are aware, we are just there for whatever is.
The trail turns eastward and the walker, if walking early in the morning, is rewarded with an illuminated morning view of Boston Mine at Harriman State Park (NY). This old iron mine was last worked just before the 1800’s came to an end. With the sun shining so dramatically over this relic, the walker may be seduced for a closer look into the mine, as I was, but do beware of unsteady rocks and saturated ground within. Best to have a quick look and continue on sauntering.
The sun is many things – a star, a giant sphere of energy and hot plasma, the center of our solar system. I also think of it as the star of aesthetics. It is the main ingredient to a beautiful landscape painting with a rustic old barn; if the direction of light is well represented it is likely a success. A light and dark side is key, but what about temperature and feel? The sun painted on the hillside or riverbank adds a feeling of warmth and comfort to the picture, and the viewer may unknowingly start to smile, as a result.
The stage is set by a solar spotlight. This morning the light is cast on what may seem like random spot of dirt and rock. But, this little lit-up soil patch contains millions of organisms – nematodes, algae, bacteria, and many other. I wonder how many earthworms, pill bugs, and millipedes are hiding under the leaves. Is there a salamander under that rock? I’m not typically a stone-turner, but I do get the urge once in a while.
Nope. Just an assortment of bugs scattering about. This time of year, the photoperiod (aka hours of sunshine) is on the decline in the northeast; this patch of soil and its inhabitants now have a big workload of leaves to decompose, as a result. The Jays seem particularly rambunctious nowadays, as their calls have gotten noticeably louder and more frequent. I wonder if they too are concerned about this photoperiod business; never enough time in the day to cache all those acorns, I suppose. Thanks for planting all those oaks, my friends.
The sun is the heart of our solar system; it is a driving force behind much of the activity (seasons, climate, currents) and life on earth. Throughout history the sun has been worshiped and debated; ancient civilizations built stone structures (calendars) to mark the sun’s path through the seasons. During the days of Ptolemy, most believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Then, much later, we learned it was the other way around. Today, many people are still excited about the sun, especially during phenomenons like the solar eclipse, but most of the time it sort of goes unnoticed.
This is an exciting time of year to notice the changes! During the next 5 days, I’ll make an attempt to be a bit more mindful of the sun by noticing its intensity and position in the sky. I may try to compare to the sun’s presence a month ago. Each day, I will post a photo taken “into the sun” as a way to reflect on the sun during this time of seasonal transition, when the sun becomes a bit dimmer and more pleasant, like turning down the lamp light in the house for a more relaxing mood. I hope this little 5-day activity inspires us to notice our natural surroundings more often.
A friend recently gave me a book called “How to Connect With Nature”, written by Tristan Gooley. At first, I thought, “are you saying I need help connecting with nature”? How dare you; after all, I attended “Nature College” and earned a “Nature Degree”. Of course, I dare not actually say any of that stuff and I thanked him profusely for his kind act. But, hang on a minute; my friend is actually spot on! Reading scientific papers about deciduous forests is not the same as experiencing a deciduous forest, fully with the senses. Better yet, hiking through a deciduous forest and identifying plants with a wild, scattered mind is not the same as experiencing a deciduous forest, fully with the senses.
I’m only a few pages in, but so far I like it. It seems the purpose of this book is to give people practical tools to make a profound connection with Nature. Sounds very cliché; we hear it on television, musicians sing about it – take it all in, commune with nature, they say. But, to consciously want to connect with our natural surroundings, in my opinion, is not a common desire. I had a friend tentatively make the following request a few times per year – “take me hiking, dude, so I can be one with nature and shit”. I assume this request came out of the idea that going to some scenic setting with birds and a nice overlook would seem cool. But, perhaps there is also a good chance that folks who want to take a hike for commercially inspired purposes might develop a deeper interest in nature through that experience.
It seems that to be present and “feel connected” is no easy task, even for people who really want to experience nature in a primal sense. For me, there is often an in and out signal – sometimes I feel more aware of my surroundings and sometimes I feel foggy-headed and distracted by thoughts of what has occurred in the past or what might occur in the future. This dilemma seems to circle back to ancient teachings about the practice of awareness and staying in the present moment. I believe this is the fundamental step for people who want to “connect with nature” in a truthful way. There are many wonderful sources out there for folks who want to learn more about mindfulness (and I don’t mean to use the term “mindfulness” as the marketing buzz word that it has become). Below are my top 3 favorite sources that I follow on this topic, and I hope you can benefit from them too. Happy trails!
3 Great Websites About Awareness / Simplicity
Audio Dharma – an archive of Dharma talks given by various speakers.
Zen Habits – a blog about finding simplicity and mindfulness, by Leo Babauta.
Raptitude – a blog about getting better at being human, by David Cain.
…Nature-inspired watercolor paintings available on our Etsy Shop!