The quietness of the woods, the flow of the rivers, and the vastness of the ocean welcomed me at the Sitka Center. I was mesmerized by the area, which presented a sense of quietude and the beauty of the greyness in the winter. The contrast of the evergreen trees and bare branches of deciduous trees such as red alders and others were stunning. I felt cradled by the sound of the waves in the ocean, the murmur of the rivers, the rustling sounds in the woods, and the sound of rain.
Shortly after my arrival, having a tour of the Salmon river estuary by Ms. Sarah Greene, who explained about the restoration of the estuary around the Sitka Center, I became more aware of the significance of keeping nature as it is, and hearing its wisdom. I was fascinated by the rise and fall of the water in the estuary and started doing outdoor paintings in watercolor whenever I could go outside. Eventually I developed black and white larger scale paintings of 22 ‘ x 30” in ink on watercolor paper. Somehow the monochromatic scheme suited my experience of the wintery nature around the Sitka Center.
I witnessed different faces of the estuary by seeing the changes of the water level. One day in the extreme high tide in February, the water had swollen into a wide river, and caused the large logs to slowly float in the far distance from the riverbank. It was an incredible site of witnessing the quiet strength of water. Everything manmade looked so vulnerable. In the low tide, the water receded to many small channels and created calming sounds. All the large tree trunks in the estuary were exposed as if they were the testimony of landscape time, which exceeds human time. Gradually the dark ochre color of the grasses in the winter gradually changed to yellow green in April. The area started to be filled in the gentler light in the spring where you start to hear different singing of the birds and seeing the shoots of the trees and bushes.
All the changes that I experienced allowed me to contemplate the concept of Mu Yi that is the core of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu. This concept of ‘Non-Action’ tells us to be observant of the changes of nature and acknowledge that we, human, are a part of nature and follow the teaching of the very natural environment around us. The restoration project of the Salmon River estuary was indeed the way to listen to the voice of nature by bringing back the estuary to its original state to maintain the incredible habitats for all living beings.
June 11, 2017