Yesterday was one of the most intense, exciting, and transforming experiences I have ever had. Things were going well. The day before, in the barn studio, I had been able to complete the underpaintings for six new canvases, which requires ventilation and lots of space. The next night, the temperature would be below freezing, so I worked fast, and moved the paintings and some of the materials that  I would need to the “watercolor studio” in the house. In the morning I was able to apply an acrylic varnish, which is the way I proceed on my multiple layer work.

Then I began working on one inspired by the fall foliage. The leaves and ferns I had collected a few days ago at Jones Pond were all curled up, and I had loaned the truck to my neighbor across the street. The road to the pond is too rough for the car, so I found perfectly good maple leaves down the short dirt road we own, next to the house. I actually painted them and pressed them down on the canvas, “printing” them. This was a contrast to the spray and masking technique I had used on the underpainting.

I had forgotten  how hard one has to concentrate on creating a new concept that is unfolding second by second, with no “blueprint” to follow. Also, where was the brayer I thought I had packed to bring up to Maine? Probably back in Florida with all the shoes and clothes I had left behind, irrationally  thinking the rest of my life would be in 90 degree temperatures. I improvised, with a spent toilet paper roll, but it only lasted for one “take.”  At any rate, recycled Styrofoam and the scissors in the kitchen came into play, and the artist was “cooking.”  Then, all of a sudden, I looked at what was evolving, and I thought…”Oh, no…it looks like a kitchey crafty piece of fabric.”

Wisdom spoke loudly:”leave, go, before you do something worse.”  So I went over to borrow the truck back to drive to our “backyard” national park (Schoodic/Acadia). Patrick took out the plywood sheet that was still in the truck, and just as it began raining I told him that I liked driving the truck in the park because it had Maine plates and I didn’t have to answer questions about where I lived in Florida. Plus, I often get out to stand up on the bed to scan the scenery and take photographs ( I had thought of putting a sofa back there when the weather was warmer, so I would have mobile theatre seating). As is always the case, Patrick understood why I was fleeing from the painting, to my oceanside haven, and offered something very precious. Usually it is an exceedingly profound thought, like “You can’t find your way unless you’re lost.”  I worked with that for several days now, and its amazing what that one-liner has opened up. But this time he offered a closely guarded secret that is a place unmarked in the park, but divulged my those “in the know” to trusted visitors or friends. I took verbal directions, and drove through a hailstorm to the park.

Oh, my.  The sky was beyond dramatic, and the sea a deep blue green, almost black, like my underpaintings of Schoodic. And something was going crazy with the light…the horizon had a thick band of reflected light, like a mirror or polished silver…almost blinding.  It was then that I tried to find the landmarks for this wild and wooly place where angels fear to tread. The first try was unsuccessful, but I encountered some rocks that looked like they wanted to morph into woolly mammoths…quite different from anything I had seen previously over four months.  The second was also not the right place, but again, some of the coolest topsy turvy megalithic black rocks I had ever seen (like a Franz Kline black and white painting). The third try yielded  gold, and after a somewhat steep descent over a heavily tree rooted trail, I came upon the most incredible sight.

Confidentiality forbids that I spell out the name of the place, but Edgar Allen Poe would have loved it. It was, romantically described, ” a deep and sacred, fearsome place,” making me think of rock formations in Scotland’s remote islands. However, always finding it difficult to keep a secret, I gave directions to a trustworthy friend today at church, because she needs to go there, just like I did. I’m still seeing the chasm and caves, and hearing the rattling stones in my mind.

Now that would have been enough for a day, maybe a week, or a month. But, no, there was much more to come!  As I proceeded to the point, out toward Cadillac Mountain on Mt. Desert was a white “aurora borealis”–at least that’s what it looked like. The most intense beams from dramatic clouds all arranged on a single plane, shooting down to an obsidian sea. Was I on another planet?  Was this the “twilight zone?” Was I having a baroque religious vision, like Bernini’s St. Theresa in the Cornaro Chapel?   I stood next to the truck, awe-struck.

Then at Schoodic Point, the clouds became even more dramatic, and the  pounding surf was the only bright white on the stupendous canvas I was beholding. Just like the Italian baroque painters, there was a little genre business in the foreground: seagulls taking baths in the high tide pools on the rocks. Hey, it could snow and they’re acting like beach- goers in Florida?

Then I notice something else. A rainbow geyser erupted from one of the islands. Back on the road, I try to track it down, past where I walk at low tide to Little Moose Island, and then on to Blueberry Hill, with it’s panoramic ocean vista. Oh my gosh, now there’s another rainbow geyser, up the coast near Wonsqueak Harbor!  Is it two “ends” of a rainbow that can’t be seen except for the two places?  I try to match up the colors, but they don’t match. I drive on and park where I can look out to sea, using the truck’s bench seat as a sofa, with my head propped up against the door. I fall asleep for a few seconds, and then wake up to see more “spectaculars” …this time it’s the clouds, each one a different blue!  I mean, if you can remember every blue you’ve ever seen, it was there, and each cloud was a different blue!  Ah, what a dream I’m having…I’m seeing infinity, at least one end of it…so much so fast, proving time is a material concept for sure. And by the way, my friend from church who lives many miles down the coast, experienced the same things yesterday…as I was describing what I saw, she was excitedly acknowledging that she had seen the same things (that’s why I let her in on “the secret”). Except she had seen complete rainbows!

OK. So I stop in Birch Harbor at Mc’s Market for eggs and orange juice, and head home. I mean, it’s all beautiful, with the leaves and all. But, guess what? It’s not over. Ah, here we are in Prospect Harbor…should I stop at the “Two Sisters” and get a pizza?  No, I take a left on 195 because someone in Winter Harbor said it was glorious foliage two days ago, and by the time I got there two days ago, it was almost pitch black due to a storm at sunset.

I drive into a blazing tunnel for miles and miles of incandescent flaming color, with leaves on the side of the black road with the bright yellow stripe down the middle. Then, as I approach Jones Pond, the dark clouds almost smother the most intense eye shattering blinding light as the sun starts to go behind a hill to the west, and the hills to the north are bathed in calm, unearthly rose colors. OK Peter, concentrate, you’re on Route 1, where everybody drives too fast except when the Gouldsboro police officer is out to make some money from speeding tickets. I turn onto West Bay Road, drive into the driveway, open the door, and there are the most intense pink clouds behind me in the west. A breathtaking epilogue.

Did all this happen in just a few hours?  Did I need to see “over the edge” into an infinity beyond my most creative imagination?  Apparently I did, and it all started with knowing I needed to know something to finish a painting…only I had no idea what I was in for! And to think, I didn’t even bring a camera or iphone. I guess it will have to be painted!