Looking Up


Looking up is not high
on the list of modern vices
But eyes raised gives rise
to thoughts of how nice is
The shifting blueness backing
a palette of vapor splashes
Still from below but moving
swiftly on high white slashes

Looking up from my feet
I see dancing spirits on breeze

My earthy walk is gravitas
but lightness up above, a sea
Of open flowing hopeful kind
and gracious giving free
Suspended aches and moody
breaks the grayness in my eyes
When looking up I take in
All the creativity in skies


Ron Kok, June 12, 2019
Ottawa, ON

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 265: Illustrated Quote for Friday

Adopt the pace of nature

My final installment of illustrated quotes comes from the pen of American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. I think I may have been subconsciously testing the patience of the viewer by how I scrawled this quote into the bark of the tree. Let me help you out: “Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience.”

When I read that quote the first image that came to mind was a tree. No big surprise as I am a major tree-lover. I have never hugged a tree, mind you, except in jest. However, I do confess to talking to them, thanking them, and giving them a loving touch every now and again. I am always very impressed by trees – beauty, strength, personality: they have it all! To me, they are perhaps the greatest living things on this planet (sorry, human race – you don’t even come close to cracking my Top Ten). I love the big, leafy buggers. So it is no surprise that a tree came to mind instantly.

The unique part of the image was that it was of one of those incredible trees that finds root and grows out of a rock face! This past summer, while cottage-ing in Quebec, as I was in a kayak silently gliding by the shore, I was taken aback at the impressive feat those tenacious trees had accomplished. Of course, tenacity is the word that seems to fit. But “patience”? Why did this image come to mind with Emerson’s quote, which emphasizes the patient quality of nature?

As I was drawing this illustrated quote, I was thinking on that question. Really, it makes perfect sense. The patience of nature is on display in those trees finding a place to grow and mature in the cleft of a rock. Consider these questions: How long have those rocks been there? How long did it take through erosion, the expansion and contraction of hot and cold, to create the fissures in those rocks? After that, how long did it take for those cracks to fill up with the needed soil and nutrients to make a suitable place for a tree? And then how long did it take for a seed to find root and to grow in that seemingly harsh plot of ground? How long did it take for it to become that silent sentinel on the rock?

It was all accomplished at nature’s pace, hundreds if not thousands of years in the making.  That is patience.

Is it even possible for me to adopt this pace? I’m not sure. But it sounds so wonderful. The pace of life running the human race is brutal. There is no time for taking your time, or so it seems. Yet isn’t it true that the most beautiful things, the things worthy of remembering and passing on, the things that reach to the deepest places in who we are, have all been built over the long haul? Our culture is impressed by the Big Flash in the Pan, the viral sensations, the latest of this or that. But that wears thin exceedingly fast and we are quick to shuffle off one fad for another one that comes hard on its heels.

For me, the quote from Emerson, and the lesson from nature, reminds me that the most important things in my life are those things I have been given to care for, nurture, and develop over the course of time. Many of those things will outlive me, ironically enough.  But what of it? Am I so important that I cannot be simply a part of something great and not the great thing itself? Of course not.

I have been given what amounts to a brief span of time but that doesn’t mean I’m in a sprint to the finish. Instead, if I live humbly, seek good things, work to focus my energies and loves on the really important aspects of life, then the number of years becomes immaterial. Then I don’t need to race, heart pounding in my chest. Then I can relax, enjoy the scenery, and feel content in the place I play in the pace that creates things that are true; things that really last.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 168: Saturday Life Quote – Nature’s Voice

“I’ve watched thee every hour;
I know my mighty sway,
I know my magic power
To drive thy griefs away.”
An artist often speaks in another person’s voice or pictures the world from another person’s perspective. It is part of the role of art to create empathy and to help us discover what it is like to inhabit someone else’s skin for awhile. But that creation of empathy doesn’t just apply to human relationships.
For this Saturday’s Life Quote I’ve chosen a poem by Emily Bronte that speaks in the voice, and pictures the world, from Nature’s point of view.  It almost reads like a letter written from a lover who seeks to woo back the one he has lost. And it becomes a great reminder of the relationship we are meant to have with Nature, the health and well-being that can bring, and the need we have for each other in order to thrive.
There are times when I feel the natural world around me is indeed wooing me back. This feeling comes on strongest when I am gripped by all the grey thoughts of the business of existing. Bronte give Nature a voice to call me – and you, as well – back to into its embrace.
Shall earth no more inspire thee
Shall earth no more inspire thee,
Thou lonely dreamer now?
Since passion may not fire thee
Shall Nature cease to bow?
Thy mind is ever moving
In regions dark to thee;
Recall its useless roving—
Come back and dwell with me.
I know my mountain breezes
Enchant and soothe thee still—
I know my sunshine pleases
Despite thy wayward will.
When day with evening blending
Sinks from the summer sky,
I’ve seen thy spirit bending
In fond idolatry.
I’ve watched thee every hour;
I know my mighty sway,
I know my magic power
To drive thy griefs away.
Few hearts to mortals given
On earth so wildly pine;
Yet none would ask a heaven
More like this earth than thine.
Then let my winds caress thee;
Thy comrade let me be—
Since nought beside can bless thee,
Return and dwell with me.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 114: Curing a Case of the Nastys


“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”  – e. e. cummings

Sunday morning I woke up way earlier than I had to and way crankier than normal. I will spare you the details but I’ve not been sleeping well lately. My mourning mornings used to be cheered with coffee. Now even that blessed beverage is not doing the trick. However, the sun was shining. The sky was a brilliant blue. And since I had woken up before I needed to, I found myself with extra time… So, what to do?

A Photo Walkabout, that’s what.

I call my wanderings with my camera “walkabouts” for a reason. Connecting with the Australian aboriginal idea of a spiritual journey, my photo hikes are my form of opening myself up to God, wondering in Creation, and letting that “infinite” and that “yes” that e.e. cummings talks about drive out any case of the Nastys I am dealing with at the time.

It’s a soul cleanse; a mental detox via nature. Taking a camera along helps me focus (there was a pun intended there… sorry). I tend to look at things more closely, linger longer in one spot, take in the details and take time to search for the unexpected when I have a camera. I think as an artist it gives me a chance to make some instant art of the moment, or at least to know I’ve recorded something that I can revisit later. It is a tangible thing to take away from an experience of glorious intangibles.

This latest Walkabout was at one of my favorite spots: the Mer Bleue Conservation Area, a large and unique peat bog that has encouraged the growth of plants that you would normally find in a tundra region. There is a boardwalk through the peat bog. The place is a beautiful and paradoxical spot of peace and quiet along with the commotion and song of birds. I have been here many, many times over the years and I never tire of it.

Below are photos taken on my Walkabout. Did it do me good after my awful night to be out there early Sunday morning? Yes, infinitely Yes.



Cottage Days & Living Deeply


Can a few days at a cottage give you a better perspective on life? I’m not sure what it is about the quiet, simple hours, immersed in nature, but it brings out the Thoreau in me…

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. — Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”

Thoreau was in a little cabin on the edge of Walden Pond in Massachusetts for two years, two months and two days. I was in a cozy cottage on the  banks of Lac Joly in Quebec for about five days. He, quite literally, wrote the book on life in simplicity and nature. I barely rippled the surface of the depths of the kind of living he espoused. And yet because I find myself so willing to succumb to the environment on a cottage holiday like the one I just experienced, I find myself deeply effected by it all. I desperately want the contentment and peace I felt in those few days to stick to me all the year round. Upon return to “real life” I immediately began to feel those things slipping away. It was frustrating. Old habits return, discontentment creeps its way into my day, and I become very un-Walden like in a matter of hours in my so-called life in suburbia.

For five days I felt like I was really living. And I loved it. I find myself echoing Thoreau’s thoughts as I consider embarking on the normalcy of my day-to-day living: I do not want to live what is not life, living is so dear… 

So I’m looking to the feelings of a few days at a cottage to guide me for the weeks and months ahead. Can a few days at a cottage give someone genuine and inspiring guidance for the rest of their days? I believe it can. Let me share with you some of the insights that I hope will embed themselves in my spirit and, perhaps, can help guide you, too.


There is no medicine as effective as fresh air 

Thoreau wrote that the only “medicine he needs is a draught of morning air.” I couldn’t agree more. We live a climate-controlled life; an air-conditioned, central-heated, hermetically sealed life. Ironically, however, all that control over our climate keeps us merely in a pathetic stasis – like a lifetime in a plastic bubble. Getting out of the controlled place stimulates your senses to life. Humidity makes your skin bead up with sweat, wind blows and cools you, sun warms or heats you up, water soaks your pant legs as you wander through the dewy grass, a buzzing pest gives you a good jab, you feel each root and dip in the ground through the soles of your feet, rain lashes or refreshes, branches and leaves scratch or stroke your arms and face. Out of the bubble of control you discover a place that forces you to really live – in all its beautiful, painful, perspirational glory.

And it makes you feel great! Even if you are hot and tired and have been assaulted by bugs, something deep down in you, something primal, feels so incredibly great! Why? Because you’ve lived! You’ve breathed deeply of the healing air the world has to offer; you’ve released control over your climate and let yourself become just another part of the world. This is freeing and it is healing. No drug, no Cafe Latte, no Booster Juice, no pharmaceutical marvel can compare to the high of taking a big gulp of nature.

For me this means being deliberate about those trips to the natural spa, all year round; planning time to just be and let the created world do its work on me. I took every opportunity at the cottage for those five days to hike, jump in the water, go for a kayak ride, breath deep and look and listen and let it wash over me. And it felt great. Why not take every opportunity that presents itself in my non-cottage days to do the same? There is a healing place waiting outside the bubble.


 The biggest happiness is found in the smallest things

I find myself so often overwhelmed by the complexity of life. Big, Busy, and Banal – that seems to sum up so much of what the culture around me reflects, celebrates and pushes on me. But I find so little happiness in complexity, in busy-ness, in the Big Things. In fact, so often those things are the source of discontentment, leading us to believe we need more money, more time, more stuff. From this will arise contentment and happiness, we are told. Yet the opposite is true. We just sink deeper and deeper into a joyless place. And we ourselves are digging that hole.

At the cottage, we could be in rapt attention watching the doings of a pair of hummingbirds. We’d giggle at the almost unbearable cuteness of those tiny birds when they’d actually take a moment to sit still. All activity ceased one early evening, and we were hushed to complete silence, when a pair of deer ventured onto the property. We collectively held our breath and marveled at their sublime beauty and grace. On a kayak ride, the subtle “bloop” of a loon surfacing nearby made my day as I gently floated just feet from that most excellent of fisherman. We eyed each other for awhile and respected each others’ right to be.

Thoreau wrote, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” I fear that often in our haste to chase the big things we trample the small things underfoot. Yet God speaks so much more clearly through what is “under our feet”. We expect divinity in the “Grand Design” but find it much more so in the details: the elements that escape our notice when we are too wrapped up in the Big, Busy and Banal.

Truth, Beauty, Joy – these are the things that give life a reason and a purpose. We can find them all around us in the smallest of things. But we have to slow down; we have to stop, look, listen; we have to cultivate an awareness. I am blessed to share my life with a woman who is exceptionally good at taking great joy from so many little things. She has helped me appreciate the flower blossom, the gold finch, the spider web, the color of dusk. She has a childlike love of these things that is infectious.

Perhaps it is that childlike sense I need to retain, as well. At the cottage, my sense of joy in exploring and experiencing is heightened. But there is no reason why I can’t maintain that in my non-cottage days, as well. God has provided a vast array of ways to see him in the details and to learn more about what is important from what we so often treat as unimportant. I am without excuse – I can find God, find contentment, revealed in the world around me. But I have to be… intentionally.


I want to make a habit out of the practice of living deeply. Like Thoreau, when I come to die, I do not want to discover that I did not truly live. A few days at the cottage was enough to impress on me the fact that life is precious.

My life is precious. Your life is precious. Live deeply. Live well. Joy will find you and, ultimately, it will define you.


*All the photos in the article were taken by me during my days at the cottage. If you want to see more of my photos and/or my artwork, please visit my new Facebook page @ R.S. Kadoodles.