Light that Doesn’t Illuminate
Work in Progress (Detail): Stories Told by Water, charcoal, ink & gouache on paper, Leah Wilson
The creative process often feels dark and murky.
Sometimes shining a light on it makes it worse.
Highlights on a Lizard’s Song, oil on muslin on panel, Leah Wilson
Only the Present Exists
Pre-dawn mist in the forest swirls in front of me creating a bright wall that obscures everything, including the trail. At most I can see undefined shapes 3 feet in front of me, but no features. I can’t even see if the trail rises or dips in front of me. My legs can only detect what is happening now: we are running up a hill; Now we are running down. The light only illuminates enough to see where I plant my next footstep, but even so, sometimes even that is still guesswork. I focus on the edge where the smooth smooth trail meets the textured understory: That is the trail.
Only the present exists.
South Yuba Underwater, photograph, Leah Wilson
If I switch off my headlamp, it is only black all around. Too much black obscures everything and the edge is gone.
If I switch my headlamp to a brighter setting, nothing exists but brighter swirling mist. Too much light also obscures everything and the edge is gone.
Occasionally I see a point of light blinking as it weaves in and out of trees above me, then later, one below me.
At Purdons with Cali 1, oil on muslin on panel, Leah Wilson
Is That You?
There is a call from somewhere above me, “Casey, is that you?” It is me, but I am not Casey. I do not reply. I am only a point of light blinking as I weave in and out of trees below. I do not hear that call again, and I never see the origin of the voice.
This is where I am on the trail. This is where I am in the studio.
Drifters III, oil on panel, 17 x 17 in., 2012, Leah Wilson
I can see where my hand draws a line and where that line may lead to the next, but no further. It is all dark around it, metaphorically, and if I try to shine a light to force illumination on the process there is nothing. It is all gone. When this happens, I sit and stare at the drawing until I regain my bearings by finding where I last made a mark. This is the edge of the trail, where the smooth trail of the unfolding drawing meets the textured, dark understory of the unknown.
Sometimes I hear an idea calling from somewhere else. But the idea is searching for Casey, not for me, and I never end up encountering it. The one that I am following is on this trail that I cannot see in front of me.
Work in Progress 5 Detail: Stories Told by Water, charcoal, ink, gouache on paper, Leah Wilson
Slow Down – Only the Present Exists
My legs are forced to run slowly because my eyes cannot see far. My hand moves slowly across the paper because I cannot see where this line I am drawing with charcoal is leading and I cannot project it into the future very well. This drawing is as immediate as the running trail.
The sun will rise soon and then I will be able to detect rocks, roots, rises and dips as I run. But for now, only the one foot hitting the ground, a wall of swirling light, and an occasional weaving point of light and a call from the dark exists. There is no past. There is no future. There is only this one line being drawn right now. Only the present exists.
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