the turn

3 November 2022, Truro MA

I don’t often cry. So I was surprised yesterday when I was overcome with tears about half-way into my hike along the Atlantic edge. I’d just texted Joe a photograph because I was approaching the vista we’d visited from the other direction — a hike I hadn’t been able to accomplish for a few years (clearly someone’s been doing some trail maintenance). I felt sad that I hadn’t taken him this direction, and that I hadn’t thought to try this hike when he was with me. But I wasn’t experiencing tears of sadness. And I can’t rightly say I was experiencing tears of joy. If I can describe the feeling, it was something like rightness — the sense I was exactly where I was supposed to be and maybe that I’d touched something beyond me.  

This morning, reading Martin Gayford’s introduction to the massive new book on Lucian Freud, he speaks to Freud’s feeling about the painting, Wasteground (1970): “He was fascinated, he confided to the critic, author, and curator William Feaver, with ‘the haphazard way it had come about, with the poignancy of the impermanency of it.’” (p. 7)

“The poignancy of the impermanency.”

There it is.

Last winter, writing about the teetering house at Ballston Beach, I was routinely irritated by the sentimentality of comments. I’ve long agreed with James Baldwin’s point that there’s something violent in sentimentality — largely in its erasure of real experience in favor of parochial belief. With the teetering house, the abstraction of ‘home’ — especially when you have no idea who owns a house — is a meaningless and empty projection when confronted by the primal force of the ocean. I’m drawn to the Atlantic edge, to things like the teetering house, because of their impermanence, because of the reminder that none of this is forever. And, perhaps more than anything, to remember that there are always forces greater than ourselves.

3 November 2022, Truro MA

Yesterday it was all of this and foliage. The reds, golds, and oranges of the oak, huckleberry, and choke cherry offered a bold underscore to the cycles of life – and just for a moment their juxtaposition with the eroding Atlantic edge made ‘the poignancy of the impermanency’ almost unbearable.

3 November 2022, Truro MA

Later this year I’ll be teaching a painting workshop, It Starts With A Feeling, which riffs off of a quotation from Richard Diebenkorn. I always believe this — that every great painting starts with feeling — but its sometimes difficult to remember when you’re working. So many other things distract you — materials, composition, assumptions about audience, etc. — and sometimes the feeling floats away. I also sometimes forget that a picture is knowledge, and that the knowledge conveyed may be its feeling. 

It’s not lost on me that I’m experiencing this in proximity to Halloween, Day of the Dead, and All Saints Day. Cultures have long intuited that this season, the halfway point between the equinox and the solstice is a turn from the pulsing life of summer toward the quiet rest of winter. Like a truculent toddler, I’m resisting my winter nap this year. I’m not ready. And, I have to accept, that just doesn’t matter. 

Field Guide: Walking & Painting on Cape Cod 
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One thought on “the turn

  1. The cycle of seasons is awesome.
    We’re fortunate to live with the
    contrasts. Many zones on earth
    don’t have the big transitions
    that we get to see. The changes
    stir our being and I think it’s
    good for us. It moves some interior
    emotion. Love these photos. Thank you.


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