Iâ€™ve been staying in the forest North of San Francisco with little to no internet connection to work with. I have been painting and have some very worthwhile experiences to share. The conditions for painting arenâ€™t ideal, with little space to work with and the climate slowing drying times down radically, but the peace of dwelling in the forest makes up for it all completely.
Thereâ€™s a depth of quiet here that I have felt in the deserts at Death Valley and Joshua tree, both places where I believe one can be closer to feeling the presence of God, but here the austerity of the wilderness is replaced by the chaos and softness of the intermingled trees and undergrowth, with the slow rain of falling leaves and the rustling of animals gathering their food. The energy of the forest is more vibrantly alive and more human than that of the desert, where we can find simplicity and clarity, but perhaps at the price of sensuality. Hermits have always sought both forests and deserts, doubtless because they felt closer to God in either place: in the forest because of closeness to the divine fecundity of life; in the desert because of minimalism of distractions from the focus of the mind in meditation. In contrast to tales of the desert fathers as silent initiates in isolated caves austerely contemplating their relationship to God, stories of hermits in the forest more usually focus upon madness, animal spirits, and magic. The archetypal Merlin is a forest figure, sometimes resembling a wild madman more than a sage.
In alchemy we hope to purify the elements in order to recombine the four into the quintessence, recreating the prima material from which the universe came into being. In our lives we can hope to find the pure essences of material, body, mind and soul, reduce them and combine them into a personal quintessence that most closely resembles the original Adam.
For many years Iâ€™ve studied the movement of the sun and its influence upon prehistoric art and architecture in Britain. I think itâ€™s time to move into a period that is more focused upon the moon. The tarot moon shows an image of evaporation, part of the alchemical process of purification in the reflux tower, pulling the essence of the material into the solvent in preparation for distilling the essential oil from it. In this process the material is left behind, while the spiritual becomes more important. The crayfish comes to the surface of the water in the pool, suggesting that during the process the deepest, most obscured essences of the material are revealed in the solvent.Â