Morning coffee on the deck. Late afternoon tea on the deck.
The view from my cabin at the Lillian E Smith Center is simple but stunning. I quickly developed a routine of enjoying the view as I contemplated the start and end of the day. The vista is takes no time at all to be familiar. Trees, mountains in the distance. Falling leaves when it’s breezy. Quiet in the evening.
The routine is eye-opening on brisk mornings; serene in the evening as the air cools and the day settles. The sun sets very quickly behind the mountains. There is enough light to read one moment, only to struggle to see the page that is coated in an orange glow moments later.
Two evenings ago I looked up from my book as sunset neared and saw two short, straight, parallel “traffic orange” stripes among the leaves. I am completely alone here. Bill, the caretaker, drives by every day or so and asks if I need anything. Everything is great, Bill. Thanks. He is gone. No one has been here. How have I missed this?
Even if I am walking along the road or hiking the paths, (watching for one of the six venomous snakes indigenous to these parts; I hate snakes) I would have heard a car come by. Tires crunching the gravel road is a sound that carries. It’s too far from town to walk. What has happened here?
I walk over to the stripes and cast a shadow on the ground. The orange disappears. If it’s not paint, it’s light. What is reflecting the color?
Back on the porch I notice there is a very red maple tree about 5 meters down the hill. The sun, just at the top of the mountain that will obscure it shortly, has backlit that tree. The tree is acting as a reflector. The intensity of the light on the red leaves strikes the ground at a 45-degree angle to display the two orange lines.
I’m an artist, not a scientist. I understand how light plays with colors but I cannot explain the physics. I don’t need to.
One of my goals of residency is to slow down. To think more deeply. To SEE more deeply. To add quiet to my work.
Those two stripes, created by light and angle and intensity and leaves that lost their chlorophyll, have not been repeated any evening since. If I hadn’t been open to seeing something new at that moment, I wouldn’t have known it existed. Now, that reflection — or whatever physical name it has — is part of the gift of this artist residency.
When people ask me what an artist does during residency, this will be one of the stories told.