My Latest Work-in-Progress

 

HERE is the explosion of color that seems to have burst forth as of my first sitting, which was the evening of April 18:

I’m not the type that generally categorizes my life with reference to dates on a calendar (simple translation: I’m too dizzy to know what friggin’ day it is!), but this one I definitely recall.  It happened to be the Monday on which the IRS’s orgiastic national celebration of maximum stress, otherwise known as “tax time,” fell this year. I suppose that was part of the reason I needed to paint.

I just looked up this useful word in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, ca·thar·sis noun \kə-ˈthär-səs\ , and found these definitions:

a: purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art

b : a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension

Works for me.

I, along with generations of others who have had the good fortune to come to know the more beautiful aspects of this particular slice of Earth, have a major “thing” going on with Bear Cut. I feel deeply rooted here because I love the land and sea, and a large part of that devotion has to do with the few remaining traces of its glorious natural beauty.

It’s not like a conscious process; far from it.  Then again, it is rarely given us to know why we love the things that we do.  But as I break it down, it occurs to me that one’s relationship to home, or more generally place, is not unlike that to a lover.  We are all of us flawed, often grievously so.  Yet that is only part of the story, and I suspect (for that matter) the smaller part.  Have we not all dearly earned whatever scars we might bear, gained in the course of fighting our personal battles?  Without them, who would we be?  And how could we possibly then know what it means to be Human?

Just as no kindness shown in an hour of need is ever forgotten, no matter how small, the portals of our perception of another can be flung wide open, and forever changed, when he or she becomes real to us.

Once we have caught even the most passing glimpse of the true majesty and resilience of another heart, and been thus transformed, or felt (even as we stumbled blindly in the dark) the soothing reassurance of a guiding touch we would never have dared even pray for, yet needed so much, we cannot quite ever really forget.  Come what may, we have seen the other’s “sweet side,” and nothing thereafter can really be exactly the same.

 

It is my nature to probe, to try and understand. Yet when it comes to the grand mystery of Love, I am certain that it is sufficient simply to know that we do. That inquiry is not always clear, or simple, but may nevertheless remain the only one ever really always worth pursuing.  To whom and to what am I giving my love? is the kind of rare question that even in the asking opens every door, and offers the promise of a foundation for all else to come.

And it is a living question, in the sense that it cannot be fully answered just once. We must keep paying attention to what we are loving, remembering that actions speak louder than words, and that the hours add up to days, and the ways we spend our time in the end becomes our life.

My first painting done on site.  Bear Cut, Storm Approaching. 1990

And an inquiry indeed it is, for our souls follow no rules of custom, tradition, or convenience.  We long for peace, yet nothing lasts, and impermanence seems the only guiding principle we can bank upon.  (A singular certainty, perhaps, yet it’s difficult to imagine one offering less comfort.) The whole situation can seem enough to drive one crazy, I know.  But only by keeping honest tabs on our own hearts might we begin to glean even the faintest idea of the direction in which our life’s path might be leading us, in the longer view and in every single passing moment.  Because it is more in the moments than in the “broad strokes” that our personal maps are being charted out, revised, and re-envisioned.

And there is never any going back, not really.  Not ever.  To me, that simplifies matters.  This wave laps against the shore this way, and the next another, but they all head toward the shore.  It’s not like we need leave anything behind that we have loved or dearly treasured; we just cannot stay there. To even try is to undertake dwelling in fragile illusion, which feels good only until the walls come crashing down, and the howling winds come.

 

(Image borrowed with thanks from the University of Miami Digital Archives, Special Collections, http://merrick.library.miami.edu/specialCollections/asm0410/

“Bear Cut, between Keys Biscayne and Virginia” reads the caption on the photo above, circa 1880’s, written in the hand of pioneer and photographer Kirk Munroe.  The view, at least on the Bear Cut side, remains largely unchanged. In Miami, that is a truly rare and special thing.

Who really knows why, but when I close my eyes for a second, take a quick moment and think of the word “Miami,” the first images that flash through my mind are blues and greens, nearly infinite in hue: of Villa Vizcaya and its surrounding forests, the island kingdom of Key Biscayne, the grand sweeping bay, the palms and gumbo limbo. That’s my story, I suppose, and I’m sticking to it. Bear Cut and its environs are very near the center of my heart.

Bear Cut

I’d like to share with you a simple moment of video taken there, as the swelling tide rushed in at the end of the day I’d begun Bear Cut Breeze, below.  I was on a roll and had put in probably an hour more than I should have.  I stopped to put the brushes away only when I noticed some of my tubes of paint floating here and there on the suddenly churning surface.

(You might want to adjust the volume a bit; I’m not sure.  It seemed loud on my computer, but I gave up trying to edit after putting in another couple of hours trying to figure that one out.)

The occasional inconvenient high tide aside, the place is of a most welcoming spirit and has always been there for me, spectacularly so, in good times and worse. There’s no setting like it for the forging of friendships, or relationships yet tender. (On our first day spent together Scott called me “Nature Boy” after I swam him out to one of the beautiful outpost mangroves in the Bay, where we sat and talked and laughed. Years later I explored the great blue realm with Alan, and first saw the qualities of innocence and sweetness shyly emerge there, from their careful hiding place within his heart.)


Alan Bear Cut POST

And neither has the ancient spirit of the place ever deserted me during the rough seasons. Without fail she has extended her graceful embrace, even at times when I’d lost sight of what grace might even look like. During the most trying times, when the very ground beneath my feet has threatened to melt into nothingness, robbing me of my balance and leaving me queasy, she has whispered, simply and without hesitation, “Just you come here, Honey, and stand upon me.” She knew, when I’d forgotten, that the sun would once again finally shine, and that until that fine day and beyond, I remained worthy of that place in the sun.

She has been so very, very kind to me, yet never once ever asked for anything in return.

approaching-storm2

At its heart, Bear Cut is an inherently magical place; a spirit of mystery abides there. The magic seems to gather at first here and there: in the tangled roots below and on up to the delicate framework of branches supporting the verdant canopy of emerald and living jade above. It then clusters and multiplies, until quite shortly it is everywhere.

The way the magic comes, is like the darkness as each passing span of glorious light yields at last to lengthening shadow, and finally full night, with the consolation of starlight, or silvered moon above. When you’re there, you can’t help but feel it.

Bear Cut BreezeBear Cut Breeze ___P. Crockett

Now, it may indeed be true that the fabled realms of Oz and Asgard lie just on the far side of the nearest great rainbow, but I prefer Bear Cut because it sits just on the other side of the third bridge to Key Biscayne. I know where that is, can place it on a Google map, and take others there with me, to discover with and enjoy together. Besides, I have no reason to believe that I’d love the other realms as well as I do the site of my own greatest fables.

Every time I go and get my toes in the sand and surf there, I start to feel better right away. Life seems different, suddenly, and a completely different perspective is gently birthed. It’s as if a great window’s suddenly opened, wide.


Time seems to pass slowly there, quite indifferent to the clock, and with a sweetness that will break your heart and fix it right back up again. It is impossible to describe; perhaps even the idea of the open waters and the ancient happy mangroves leaves me a little giddy.

And I do tend to go on…but since the annotations never have been the real point of this whole exercise, anyway, I will at last draw my ramblings to a close, for now.

Wishing you and yours all blessings, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining my safari quest into the Great Unknown!

Bear Cut Study ____ P. Crockett

See you later–

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5 Responses to My Latest Work-in-Progress

  1. George Fishman says:

    Blessings back to you, brother! I totally sympathize w/ your formatting exasperation. Way too much of life seems consumed with the wealth of “choices” and “conveniences” our technology affords us. Thank God for the healing power of deep breaths and times spent in the recuperative fold of nature. Beautiful new work you’ve put forth – both in word and paint. Congratulations and thanks!
    g

  2. Cindy says:

    Paul, your ability to drink in all the beauty that life and nature have to often continues to inspire. Do you snorkel at all? I wonder if Bear Cut is a nursery for a variety of fish and invertabrate species as so many mangrove habitats are. I’d have to bring my mask and snorkel and poke my face underwater to see what treasures lie below. ;-D Love you. Cindy

    • PHC says:

      Hey there, Cindy! Excellent to hear from you. I do snorkel, though honestly it’s been a while. Bear Cut, for some reason, is a motherlode of undersea life. When we were schoolchildren and the area was not yet officially “closed,” we were taken there on field trips, and even just wading out in the water saw many (to our eyes) strange and exotic creatures of the sea. Of course, swimming at Bear Cut can be a tricky proposition, because there are an insane number of currents, cross-currents, and riptides frothing about, that could be dangerous. (It makes sense, if you think about it, because so much is going on there. The Ocean is flowing inwards, mainly the Bay is churning out to open sea, and there are major quantities of water flowing through a fairly narrow channel at that exact point.)

      It looks so breathtakingly peaceful, perched safely up in a mangrove tree, and from a distance. But you wouldn’t necessarily want to be down in it, unless you were both prepared and very strong as a swimmer.

      Thanks for your kind words! Love you–

  3. Butch McKay says:

    Great work Paul. I’m so glad you included the video, so I could experience the beauty you wrote and painted about. You my friend find beauty in all things and all people, so it is helpful to actually see what you are experiencing. Honestly you could make a landfill beautiful on canvas. Thanks for sharing you talent and your heart with us.

    • PHC says:

      Thank you, Brother Butch.

      Your words lifted me and your comment about the landfills cracked me up.

      You’ve given me an idea for a whole new series: “A Growing New Horizon (or, Nature Re-envisioned by Man): The Art of the Landfill.”

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