Still Learning to See

Earth's crammed with heaven and every common bush a fire with God: but only he who sees takes off his shoes. - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

For the first time I saw the difference in sunlight and I couldn't have missed it if I tried. I spent five days in Miami for work and returned to California late in the night. I woke early the next day to the strange light in my room. What a different color the sun is in Miami - strong, piercing and white. While in California it is gentle, yellow, creating softer shadows. I was delighted to realize that I'm finally seeing the different light. Watercolor is the medium of light. So after all this time, I see the difference, but can I paint it?
Training one's eye to see to paint the light on a flower pedal or the shadow on the field might seem like a completely different task than seeing in one's life. I have to work on seeing the sacred and not labeling someone or something before I truly see them. Sometimes I see what I so badly want to see, because it's just easier. When I paint a still life in strong light I have to look for the light on, let's say, the apple. I have to leave it blank because on my palette there is no white. The light, the white is the paper. It would be so much easier to take heavy white gouache and place it where the light hits the apple after I'm finished the painting. But it doesn't look nearly as luminous or true. I sometimes do that with people. I've decided he is wonderful but I have not seen. I myself paint in the light because I didn't look for it so now I have to paint it in trying to make him work in my painting. Over the years, I've learned that before I start painting, I need to sit still and look at my subject matter for a while before brush hits paper. You look for the lights. You look for the colors you see in the shadows and in the reflections. You look to know, so when you finally paint, you do so in certainty. And you keep looking all the while you are painting. Another wonderful paint metaphor to be applied to life, especially my life. So now, I put my shoes back on, lace them up and leave the bush I thought was burning. I never will stop looking for the sacred in life and people. But, I plan on taking my time to really see before I take my shoes off again.
Zinnias from my garden painted August 2007