Mushrooms-A mouse-Snow and Tall Ships


Niagra-Arrival_web Acrylic on Gessoed Hardboard 32″X48″

Snow Comes When It Will

(Or-Painting the “Tall Ship”)

Some of us love the snow,  some of us do not. It will chill or thrill, settling gently on upper surfaces of things gone unnoticed for years.

The afternoon temperature had reached a good sixty degrees, though very late in the fall, while trekking into the woods to retrieve cut firewood, I was met with a sudden surprise beside the pathway, a larger than average mushroom.  Those mystical fungus flowers that ferment into umbrella delights overnight are always a surprise.  This large golden beauty was near a foot across, half a foot high, growing from under the side of a fallen balsam.

Mushroom-2_web

Stepping around it, making mental note to come back with the camera, it slipped from memory during the doing of tasks at hand.  The thought of the large mushroom did not return to mind for two days.  Snow!

Events pop up,  just like mushrooms.  When the first snow came, two days after discovering this golden-colored humus dweller, some of the firewood lay still waiting and now was more needed.  Another trek out onto the path for the firewood brought the mushroom back into mind. Six inches of wet snow would collapse such a soft large mushroom, and there was a feeling of regret that the camera had not been used.

Pushing a wheelbarrow over the slight incline and rounding a corner between two birch trees, there on the side of the pathway was a lump in the smooth white snowy surface.  It was the bulk of snow on top of the mushroom.  Could it be still standing?  The lump was near a foot high in six inches of snow, and there was a black shadow slit running around its outer edge.  Snow formed a smooth curved sweep over itself and into a blue black shadow void beneath the dome of the mushroom.  The snow on top made a perfect umbrella shape and came down to within an inch of the snow on the forest floor. The slit of dark shadowy void ran all around the front of the shape and faded into smooth edges filled with snow sluff near its back side. It was standing.

Getting closer and peeking in, another surprise “popped up.”  Bursting from beneath the brim of the snow-capped mushroom mound, I had startled a small field mouse; it skittered across a few feet of surface snow, then burrowed quickly into hiding beneath the surface, most likely making illusive unseen maneuvers to allude the giant.

Peeking back beneath the mushroom, there was a dry grassy cavern-like space.  It looked comfortable in some sort of strange way.  Half expecting a small light to come on and for just a moment there seemed to be a small wooden door opening up into the stem of the mushroom, it took a double blink to realize how much the imagination can meet the reality as what is before the eyes matches preconceived notions about something.  Childhood tales of small forest creatures living warm and snug in mushroom houses has been a story element for several hundred years.  In that moment of anticipation, my expectation had mushroomed into a moment’s reality.

It is not “actually” what is there that makes a great image.

It is what is desired to be seen – that needs to be in the picture.

Somehow when the little mouse jumped from beneath the mushroom, it called up a lifetime of expectations that would one day culminate in this discovery of a small mouse house in a forest floor mushroom.  Why the lights weren’t on and the door wasn’t there was almost confusing. The scene was so reminiscent of a whole collection of images and my mind just filled in the blanks.  I thought I saw a door, a light!

Winter came.

In my studio, that week had been taken up entirely with completing a painting of a tall ship.  After my mushroom adventure I wanted a “desired” image of an event from last summer.  The arrival of the famous “Niagara,” the tall ship,  coming into the port of Duluth Harbor. My daughter and grandson had joined me (along with ten thousand others) to welcome and see this special event.

Are there other tall ships? My grandson had asked after we had greatly raised his expectations of the coming ship.

“Not so many any more, they are very old,” I replied.

“I’m four, Grampa, how old is tall ships?”  “Much, much older,” I replied as I pondered the weight of his simple question.

As the ship was spotted, everyone began to chatter.  For a half hour we photographed and watched both the ship and the crowd.  The harbor was cleared for this traffic, the ship came and was escorted by many small water craft, mostly sail boats.  We would point and say, “See the tall ship, look look. Remember this.”

He is four, I will remember it, but he will remember something else.

Da-Boats-_web

He was impressed because we were impressed.  We were not so impressed with the ship, but with the privilege of seeing such an historical old ship, sailing right out of our childhood story books and into our sight.  A tall ship, that it came to our harbor, to our town.  Others saw it, others saw us see it, we saw them see it, too, and we shared it in a community sense.  Witnesses that we had seen our past.  It is important when one can see themselves seeing something. It is actually rare.

Being there is mandatory to understanding.

The ship was moored alongside a docking area by the Convention Center, and an outgoing Great Laker cargo ship began departing the harbor.  As it slid by, it fairly dwarfed the tall ship.  “Is that a tall ship, too, Grampa?” my grandson asked.  “No, that is a big cargo freighter,” I said. “It looks tall to me,” he said. “Yes, it is tall.”

“So, it is a tall ship?”  “No.”  “Is it old?”

“Not as old as this tall ship,” I said, pointing to the fine old “Niagara.”  I was lost in my moment, and he was lost in his discovery.  I was seeing the event moment, and he was seeing the entire world in front of him; to him, all things in the harbor had the same interest and the same value, he was depending on us to help separate the worthwhile from the worthless, or to say even if anything was worthless.

For a moment I was four again; he was showing me the very nature of an artist.  Any thing in the view could be a worthwhile subject, a topic, a worthy image, if looked at from a desired viewpoint.  Regardless of age or value or size, to a child, all things start out equal.  It should be so for an artist as well.  Sometimes to understand something, one must look at it from several viewpoints.

It is not “what did I see when I was there?” but, “What did I think I saw?”

Was I looking again at a preconceived notion of what others thought we were seeing?  Is the viewpoint cynical because of commercial propaganda about the event?  Was I seeing every tall ship from my story books?

Or, did I see the magical moment of the arrival of a great ship with sails unfurled, flags flying, gliding silently past the lighthouse into port beneath gathering clouds, as any great ship should arrive.  Click, Click.  I took perhaps a hundred photos for reference later.

In the studio as the research photos are laid out, I discovered the ship had come in with no sails up, the the sky was just hazy, thinly clouded and pale blue, the water a deep grey-green with choppy little waves.  The most memorable thing was the memory of my grandson asking, “Do all ships look like that?”  I was sure the ship had “sailed in,” but it had come in under engine power.

It was his first real ship.  Perhaps it was the first real ship I had actually seen, too.

For a brief moment it was as if the mouse lived in the mushroom; for a brief moment it is as if the tall ship is all a ship ever needs to be, sails up and gliding smoothly into safe port before a storm, flags unfurled, waving, arriving to fulfill our best dreams.

jmc/emc

  33-Shore-Leave_web  Shore Leave 24″x36″ acrylic on hardboard and gesso.

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21 thoughts on “Mushrooms-A mouse-Snow and Tall Ships

  1. Charlotte Hoather

    lovely story and fabulous comments, I love to read your imagination at play. How fabulous to be able to display so many of your pictures to the public I wish I was closer to see them.

    Reply
    1. eightdecades Post author

      Thank you for visiting and commenting, and If you were closer I could also go and hear you sing, I have enjoyed your postings of your singing as well, and your comments about your performance and schooling. I am well and getting ready to paint a new set of illustrations for my children’s book, so have been very distracted and not getting my blogging done in a timely fashion. I have a large art showing going at LeJaques art gallery in Aitkin MN. and that kept me busy framing for almost six weeks.
      So now maybe I can get back to blogging!
      Nice to hear from you

      John

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Sunday with my Muse | ladybluerose

  3. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

    and as I wander,
    I wonder
    where the voice
    of the beautiful stories
    has gone?
    painting away
    passing each day
    in passions bliss
    anything better than this
    YES ! 🙂
    for you to come see us/me
    with more of your
    beautiful art to see
    whether within words
    or paints to create
    a picture for us to take
    deep within our hearts eye
    to feel, laugh or cry
    so I send
    on the wind
    a smile
    across the miles
    to you!
    🙂
    )0(
    Take Care You Matter and are missed very much!
    maryrose

    Reply
    1. eightdecades Post author

      Ah thank you so much — a personal poem you write as I wander this night
      my tasks have distracted so much that I flounder a bit
      I have finally managed to get the art up and showing at the Jaques Art Gallery In Aitkin Minnesota. It took aver seven weeks just to build the frames for the forty two pieces of art. So now I am behind in getting the images posted but hope to actually get started tomorrow.
      I do so appreciate that you sent me a message and even noticed I had not been around.
      Thank you also for the smile on the wind!

      Reply
      1. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

        and I wish you great success on your showing..
        I hope you put up images of your show for us here
        I would like to see 🙂
        Take Care…You Matter
        Have a wonderful day
        )0(
        maryrose
        (and of course I notice when you aren’t here ( I am waiting for the bluerose and mouse LOLs)

  4. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

    in the blink of a moment
    surrounded by contentment
    the light came on for me to see
    the door in the mushroom beckoning me
    as it swung open wide
    I was surprised to see what was inside
    two paintings hung side by side on the wall
    one tall ship, the other one not so tall
    the little mouse smiled, oh so proud
    for he saw what you did that day with the crowd
    he new an artist heart when he crossed your path
    he dreamed of giants rising the ships masts
    you smiled as you saw he painted the same scene
    within that mushroom home, kindred spirits it would seem
    meeting to share a smile and reflect on a distant dream
    )0(
    maryrose

    I just knew you would paint a picture of the mouse in his mushroom house
    with the same two works of art, just much smaller to fit on his wall 🙂
    what a wonderful read of your life in each moment …I loved the thought
    of your grandson making you pause to reflect on his questions…
    if only all the world took time to do this for a child, we would have magick all the time I think
    a great post John…another one to make me smile as I wondered within your words..
    Thank you for sharing…
    Take Care…You Matter…
    )0(
    maryrose

    Reply
    1. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

      excuse the mis-spellings I really should proof read before I click, but I know you won’t mind 🙂
      you’re just nice that way!!!! 🙂
      )0(

      Reply
    2. eightdecades Post author

      Wow what a wonderful comment, and a poem to describe it all. Yes actually there is a mushroom painting in process and a mouse too! I am not sure I really became an adult until my grandchildren taught me how to be one, and now I want to learn to be a child again!
      Thank you for your very encouraging words, and your very fine poem with which you delivered them.
      John

      Reply
      1. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

        You are very Welcome, I always feel like writing more (than I should 🙂 ) when I visit…
        as I am on a quick break from gardening, I replied to something you commented on early
        on my blog for some reason…
        I just knew there would be a mushroom and mouse LOLS…felt it had to Be…
        as for being a child again, your art shows you have the innocence and spirit of a child in love with life and has the wisdom of an olde soul, What a great combination !
        and Thank you…you have made me smile once again when I needed one…
        Take Care…You Matter…
        )0(
        maryrose

  5. carentaylor

    What a lovely story! I think it is wonderful that our imagination can fill in the gaps we want filling subconsciously, our brain’s way of creating a perfect picture! 🙂

    Reply
    1. eightdecades Post author

      Thank you , yes and I wonder now how many memories I have that are actually accurate! Have we all been filling in what we wish as we remember?

      Thank you for commenting, reading and liking the post.

      Reply
      1. carentaylor

        It could well be that we all do it most of the time without realising, I think they are ‘rose tinted’ memories, as we can never really go back and check again in most cases, I think we should all enjoy things however we remember them, as long as they are nice of course 🙂

  6. Mark Lanesbury

    Always from the eye (and heart), of the beholder, and what they create from there. You have created something wondrous for me and a small boy. Even a mouse under a mushroom brings a smile of true worth.
    Thank you for the share John. I smiled within, I felt the journey, and knew the beauty of what you saw. I wasn’t there, but I could feel it from a true storyteller. Namaste

    Reply
    1. eightdecades Post author

      Thank you for reading and appreciating, it is a true story and not contrived. The very next year a large mushroom did re-appear and I did get a photo. I am going to post it in a soon to be follow up.

      John

      Reply
      1. Mark Lanesbury

        Oops, sorry John. I did not mean to imply it was just a made up story. I meant that when someone see’s something their ability to capture it and retell it comes from within. Meaning you did just that by expressing yourself to the boy about the sailing ship…and the mouse’s home under the mushroom for me.
        I reread what I wrote and it did imply that. My apologies! 🙂 Everything I have read of yours I can always feel the truth of your journey. It has been interesting times, has it not. To see so much…what a journey. Take care, Mark.

      2. eightdecades Post author

        Strange these comments, I felt you were complimenting me and yes you were, I was not offended, i was feeling very complimented. thank you for your comments, and heartfelt responses. I just thought maybe some might not know it was a real thing that happened to me, I was self fooled into seeing a door and a light where the mouse lived. It was so strange that my mind took me there.
        Thank you for the encouragements.
        John

      3. Mark Lanesbury

        Not fooled, just a beautiful connection to see that John 🙂 Maybe just a knowing from all those childhood stories and adventures that the world tends to wean us off as we grow up. The world would be a lesser place without them, for we are built of them. And I thank you for always sharing, it makes life a happier place to see and feel that others share our journey too. Namaste

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