Sunday, December 1, 2019

Art and nature are my healers

Offering.  From Phelps Park.
Loss is a path we ultimately walk alone.
It surprises.  It wrenches.  It hollows.
Grief can seem overwhelming.   Then it vanishes, to emerge again, unexpectedly.
This is not the only time grief and I have traveled this path, and I’m sure it won’t be the last

Like many artists, I am an introvert.  I am a private person in some ways, and prefer to keep my pain to myself.  Not a person to share intimate feelings.  It is how I heal best.

Years ago, I read a passage in Drawn to Nature – Through the Nature Journals of Clare Walker Leslie that helped me, and I share it as a way to continue to light the dark path for others.  In this lovely book, Clare Walker Leslie wrote of her experience when her mother became ill and grief wrenched her soul, and of how turning outward to nature restored her.  She started looking for and sometimes sketching what she called “daily exceptional images.” 

She wrote “Every day, while my mother’s illness progressed, I would find one image outdoors that I could hold onto, like a marble in my pocket that I rubbed for nourishment and balance.  This looking out at the world helped my looking in, towards my own pain.”  
I remembered this and tried to looked outward, tried to draw, to find my touchstone.  It took me a week before I could put pen to paper, but I continued to look for beautiful and exceptional images.  Just one.  Every day.  This I could do.

One exceptional image sometimes led to a universe of beauty. Not always, but sometimes.

At last I could sketch something.  Once I started, I was soothed.  Maybe it was the repetition of making lines or brush marks.  Maybe because I didn’t need to think, I could quietly and gently process my feelings.  I could be mindful about something exceptional that did not cause pain, but instead promised something more.

A sad road home  Low clouds, low hearts.

I might say that nature is my healer, and art my confessor.  Or perhaps it’s the other way around. My mother has passed from our earth and I miss her every day.  She is one of the reasons I share my art and words and my love of our natural world.  
There is still beauty if we see with softened eyes.

Art takes many forms.  When it’s your turn to walk with grief, maybe you'll remember Clare’s example.  Look outside of self, search for the beauty, for just one exceptional image, and let it soothe and comfort you.  Draw it, paint it, take a photo.  Make it into a quilt, knit it into a scarf, bake it into a pie.  

Hold that image to your heart, let it join you on your path that day, let it help to start the healing. 

If you want to find out more about Clare Walker Leslie’s works, please visit

Mainly ink and limited palette watercolor.
Aquabee sketchbook.


  1. Something.. I needed to read today, was very meaningful to me in my time of grief. Thank you. You are in my thoughts.

    1. Thank you Jim, for your kind words and thoughts. I'm glad I decided to post then, if it might have meaning and even some small comfort for another. My thoughts are with you as well, that you find solace.

  2. I'm sorry for your loss, Elizabeth, and hope you continue to find healing and comfort in art and nature. I lost my father a little over a year ago, and your description of grief is spot on. We had a difficult relationship at times, but had been in a good place for a long while, and I still find myself missing hearing his voice, among other things.

    1. Hi Kathy - thanks so much for your kind words. I am sorry for the loss of your father, and am glad you both had found a good place to connect with each other. Family relationships seem to have so many levels and facets and dimensions. They are part of who we are, and that is also a loss, no matter how much we want to be our own person. We will both find that comfort in words, nature and imagery.

  3. I just found this blog. Your illustrations are absolutely beautiful and helpful for me, as an amateur gardener. So, thank you. :)

    1. Hi Macey, thanks for your lovely compliment. I'm happy that my illustrations are helpful too. When it comes to gardening, I seem to feel like an amateur every season. :-) So much to learn...