When I was about 11 years old, my family lived briefly on a farm way out in the country in Cottage Grove, Oregon, a bit south of Eugene. I was allowed to take off into the woods near our home, exploring by myself for hours at a time. I crossed meadows and waded over the cold rocks of creek beds, eventually returning home with buckets of wild blackberries and flowers in my hair.
Actual picture of me around that age–note the hair!
This is from a poem I wrote about that time in my childhood:
If I could once again
gallop through fields of thick ripe grass
with scattered bluebells, orchids, daffodils,
ringing dots that punctuate the green;
and catch muddy salamanders in cold streams,
and in solitude discover worlds,
barefoot, bronzed, with my lion’s mane, I’d be
a wild strong girl.
I’m healthy now, of course, strong-willed, no doubt.
It’s the girl who ran so free
that’s lost to me; it all ran out.
Well, as soon as I finished this painting, it made me think again of being that freedom-loving little flower child, the feeling of it flooding back so intensely that I knew it was never really lost—that individualistic spirit is built into my personality and my basic approach to life, and I’ll always have it.
Independence, not just as a nation but on an individual scale, is an American ideal. That freethinking, self-reliant part of me is partly an inborn trait. But it’s also a product of growing up in a culture that encourages that trait to emerge.
I finished this painting right in time for 4th of July, which seems perfectly fitting—this image celebrates the very essence of autonomy, not to mention the glorious beauty of our nation’s old growth forests! Happy Independence Day!