Thanksgiving Musings: We’re Grateful for that Still, Small Voice…

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Backlit

This is the time of year to stop, take a pause, and think of all the things we’re grateful for. For most of us, that’s family, friends, a warm hearth when it’s cold outside…

And we’re grateful for those, very much so. Particularly our friends, who have held us close recently, and whose warmth and support have reminded us of the very best that human nature can offer.

We’re also grateful for something that’s a bit harder to articulate. It’s the common theme uniting art, poetry, adventure, and the love of nature. It’s that small voice that calls to you: “Pay attention! This thought, or image, or moment, or destination is important!”

Artists know this voice. They live by it. And scientists hear its call, too. As do adventurers. It’s the call that pulls you off the beaten path, onto a new path you didn’t expect to follow, away from all your carefully constructed, sensible plans: We were going to stop and camp here, but… what’s around that next bend? We need to make it to the next waypoint, but… look, there’s a double rainbow! Time to wrap up the experiment, but… what’s going on over here?

You could say it’s the call of the unexpected, or unusual, or unusually beautiful. You could call it, as Vlad sometimes does, an esthetic sense. Or you could just note that sometimes the world, in all its strangeness and beauty, sometimes just reaches out to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey! Slow down! There’s something here to appreciate!”

Whatever it is, we’re grateful for that voice, and for the ability to hear it.

We were recently reminded of it in an essay about an American artist, Clayton Lewis, who was also a woodworker and sculptor, and who, by all accounts, lived by this call. Writer and adventurer Willis Eschenbach, who knew him personally, encapsulates that worldview like this:

“Clayton was an artist, and a jeweler, and a boatbuilder, and a fisherman, and a crusty old bugger. He owned three boats, all of them with beautiful lines. I was going to buy a boat once, because it was cheap, even though it was ugly. ‘Don’t buy it,’ he warned, ‘owning an ugly boat is bad for a man’s spirit.’ ” —Willis Eschenbach, November 2014

Clayton Lewis

American artist Clayton Lewis (from Clayton Lewis’ website)

You can read more about Clayton Lewis, and see photos of his work, including the beautiful seaside studio he constructed, at his website. (One interesting note: He’s one of the very few artists whose bed is now in a museum!)

That voice often calls to Vlad in his photography. Here are a few examples—

(click on any photo to start slideshow)

64 responses to “Thanksgiving Musings: We’re Grateful for that Still, Small Voice…

  1. beautiful expression
    of gratitude :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. beautiful: i find that first shell all the time, but found out the hard way, when they are whole like that, someone is inside.

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  3. Johna, Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Lovely post, Johna. Whether the still small voice is to be trusted is one of the most important questions in life. Say it is and the world will open up to you – say no and live in fear. Everyone is an artist when we learn to listen. Thanks again – and thanks for Vlad’s photos – they make us look!

    Like

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Beautifully said, Frank. And you’re right–the difference between saying “yes” and “no” comes down to living with freedom, or living in fear. And I love the photos he picked, too–in fact, the post would have gone out on Thanksgiving Day, but he wanted to get just the right photos for it.

      Like

  5. Thank you for a beautiful written and thoughtful post, Johna. I love every single word.
    A belated Happy Thanksgiving,
    Hanna

    Like

  6. Colorful and interesting “melange” set of photos! Bye. Kamila

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  7. Great post, this really spoke to me.

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  8. wow… these pictures are absolutely ethereal.
    Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Thanks for sharing the photos. They are beautiful. A collage of different themes, thoughts and objects but each one a gem in its own right.

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  10. Johna such beautiful words and Vlad the gallery of photos so lovely. So happy to hear of your friends providing support. I certainly don’t want to be intrusive but know I am sending positive energy across the miles as you travel on life’s journey. Wishing both all the very best.

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  11. I hope the still, small voice is a kind and gentle voice for you both at the moment and I wish you all the best. I enjoy your photography and tales very much x x

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  12. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in my part of the world, Johna. Nevertheless, there is so much in this post that resonates with me … the value of slowing down, the wealth that comes with taking the time to notice. Beautiful, beautiful photos. And thank-you for introducing me to Clayton Lewis.

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  13. So true. Out of all of our “thankfuls” this is one we missed. We love sitting and experiencing nature. Our crew call is doing a nature study, but the reality is that we do it daily as we walk outside, hike, and experience our wonderful world. Thank you for sharing your wonderful journeys with us! We enjoy them immensely.

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  14. taking a slow…thoughtful look around us…yes… good for our souls…our minds…oue bodies…
    I’ve always appreciated the artisitic side I was given…I know we look at objects in such a different way…and I love it…or should I say, “I’m grateful for it!”…

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  15. Keeping listening to what the voices tell you. ;-)

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  16. Very nice, but I especially like the Clayton Lewis photo.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Me too. We can’t take any credit for it–I’d love to credit the photographer, but there’s nothing on the site that indicates who he (or she) is. But isn’t there just such wonderful LIFE in those craggy features? With the boats (with beautiful lines) in the background?

      Like

  17. Beautiful, beautiful images, and the advice about not buying the ugly boat made my day. :-)

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      I know, isn’t that just perfect? And Willis (the essayist) later confirmed he was absolutely right. “An ugly boat is bad for a man’s spirit”. Good advice for many things!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Great article and beautiful images too!

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  19. This is a wonderful post, Johna. I love the remark about the boat – those little things – the esthetic sense – are so important in our daily lives. Now I’ll follow the link! Hope you two had a great Thanksgiving!

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Ten years ago that would have made absolutely zero sense to me. Now it’s something I strive to live by. Interesting what you can learn if you live long enough! Do follow the link (especially to Clayton’s bed).

      There’s actually a funny story in the essay when Willis visited the ruins of Clayton’s house recently (by kayak, of course) with a friend and fellow artist. The artist and his girlfriend had spent time with Clayton, and in Willis’s words, “When he’d stayed with Clayton at Laird’s Landing with his girlfriend, that had become the guest bedroom … so the very bed where he and a lovely woman had made great sport in his younger days was now in the Museum of Modern Art.”

      :-)

      Like

  20. Wonderful thoughts and photos! I promise that I’ll never buy an ugly boat. :)

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  21. I hung out here enjoying your wise words, Johna, and Vladimir’s exquisite photos, and then had an absolute bonanza at the Clayton Lewis website. I was not familiar with his art, and am so glad to have been introduced. I live in northern California and look forward to seeing more of his eclectic and spirited artwork. Thank you so much for your generous gift here. :D

    Like

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Oh, you should TOTALLY make a visit if you can. (I think the only way to get there is by boat, but it’s not a long trip, and the scenery is reportedly breathtaking!).

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Brilliant post. Somewhat painful reminder for me — I know that still small voice, and am usually ready to welcome it, or at least heed it —
    But I only hear it from time to time, at its choosing, not mine. And in between times seem to last so long!
    At least it’s nice to be reminded so (photo)graphically that it does exist, it does call (even if not to me at the moment), that therefore I can trust that it will return one day. Thanks to both of you for all your generous sharing and adventuring.

    Like

    • Johna Till Johnson

      I believe it is always there, even when you can’t hear it. Sometimes it’s drowned out by the challenges of daily life. Most of us go through life never having a chance to hear, or respect it….so hearing it once in a while is nevertheless a gift!

      Like

  23. Wonderful close-ups, and such an important message!

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  24. Pingback: Guest Post: The Art of Art | Wind Against Current

  25. Vivid and enchanting post!! “We’re also grateful for something that’s a bit harder to articulate. It’s the common theme uniting art, poetry, adventure, and the love of nature. It’s that small voice that calls to you: ‘Pay attention! This thought, or image, or moment, or destination is important!'” How I ardently love that voice- the call that guides the artists, explorers and scientists- aye that it does, and it is something to be ever grateful for, indeed. Fabulous photos and wonderful words. Smiling cheers,

    Autumn Jade

    Like

  26. Stunning photographs! I like how the colors in one invite me in to the next.

    Like

  27. jessiemartinovic

    gorgeous

    Like

  28. Reblogged this on Haiku Journey and commented:
    Beautiful. Thoughts. About the Siren’s call.

    Like

  29. Pingback: Siren’s Call… | Haiku Journey

  30. Love the lay-out. Coraline, right? I just took a quick scan right now but will look at the blog in detail later. very nice.

    Like

  31. Beautiful post, the words and the pictures. The “voice” I took for granted we could all here it. Some listen, some don’t. Mine has been yelling at me for a while now to get a good camera again, take a good course and start to capture the beauty again. Thank you for making me Listen. Never too old to start again.

    Like

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