The end of the Celtic year approaches. The days have grown crisp and the nights have grown cold. This week, Howard stoked up the old Rayburn stove that sits in our kitchen hearth; it will be the beating heart of our house from now through the winter, until spring. I wake up to darkness, make coffee, feed Tilly, then climb the hill to the studio on a path lit only by moonlight and stars. I will miss summer's warmth and ease and wide-open doors, but autumn has its pleasures too: The tang of woodsmoke. The warmth of quilts. Fresh chard, kale, and onions from our community farm. I like starting my work day in darkness, the music of Anonymous 4 or Sinfonye playing softly on the stereo, tap-tap-tapping on computer keys as the Devon hills are slowly re-created outside.
This morning I tried -- in vain, alas -- to photograph the early morning sky. The blurred picture above is the best I could do: the moon in the clouds, and the smaller moon of light from our house (below me on the hill)...a paltry image compared to the magic of the silver-gilded landscape spread before me.
Frustrated with my efforts, I passed through the hedge separating our garden from the studio, and found the little cabin glowing like a jewel against the black velvet backdrop of the woods....
I rarely see the studio from this perspective: standing outside when it's lit within, for if the lights are on then I'm usually on the other side of the window glass, Tilly beside me (or on her bed by the window) while I'm bent over my work. (The building is isolated enough that the blinds are almost always open.) Standing in the dark and peering in through the window made this most familiar of rooms look suddenly unfamiliar, as though I was spying on someone else's life. It was, apparently, a Someone Else who also loves books, and art, and medieval music, and a ghostly black dog's companionship. If I knocked on the door, would I meet this Someone? And if I did, would it she be my doppelganger...or a different person entirely?
The world is mysterious by moonlight. And that, gentle Readers, is a very good place for a day of art-making to begin.
"Creators," says musician Sheila Chandra, "create from a place of nothingness where spontaneous things arise. That is the place of the unknowable, and in our lives it is very difficult to live with what is not known, even though 'I don't know' is essential to true change and new growth. Instead we're taught to find answers to everything. Things don't happen like that, but we run our lives as if they do and that's why our lives break down. And when our lives break down, who do we turn to? We turn to the artist to express our pain, we turn to the artist to provide inspiration, and, I think, we turn to the artist because on a psychological level we know that the artist is comfortable living with the unknown. "
"The experience of truth," writes Arthur Koestler," is indispensable for the experience of beauty and the sense of beauty is guided by a leap in the dark."
Quick, before the sun rises over the hills and valley. Let's leap.