Water Walkers

In Creative By Nature Art Blog, Creatures, Water by Lisa Lipsett1 Comment

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I seem to be attracted to swarms of things today. I am in love with the dance of many as one. It started a few weeks ago with a swarm of mosquitos near the crook of a Garry Oak tree. I saw the swarm in the early morning hours while camping on a rocky hilltop on the south end of Salt Spring Island. I loved how everyone stuck together. No one strayed far out of reach.

This morning my attraction to swarms resurfaced as I looked out over the smooth waters of Lake St Peter in central Ontario and saw sparkling gold glints and swirls. Thousands of water striders were riding the lake currents from one end of the lake to the other.
Water Striders
Swarming bugs have been the topic of much conversation and fear this holiday. When on a walk on the dusty dirt road leading to our cottage, robust swarms of horse and deer flies buzz around me from head to toe. In the evening as I watch the sun go down if I look into the distance I see layer upon layer of mosquitos approaching as if some foreign invading air force is methodically claiming their target. This spectacle is very unlike the dancing swarms of mosquitos I see on Salt Spring. On first glance, the Lake St Peter invaders seem benign and content, only to switch gears in an instant to full on attack mode, hurling their sharp faces behind my knees and under my collar. My husband complains that if he sustains even one bite he feels itchy all over. So he flails his arms, covers screens and door jams in duct tape. My child looks like she has measles. It’s clear that these mosquitos are very powerful in large groups, I have no way of keeping track of each and every one. There are far too many to deal with. I smartly wonder if I calm myself, they will pick up the mellow vibration and chill as well- like bees do. Quickly it becomes clear that when mosquitos switch to their attack channel, they have the upper hand.
The wind has picked up as I paddle towards shore thinking I might see some Water Striders there. I never noticed before how much they bob and chase and jump after each other. They are simulaneously smooth movers and comical in a bumper car kind of way. The striders are calming as the water calms. I can never seem to get right up next to them though without them moving off to keep a safe distance.
So I decide to commune, and draw with them…
right hand eyes open                    left hand eyes open
left hand eyes open           right hand eyes open
right hand eyes closed           left hand eyes closed
Right hand writing: They are making such jutty motions every which way. They are never here nor there. They are always everywhere. They rarely take a straight line to a destination, theirs’ is an interesting varied multidirectional journey. They are also clearly individuals making their own movement choices.
Left hand writing: I love the ripple their bodies make. Each new jump creates new ripples. When I look at these drawings I am reminded of the mapping of constellations- like when people join stars, join the dots to create meaningful shapes and stories. As I look back at the Water Striders I see one spinning round and round like a propeller. I’m sure he doesn’t have wings.
I also remember a jellyfish migration I once saw in Belize. Red Thimble jellyfish bobbed in the current in astonishing numbers. Last summer large numbers of moon jellyfish came through Salt Spring’s waters. Some joked that you could walk from one to the next without touching the water. Others said that too many of them signalled an imbalance in the ecosystem. Is that the same for Water Striders. This morning they were everywhere thickly riding the lake current. Is my beloved Lake St Peter unbalanced?
I wonder about swarming. Is it only when we feel in danger that we feel swarmed? Sometimes I feel swarmed by the energy of others. I become consumed by the buzzing around, the complexity, the seeming chaos of it all, swirling, jabbing, spinning around my head. In my dreams last night I was swarmed and threated by dark skinned youths with guns. They were pointing their weapons at my head. I cradled each of them in my arms in turn, like they were small babies. I stroked their heads. I felt suddenly safe. They seemed calm.
Maybe swarming is about us versus them. We are surrounded whether on land, in the air or in water. We feel vulnerable, overwhelmed, outnumbered and inconsequential. It’s their banding together that makes us afraid.
I stopped paddling and placed my paddle across the beam of the canoe and laid my paper and paints on top. The Water Striders have become dots of black in an everchanging moving palette of watery colour. Then I notice incredible water ripples here in the bay- gorgeous multicoloured roundy rings of moving colour underlie these creatures. I am lost in the vibrancy of that colour kaleidoscope. I feel dizzily seduced and swarmed by its colourful potency.
Amazing Water Patterns
Then I decided to paint the Water Striders.
left hand eyes open          right hand eyes open
right hand eyes closed       left hand eyes closed
Right hand writing: This has been such a peaceful ballet. I could feel the texture of the paints on my fingertips. Maybe the Water Striders can feel the cool wet smoothness of the water on their tippy toes as they glide along.
Left hand writing: smooth graceful simple……
A dragonfly just landed on my left knee. Now another is on my notebook!
I thought it would be fun to try and focus on the Water Striders and the psychedelic water ripples simultaneously as I drew and painted.
eyes open
eyes closed
right hand eyes closed
left hand eyes closed
I loved the challenge of focusing on a particular Water Strider while softening my focus to take in the over all swirling water patterns. I didn’t seem able to do both simultaneously rather I changed channels back and forth from one to the other. Leonard Shlain in his book The Alphabet and the Goddess writes about the different proportions of rods and cones in male and female eyes. Men have more cones which are good at sharp focusing on a particular object.Women have more rods which are great at taking in the overall pattern, the soft gaze. The exercise of focusing on the Water Striders while staying connected to the vibrant water motion revealed how hard it can be to do both well at the same time. When I focused on the Water Striders I no longer saw the swirling motion. When I opened to the swirly motion it was as though the Water Striders didn’t exist. With each switch in perspective I’d swear the other was not there.
Creating with Nature reminds me to look again and to be mindful that there is always something new to see. It also teaches me to find a balance between focused looking and a more softened gaze.
What draws your attention today? What happens when you move from sharp focus to a softer gaze while creating?
I’d love to hear from you. You can share your own artful Nature encounters by joining my community site at http://www.creativebynature.ning.com/ and posting your experiences and artwork there.


Lisa LipsettWater Walkers


  1. ahava

    wow, I feel inspired to look more closely at my world today. Thanks for your beautiful communion,


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