“But I’m never gonna lose your precious gift
It will always be that way
Cause I know I’m going to find my own peace of mind
On the wind
Spread your wings
I’m beginning to see…”
– excepts of the lyrics from “New Horizons” by the Moody Blues
This song is the inspiration for this painting and has always been a favorite of mine. My Dad listened to the Moody Blues a lot, so these songs shake loose childhood memories for me. I was missing my Dad when I came up with the idea for this painting and I wanted to spend some time with music that reminds me of him. This song makes me feel grateful for him. He gave me so many precious gifts – his time, his patient listening, sound advice, and love. I chose a series of photos from the ridge of a mountain that I took on a hike a couple of years ago as my starting point. The colors in photos like that are never right – it’s a ghost of what it really looked like. That’s the amazing thing about a painting. You can adjust the painting so that the colors are more like the human eye perceives them. I wanted to capture the feeling of standing on the mountain looking out toward the ocean, surrounded by beautiful rare plants and birds.
When I hear this song, it evokes a feeling similar to the way I feel on the summit of a mountain. To be in the upper elevations of the mountains is to gain a physical perspective that tends to inspire inner perspective. I wanted to work these emotions into my painting. The soaring bird in the distance is a tropic bird, and when I watch them glide, it fills me with the same mix of emotions as this song. When I first saw white-tailed tropic birds, they looked mythical with their long white tails almost glowing in the sun. They fly with effortless grace, using the updrafts of the mountain to lift high into the air. Is it possible to watch them without daydreaming about what that would be like to travel on the wind?
Dad always used to say that one of his biggest wishes was that we could go together on hikes in the mountains he loved, but he was quadriplegic, and he couldn’t hike on little paths on the steep mountainsides. Instead we would go on drives with his wonderful little electric wheelchair-type vehicle into the less developed roads of the time, up to the mouth of the canyon. He showed me how to stay still and watch for animals like otters and muskrats at the edge of the rivers. We used to watch squirrels and birds together and pick wild plums. We could not drive very far with the battery power he had on the chair at that time, but it was amazing the things he could find in such a small radius.
Now I wish we could go on hikes in the mountains of Hawaii together. I want to show him the plants, flowers, birds and waterfalls. I want him to be able to see this view in person that I have painted because I know he would appreciate it fully. He used to tell me about the caves and rocks he found during hikes when he was young and I would wish so much to find them, but of course it is impossible to give directions in the days before GPS in wild mountain range. His stories revealed to me that the mountains are magical. Anything could be hidden in the valleys and boulders. He taught me that the mountain was a place of beautiful secrets. I was given the freedom to hike deep into the mountains, even though he wasn’t able to go with me. As long as I told my parents which part of the range I was going to hike, I could walk up the street and onto the trails of the mountains within minutes. He understood my need to wander, to find my own amazing places. I found many beautiful sites; the hillside with multicolored dragonflies, the patches of wildflowers, a small waterfall, a particularly secluded bend in the river where I loved to sit and think, the craggy little cave that always contained interesting animal bones, the valley where the deer would gather in huge herds and I could peek over the rise to see them without them noticing me. It all seems like a fairy tale now, but it remains a cornerstone of my deepest self.
Now I find new treasures in a new climate; the largest breadfruit tree I’ve ever seen growing in the wild with branches that look like mature trees, the most lovely ridge view where the water is many shades of vivid blue, the best places to see certain kinds of birds, places where there are tiny frogs that fill the air with beautiful sounds, groves of ginger that have naturalized and grown tall as a forest, thickets where I can pick and eat wild guavas until I am full, a tiny stream with wild Hawaiian raspberries and a nearby spring, huge bird’s nest ferns as big as a person, and lava tubes covered with vines. There are scenes worthy of a painting on every hike!
If a hike has a summit, like this one did, I look out over the land below, and I still feel the same way I did as a teenager. I am filled with a sense curiosity about the future, I think with gratitude about the past, and I am in a place of perfect contentment at the present, looking out over the miles below. It is a timeless state of mind, fleeting yet infinite.