Day 17. Tend it well.

“Your Mind is a Garden, Tend it Well” 6×6, oil on canvas 

I started this one before day 16 but there was something not quite right about it, but the idea of it, the little built in frame, led me to yesterday’s painting which came quickly and without the strain and struggle– the very best way to paint.

As it turns out, all this one really needed was a different color near the bottom, one that would make the birds stand out. When things aren’t going well, my first instinct is, 100 percent of the time, to keep going. To struggle through. To preserve. To will the problem to its resolution.The truth it is taking me 42 + years to learn and relearn is that the best antidote to things not going well is not to go on but to stop, breathe, get some distance, and then come back to it with gloriously fresh eyes, a wonderfully calm spirit. 

As I was painting this one, a song came on called “Bend Like the Willow” by Nahko And Medicine For The People. The lyric, “Your mind is a garden, be sure to tend it well/ Where you find the water is where you find yourself” felt as though it were sung to me just as I was painting the floral border. I stopped and wrote it down, having a feeling I’d just found the painting’s title. 

The song opens with this: “Tell your story/even if it starts dark.” And even though I think silver-lining attitudes minimize and distort grief which does not do well with minimizing or distortion, I know what can bloom from dark, cold places. I know how pain, though I wish it on no one, can become soil.


All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.


Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

January 17, 2024

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