I prepare myself to begin painting. I slowly, carefully lay out my brushes and my paper, and fill my painting tub with water. The temperature of the water is important—not too hot, not too cold, a lukewarm temperature that I feel the brushes will be comfortable with. I am ready.
I am painting a strawberry tonight. The light on the strawberry must fall in the same way it would fall on the vine. But how can I get this single strawberry I have brought with me to stand upright? I look in my paint bag of miscellaneous supplies and find a small piece of black foam core board and a straight pin. I push the pin through the board until the board will set flat and the pin is straight up. Reluctantly, because I cannot think of any other way at the moment, I lower the strawberry onto the pin. A drop of juice comes out of the strawberry and settles in a little pool at the base of the pin. I am beginning to wish I hadn’t done what I did, but now it is done. I cannot waste it or change it or not paint it; not now. I proceed.
When you put a stroke of watercolor down on paper, you only get that one chance at it. If the stroke is wrong, the only hope is to get out a new sheet of paper and start over—there is no erasing a mistake. If, however, the first stroke looks okay, you are on to the second stroke. If the two strokes look okay, you can continue. If the two strokes are trending in a way that does not look good, the only choice is to get out a new sheet of paper. If I were to go on in this manner, analyzing each stroke, it would eventually drive me insane.
Instead, I must let go of all expectations, releasing my control of where the painting is going. I paint by instinct in a state in which everything seems alive to me. My brush is alive, the paper is alive, the water is alive. Most of all, the organism I am painting is alive. I merge with all of this aliveness; I am no more. We are all doing this painting right now together. Even you, my reader and my viewer, are merging into this process.
I paint steadily now. One stroke follows another. Now the brush is suggesting a different angle. Now my pallet of colors is making a new suggestion. My hand moves to any color—I make no distinction—back to the paper, touch the water ever so lightly, back to the paper, back to the pallet. Whoa! What is that green stroke coming out of the bottom of the strawberry? Cannot stop. Dismiss that thought. Regain composure. Continue on. But I cannot.
I realize the green stroke at the bottom of the strawberry is the pain the strawberry is feeling. My hand has given record to that pain. I stop painting and remove the strawberry from the pin, considering sadly the little puddle of strawberry juice on the foam core board.
What should I do with this painting? It seems it is a record of pain. But then I realize the painting is also a record of an intimate contact between alive Earth entities. It is a record of the extraordinary communication, all unspoken, that is possible between entities here on Earth.
This painting is done, and done well.