Yesterday, as I walked the back country roads of Sonoma, I took in the vapor smells of the Eucalyptus trees, the vibrant pink color of the cherry blossoms, the rows and rows of stark vineyard landscape. As I looked around me, I thought of the artists who infused their surroundings into their work: Willa Cather, Karen Von Blixen (pen name Isak Denison), May Sarton, and Georgia O’Keeffe, just to a name a handful.
Their identity, the places they called home lived and breathed through their books and paintings, interweaving into one, a rich colorful tapestry of their lives and art; whether it be in Cather’s pioneering terrain of Nebraska, Denison’s wild life of Kenya, Sarton’s poetic moments of New Hampshire and Maine, or O’Keeffe’s desert landscape of New Mexico.
I recall Denison’s song of Africa and am transported to a time and place in her world. “If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”–Karen Blixen
I am there with her. And my love for Africa grows more intense.
In Cather’s, My Antonia, I remember one of my favorite passages in the book where she wrote, “I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge.”
Cather describes a ‘bloom where you’re planted philosophy,’ a natural happiness that grows green right under your bare feet.
How many times have I looked outside myself, my life, my surroundings for happiness, for escape?
I don’t want to be anything more than the woman in the vineyards, than the pumpkins on my porch, than the warm sun on my skin, or the hot air balloons flying over my home. I don’t want to be more than the red dahlias in my pots, or the red wine on my lips, or my children giggling in the front yard or the blue sky and white clouds floating.
Georgia O’Keeffe said, “To create one’s own world in any of the arts takes courage,”
It takes courage to write my new life into being; to ‘be’ with life in the full sense of the word, but the beauty of it is infinite.