I went walking in woodland after a sudden October rainstorm (wishing I had worn different shoes). The sun finally emerged from behind a bank of thick cloud, illuminating damp, dense, shadowy undergrowth and apparently sending a signal to sheltering squirrels that its arrival, stronger and brighter than predicted by the local weatherman, was an excellent opportunity to play hide and seek with the echo of my footfall on fallen leaves.
For some reason, more than any other scene in nature, sunshine streaming across wet tree bark inspires me to try my hand at painting landscapes. I'm going to buy a set of watercolors, I decided as I stumbled through a thicket of gleaming oaks that looked particularly picturesque. It's a promise I've often made to the creative side of my brain during similar woodland walks, subsequently always broken by a potent blend of diffidence and apathy.
But this time, just as I was envisioning my potential artistic future, a dripping leaf brushed against my forehead as I passed beneath the canopy of green and gold and russet red. It was as if I was being anointed by the tree itself, receiving a blessing from Gaia or the Oak Lord or whatever arboreal muse arranges such commissions.
So I've put several boxes of watercolors and a selection of brushes in my Amazon shopping cart. Alas, I'm already in two or three minds. Sitting here in my office cubicle, warm and dry, lit by fluorescent tubes and computer screens, I can't help thinking that maybe oil is a more suitable medium for my work. Perhaps even Humbrol enamel like George Shaw. And what about spray can on a brick wall? Conceptual sculpture? Which all means I haven't purchased any paints yet. Again.
A fairly recent scientific study suggests frequent rambles in woodland will make you a happier, kinder, more balanced human being. I believe that's true, but the frequency of rambling needs to be pretty much all the time because the euphoric effects diminish quickly once you return to less bucolic environs.
In fact, the effects probably wear off almost instantaneously. For as I stood there admiring the canopy of trees and playing with the squirrels, feeling momentarily enchanted and content in the fresh country air, I couldn't help thinking how stupid my daily routine seemed by comparison.
This is why I envy the back-to-the-landers and Agrarians, however smelly, unkempt and grimy they may be. At least they make a heroic effort to find their peace of mind. I don't even have the courage of my own convictions to find the energy to paint a simple picture. All I can do is capture a picture with my stupid phone, that umbilical cord to modernity I brought with me into the natural world.