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Paul Hampton Crockett
HERE is the explosion of color that seems to have burst forth as of my first sitting, which was the evening of April 18:
I’m not the type that generally categorizes my life with reference to dates on a calendar (simple translation: I'm too dizzy to know what friggin' day it is!), but 1
this one I definitely recall because it happened to be the Monday on which the IRS's orgiastic national celebration of maximum stress, otherwise known as “tax time,” fell this year. I suppose that was part of the reason I needed to paint. I just looked up this useful word in Merriam Webster's online dictionary: ca·thar·sis (n.), and found these definitions:
a: purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art b : a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension
Works for me.
I, along with generations of others who have had the good fortune to come to know the more beautiful aspects of this particular slice of Earth, have a major "thing" going on with Bear Cut. I feel deeply rooted here because I love the place, and a large part of that devotion has to do with the few remaining traces of its glorious natural beauty.
It’s not like a conscious process; far from it. Then again, it is rarely given us to know why we love the things that we do. But as I break it down, it occurs to me that one’s relationship to home, or more generally place, is not unlike that to a
lover. We are all of us flawed, often grievously so. Yet that is only part of the story, and I suspect (for that matter) the smaller part. Have we not all dearly earned whatever scars we might bear, gained in the course of fighting our personal battles? Without them, who would we be? And how could we possibly then know what it means to be Human?
It is my nature to probe, to try and understand. Yet when it comes to the grand mystery of Love, I am certain that it is sufficient simply to know that we do. That inquiry is not always clear, or simple, but may nevertheless remain the only one ever really always worth pursuing. To whom and to what am I giving my love? is the kind of rare question that even in the asking opens every door, and offers the promise of a foundation for all else to come. And it is a living question, in the sense that it cannot be fully answered just once. We must keep paying attention to what we are loving, remembering that actions speak louder than words, and that the hours add up to days, and the ways we spend our time in the end becomes our life.
My first painting done on site. Bear Cut, Storm Approaching, 1990.
And an inquiry indeed it is, for our souls follow no rules of custom, tradition, or convenience. We long for peace, yet nothing lasts, and impermanence seems the only guiding principle we can bank upon. (A singular certainty, perhaps, yet it's difficult to imagine one offering less comfort.) The whole situation can seem enough to drive one crazy, I know. But only by keeping honest tabs on our own hearts might we begin to glean even the faintest idea of the direction in which our life's path might be leading us, in the longer view and in every single passing moment. Because it is more in the moments than in the "broad strokes" that our personal maps are being charted out, revised, and re-envisioned.
And there is never any going back, not really. Not ever. To me, that simplifies matters. This wave laps against the shore this way, and the next another, but they all head toward the shore. It’s not like we need leave anything behind that we have loved or dearly treasured; we just cannot stay there. To even try is to undertake dwelling in fragile illusion, which feels good only until the walls come crashing down, and the howling winds come.
(Image borrowed with thanks from the University of Miami Digital Archives, Special Collections, http://merrick.library.miami.edu/specialCollections/asm0410/ ) 4
“Bear Cut, between Keys Biscayne and Virginia” reads the caption on the photo above, circa 1880’s, written in the hand of pioneer and photographer Kirk Munroe. The view, at least on the Bear Cut side, remains largely unchanged. In Miami, that is a truly rare and special thing. Who really knows why, but when I close my eyes for a second, take a quick moment and think of the word “Miami,” the first images that flash through my mind are blues and greens, nearly infinite in hue: of Villa Vizcaya and its surrounding forests, the island kingdom of Key Biscayne, the grand sweeping bay, the palms and gumbo limbo. That’s my story, I suppose, and I’m sticking to it. Bear Cut and its environs are very near the center of my heart.
The place is of a most welcoming spirit and has always been there for me, spectacularly so, in good times and worse. There’s no setting like it for the forging of friendships, or relationships yet tender. (On our first day spent together Scott called me “Nature Boy” after I swam him out to one of the beautiful outpost mangroves in the Bay, where we sat and talked and laughed. Years later I explored the great blue realm with Alan, and first saw the qualities of innocence and sweetness shyly emerge there, from their careful hiding place within his heart.)
And neither has the ancient spirit of the place ever deserted me during the rough seasons. Without fail she has extended her graceful embrace, even at times when I'd lost sight of what grace might even look like. During the most trying times, when the very ground beneath my feet has threatened to melt into nothingness, robbing me of my balance and leaving me queasy, she has whispered, simply and without hesitation, "Just you come here, Honey, and stand upon me." She knew, when I'd forgotten, that the sun would once again finally shine, and that until that fine day and beyond, I remained worthy of that place in the sun. She has been so very, very kind to me, yet never once ever asked for anything in return.
At its heart, Bear Cut is an inherently magical place; a spirit of mystery abides there. The magic seems to gather at first here and there: in the tangled roots below and on up to the delicate framework of branches supporting the verdant canopy of emerald and living jade above. It then clusters and multiplies, until quite shortly it is everywhere.
The way the magic comes, is like the darkness as each passing span of glorious light yields at last to lengthening shadow, and finally full night, with the consolation of starlight, or silvered moon above.
When you’re there, you can’t help but feel it.
Bear Cut Breeze ___P. Crockett
Now, it may indeed be true that the fabled realms of Oz and Asgard lie just on the far side of the nearest great rainbow, but I prefer Bear Cut because it sits just on the other side of the third bridge to Key Biscayne. I know where that is, and can take others there with me, to discover with and enjoy together. Besides, I have no reason to believe that I'd love the other realms as well as I do the site of my own greatest fables.
Every time I go and get my toes in the sand and surf there, I start to feel better right away. Life seems different, suddenly, and a completely different perspective is gently birthed. It's as if a great window's suddenly opened, wide.
Time seems to pass slowly there, quite indifferent to the clock, and with a sweetness that will break your heart and fix it right back up again. It is impossible to describe; perhaps even the idea of the open waters and the ancient happy mangroves leaves me a little giddy. And I do tend to go on...but since the annotations never have been the real point of this whole exercise, anyway, I will at last draw my ramblings to a close, for now. Wishing you and yours all blessings, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining my safari quest into the Great Unknown!
Bear Cut Study ____ P. Crockett
See you later--
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