Leonardo Da Vinci taught his students to gaze at random abstract designs in clouds or textured mud walls. “Draw what you see,” he instructed them.
I often take his advice. It’s easy to discover delightful sky-dragons or cloud castles in the air. Staring in a meditative state makes boundaries dissolve and re-form; my vision changes. Imaginary forms pop out and, all at once, I see a laughing lady, a scowling pirate, a bucking horse. So many startling faces appear in the whorls on a thick carpet where I eat, I keep a sketchbook there. The folks who appear to my mind’s eye are like visiting friends from the land of Pareidolia. (There is a word for this phenomenon.)
A few months ago, a new random field entered my life. Neighbors planted clinging, bushy vines along a hundred feet of stucco wall. Come summer, they boasted bright orange berries, deserving their name, firethorn or pyracantha. (“Pyra” is Greek for fire-colored.)
On my daily walks I watch the plants grow. When I stare and squint my eyes, I envision marvelous creatures. For months, I savor the ever-changing cast of characters. At last, I heed Da Vinci’s siren song. I photographed each character I perceived, then sketched on top of the photo to define the being. True to the Renaissance master’s tradition, I use oil paint, thinned with turpentine.
The stretching creepers resemble wings in birds, flying dinosaurs, or the whirling limbs of Sufi dancers. New friends abound.
Searching Tongue with Wide Leaps has one arm flung backward with momentum’s velocity, two aerial sensors waving atop her head. This is me, trying to savor life’s tastes as I charge through each day, attempting to keep up with and comprehend events.
Shockerola stares with a single wide eye and a stunned expression, mouth rounded in a large “O,” often my response to the strange happenings in our world today.
Mama Bird with Riding Baby is on the lookout, alert for the next meal or possible danger. As a Mom, protective instincts never die. But with a thirty year-old son, I honor his maturity and achievements by keeping quiet about my parental worries. Honestly, I try.
Pyracanthasaur Stretched Aloft has a searching look. What would it like to find? What would I like to find? I often wonder.
Bursting Bud bears a droll expression, as if it had just gained sentient consciousness and isn’t sure about what it sees. I relate, especially early each morning.
Jiving Jubilation twists its tails while arms and antennae-ears swirl in joyous celebration, like me doing a happy dance.
Mom and Smaller Bird, nest on the same branch, contented together, yet on alert for whatever comes next. My six-foot three inch son just moved to my town with an exciting new job. He lives thirty minutes away, nearby for the first time since he left for college twelve years ago. What joy to have him close, although he is the bigger bird now, me the little one.
Lightning Strikes with another new idea. What will happen next?