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Ophelia and the colors of fall

It’s changing. The air is different. Vegetation is heavy, tired and already darkening around the edges. Nature even sounds different. There’s a stillness in the night air that is tense and vibrant. The hidden chorus of insects and amphibians now sings long, suspenseful notes. It’s coming...

This year’s autumnal equinox was ushered in by tropical storm Ophelia. The timely bluster washed away lingering summer staleness, clearing the air for the season of the witch. This morning’s grays and purples have shifted to a muted yellow as the sun tries to make itself known through remaining clouds. The changes in nature this time of year stimulate the senses and activate our awareness of color. Beauty and transformation are part of the same process. I have walked out to the fig tree, looking for stragglers, but her leaves tell me no more fruit will ripen. They are gorgeous in their display, with deep greens and purples that are hard to recreate with any paints. They are the kinds of colors that must be conjured, not fabricated. They can only be invited into being through the right combination of material, light, and gesture.

This depth and subtlety of color is something I have explored over the past year, since the studio fire offered me lessons about the different types of black that can be created through the processes of alchemy. Now my practice is not so much about creating color, but allowing it. What colors show themselves when I allow them to appear? What colors want to be seen?

A gentle rain is now falling, activating the greens on this stage, engaging the entire spectrum from yellow to blue. The reddish brown of rotting leaves plays a supporting character. The gray sky says nothing. I take an intermission for another cup of coffee and realize that this performance in color is Ophelia - not the storm, but the painting by John Everett Millais of Hamlet's beloved. These are the colors of nature changing, the colors of the very beginnings of decay. They are part of the cycle of life and death, the colors of realizing that it is time to let go, even though we may not be ready. They are ones that help us prepare for the next phase.

Art helps us make these connections with nature. It helps us see deeper into the natural world and find the wisdom that awaits. Use art to help you savor every minute of the spectacle of color that fall brings - not just the leaves, but every shade of the entire drama as it unfolds.

- M.


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