The rains came last evening after the day-long build-up of wispy clouds and full overcast, then purpling clouds growing denser and dampening noise, and in the final dim quiet tiny dots of rain flecked the flagstones I was sweeping clear of dirt, bird seed, pine needles, river birch leaves and summer’s debris, knowing these rains would wash them clean.
And so they did, three successive pelting downpours that brought cooler temperatures overnight, and a magical morning of raindrops slow to evaporate on all they’d touched. I knew this display of crystals and gems would result, and planned for a morning of catching sparkling magic in my back yard at least, if not farther.
Mimi and I have re-established our habit of spending time in the back yard just after breakfast, regardless of the weather, and working in the yard on the weekend. Mimi is pretty happy about that, and so am I. Plenty of weekends have been taken up with events and projects, and I’d been trying to change my schedule so I could still get the usual work done and more I’d taken on, and I’d not stay up so late by getting started with work first thing in the morning and getting it done first, with time at the end of the day for a break outside including gardening. Work can take as much time as it takes and break time never came, and the garden and yard were getting mighty overgrown, especially after the deer ate the garden again, far beyond the backyard wildlife habitat state to where Mimi could easily disappear as did all the brick and stone patios, courtyards and walkways I’ve built over the years.
One full day each weekend since August has been devoted to a section of the yard and/or inside the house to catch up. And while the sun is still rising earlier Mimi and I have slipped outside with freshly washed laundry to hang and a small project each day. I’m one of those annoying people who wakes up with a lot of energy and can clean the whole house before 9:00 a.m., which is admirable but not good for concentration and focus if I need to sit down and design something, so getting to work first thing was not working for any human or feline in this household.
Before I even began working at home I set the pace for early morning activities to burn off that energy before sitting down to focus on work, using my own energies at their best time of day. I really would clean the house or do laundry or harvest vegetables in the garden and always scoop litterboxes before I went to work in the morning so that when I came home from work I could have dinner, then get to my freelance work without taking time for those other things. Without the day job I continued that practice as a good way to exercise before working all day, and found it was the most excellent way to mull over my work for the day, think over my assignments, plan out designs and artwork while my hands were at work on other things, so that when I did sit down to work it was all there, all the visualizations and decisions, and I could have all the rest of my day for creative work.
That early morning activity outdoors has always been supervised by at least one feline. Mimi has been impatient with my little experiment, though it was intended to give us all, including fosters, more time together. That was no concern of Mimi’s. She wanted her time outside and her time with me the same as Cookie and Namir, and Moses and Stanley and Sally and Allegro and Kublai.
One of the other things I’ve always done with those morning hours outdoors was to explore my little habitat, and the felines who were with me, with my camera and art materials, letting my eye and mind wander over the light and shadow and colors, awakening those creative senses. While I don’t get much time to “play around” while I’m working during the day, I would use that time to experiment with photos, at first on film and then with my digital cameras, just opening my eyes more and more, letting go of time for a brief time and focusing solely on a creative effort, and from that release many sketches and paintings were born or inspired. I found myself in the creative dumps without that early morning wale up routine. I thought I’d just lost my touch, but it turned out rearranging my process just wasn’t working.
Typically my back yard explorations are done with my DSLR and all the lenses I have for it. But the whole bag is big and heavy, inconvenient for photographing when I’m also clearing plants and trimming, repairing deck trim and turning soil. I have a rocky love/hate relationship with my smartphone-with-no-phone-service so if there’s no wifi it’s a glorified camera, and I generally don’t even like the photos it takes. I decided to really work on the controls, especially since the last update, to see if I could produce photos I liked, clear close-ups, details, short focal range—I had my most familiar subjects to work with in the back yard with Mimi. I did produce photos that were more like my visualizations and while they don’t have the depth of detail and color of my DSLR they don’t always need to.
But I have a lot of photos, and I’m almost overwhelmed. Each day I posted one or two on Facebook and I’ve shared those here, but I have many more to share as well, and lots more ideas for painting.
And about once each quarter, usually in the last month of each season, I take a week where I reduce computer time. It’s never scheduled ahead, just when I need to give myself a physical and mental break from sitting or standing and looking at the computer, though I still usually have regular design work to do. So after Pet Memorial Sunday last weekend , after a heavy week of work, I knew I had a few days after I’d finish a big project where I could be in my studio, and the autumn wildflowers were beginning to bloom out in the back yard so I could take that break. I had intended to have articles prepared and scheduled ahead of time but, well, I didn’t and it has to do with exciting news about kitties that I’ll be updating this week.
Last night’s rainfall did wash the flagstones in the little courtyard in front of the house as well as the stone paths where I have walked with so many cats, and the brick patio and paths in the garden that I’ve cleared again and which hold so many memories. This morning was clean and sparkling as I had expected. The DSLR came out with me along with the smartphone and I’ve included a few photos from this morning that don’t include Mimi, though she is the star and my main inspiration. On to new ventures, new artwork, new fosters, and a new season.
Read more Essays on The Creative Cat.
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