By JG Lewis
I took time one day last week, during my morning walk, to stop in the park and sketch the tulips.
With this latent spring, I’ve been waiting for weeks—perhaps all winter—for some colour after these devastatingly long months.
One of my lifetime joys (and we should all keep a list) is seeing tulips in the spring. It’s not simply a sign that I have survived anther winter; tulips are my favorite flower.
Tulips remind me of my Mom. She loved springtime.
With the cooler temperatures of late, despite a decent offering of rain, the tulips have not been abundant in the park this year. Yes, there have been a few brave souls who have managed to push through the dirt, but it’s not the same as it has been in this particular park. I’ve been checking daily, on my walks, waiting for a chance to spend some time with my camera.
The longer I waited, the more disappointed I became. While even the leaves are greening on the magnificent trees, that thick crowd of tulips has yet to appear.
Yesterday, I decided I had waited long enough. I questioned myself. Why was I waiting for something specific to appear (perhaps to match an image in my mind) when I could simply capture what was there?
I was letting expectation get in the way of my intentions.
Walking through the park, I settled on a bench with my morning coffee (easily the best kind of coffee) and found a couple of red tulips emerging from the greenery; too few to call them a cluster, but just enough to inspire some creativity.
My camera wasn’t with me, so I chose instead to make use of the small sketchbook in my packsack, and I’m never without a pencil. I sat and sketched.
I overlooked the boastful daffodils—which have managed for a while to show off their brilliant yellow (though less than usual)—but I did not ignore their persistence, punctuality and commitment to schedule. Daffodils, in a few shades, appear with consistency, as they always have, and then give way to stronger, hardier flowers. Quietly, they go about their work.
Not like tulips.
Tulips put on a dramatic show, in any stage, as they evolve from straight stems with tight buds of slight colour. They offer style and texture as they begin to blossom, elegantly twisting and turning in their own characteristic ways, first reaching up, then stretching out with wild abandon, following the sunlight or lack thereof.
As tulips open up, they share the colour of their inner secrets, offer a smile over a period of about a week before bowing and slowly shedding their petals. Tulips, through their entire life-cycle, put forth uncommon beauty and dignity. They give their lives to offer us brightness, a sense of hope and possibility. They perish, leaving us waiting for the next year. Next spring.
Tulips leave us something to remember.
I took 10 or 20 minutes on this day (I actually lost track of time) following the muse of the moment. Without my camera I could not record the perfection of the flowers, but instead captured the essence of what they reveal (to me anyway).
I produced a series of small sketches, a continuation of a practice I adopted last August that I call “mindful, non-judgmental art.” Usually, I set myself up with some watercolour paints and create a series of small masterpieces of one subject or another. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
On this day I had no paints and brushes, as I had no camera, but I still managed to create. You do what you do with what you have. I wasn’t worried about the results, or the process, but simply the feeling of the flow.
Sometimes you have to stop and sketch the flowers. I recommend it to anyone. Take a little time out of your day to capture the life that is there.
Yes, especially these days, it seems more difficult as the workplace and home-life have folded into one. Finding that spare half-hour for a mid-day walk, let alone 10 minutes to randomly sketch, is difficult. You’ve got back-to-back ZOOM meetings through the afternoon, and have been struggling to complete that multi-page terms of reference document for, what, a week? Nine days?
What’s another 20 minutes?
Take that time. For. Your. Self. Grab a notebook and pencil and head to a nearby park. Sit on the steps in your own backyard. Sketch out the flowers that are there, or the trees, or that brick wall you pass by or stare at every day. Sketch. Something.
Take the time to mindfully create.
It will do you good.
It might even help clear your mind enough to complete that ugly terms of reference document. You’ll breathe easier knowing you took a little time to specifically do what you wanted to do.
J.G. Lewis is a writer/photographer, a dreamer and wanderer, father and brother (an orphan of sorts) living in Toronto, Canada. Formerly an award-winning journalist, he now writes mainly fiction and poetry. A latent oil painter, active pacifist, and avid procrastinator who doesn’t take the camera out enough, he enjoys the snap, crackle and pop of his music in vinyl and hand-crafted correspondence.
Currently J.G. is trying to figure it all out. He expects this goal will take time. You can read more on his website www.mythosandmarginalia.com and follow his daily breath on Facebook and Instagram or Twitter @sayit4word.
Editor: Dana Gornall