Reflections and notes on the relationship of art to nature and of nature to art from along Warwoman Creek, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Katuah Province of Turtle Island, where the light, the dark, the seasons, the time of deep past, deep present and deep future all mix in alchemal mists to reveal and hide and transform these slopes, shaded coves, bright rivers, deep forests and me, and together sustain me and my art.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


I once found myself walking along an ocean beach late at night; no stars, no moon, the dark expansive. In such darkness sound too becomes expansive. The rhythmic roaring of waves collapsing just a few yards from the beach, and there dark ridges one after another bulged out of the murk and then turned a cold white as they broke. Such a moment was transfixing - all the coming and going, each falling, folding, swept up in the other.

We’re walking at night along the street, thinking of the way ahead, perhaps of the way we’ve come, and happening to glance up into the dark, suddenly we see the face of the full moon tangled in the trees. For a moment you realize moon is looking at you too, and something ineffable passes between you.

Surely we all experience such moments that are startling, arresting either in their unexpected clarity or in their affect upon us.

We’re at the bedside of someone dear to us and near death, their breathing slow, shallow, and measured as if willful. Their eyes move away toward something in the corner of the room you can't see, then move back to your face. You watch theirs relax and years seem to slough away, and you know something has passed between you.

Such moments grab you. Irresistible, they take hold of us in an entirely bodily and emotional way. We sometimes speak later of the awe enveloping them.

I once spent nine harrowing days and nights waiting for my wife Lynn to claw her way back from the edge of death in the ICU. I wandered the hospital’s hallways and waiting areas not able to sit still. An antiseptic fluorescent light suspended over all things, events, and people, all coming and going. No dawn or sunset, no daylight or shadows. Time was anesthetized. And place too, every hallway on every floor exactly the same. But as I prowled the halls of this no place and no time I began to notice photographs hung along the walls. Black and white images of people’s faces in laughter, in sadness, anguish, in self reflection. Our eyes met, and something within us met (1).

Such moments take possession of us. We are taken into the thrall of something powerful, sometimes overwhelming. And then the special circle of its presence around us suddenly evaporates, it's gone, and we are returned once more to our everyday humdrum lives.

Some of us can recollect many such moments in our lives, some not so many. In times of tedious stress or hardship, they may not come at all.

It could be said such special moments are lighted times; times in which something around us became illuminated, and something shown forth out of a murk. We can carry these shining moments for a lifetime. You surely have yours. I have mine.

That they were just moments adds to their poignancy - our lives are always hurrying forwards, tumbling, click-clacking onwards. We are taught in our rationalizing mind that the 'arrow of time' and our lives only move one way.

In the Cataloochee Valley one early morning in May, when the sunlight suddenly broke through the cloud banks and streaked a line of cadmium over umber shadows across the valley floor - that was one of those irresistible and possessing moments too.

And again later when I painted that line on canvas, that was another of those moments. One can sometimes, while painting, extend that moment of startling presence, and that can create more of it. My hopeless wish is that you too will come to share something of this moment, be transformed as well. But you will come to it with your very own well of gathered experience. But sometimes, just sometimes, something passes between us.

I have no way of really knowing this; just the hope I have entertained now for most of my years that if the artist, the writer, the singer just focuses on pairing down the words, the brush strokes, the notes, to tightly wind around the unworded felt experience, then the experience is partiially caught in the trembling net of its light. And if one does this, then it is sometimes possible for others to catch the shape of their own experience in the strokes. I know no way to determine this. But sometimes something does pass between us, and a presence comes to visit us outside of time.

(1) if you want to see more of this photographer's work, go to John Zeuli Photography

Sunday, June 28, 2015


"The Mountain Opens to Speak it's Name," 2011. 

 Passage is the act of passing, specifically movement from one place to another, sometimes a change of progress from one process or condition to another. Permission, right, or a chance to pass is often required. Passage is also a way or means of passing, as in a journey, especially by water; a voyage, and passage is that which happens or takes place between persons.

In all these senses, paintings have always presented passages – imagined, proposed, hoped for, sometimes prayed for. They have always offered openings, permissions, journeys, all proffering passage from one process or condition to another.

 If the Spanish poet Machado was right, that we who pass on, even a little, walk, like Jesus, on the water, then artists and their work offer one partial exception – we artists and our work leave tracks of both where we’ve come from and, because of the imaginative intercourse a work of art summons us to, they point to where we’re all going.

But paintings are quite still, aren’t they? Exactly! Paintings and the seeing and meanings they summon us to present an endless quest going nowhere in space or time but only deeper into the presence. There is grace in this - the grace of knowing that our consciousness and the light are always arriving in the world together. And in this momentary stillness there is a great Hello!

It was my sixtieth year when I started this series “The Mountain Passages Cycle.” It was the year I moved to this secluded hollow along Warwoman Creek in the North Georgia Mountains. It was the month of April, Kawani in Cherokee – the Cherokee moon of reviving rivers and re-emerging medicinal plants. A season to take stock, to relent and to let go, and then to recover the deeper language of rhythms and patterns woven into the fabric of all those years. A time to really paint what I see (as the saying goes by painters), but now to acknowledge that seeing as a gift of presence as much as an act of perception, of coming into Being, not just observing.

"Spring Comes to Kawani," 2015
 Presence, present, to be present – these are all entangled for me now. The massive northern shoulder of Rainy Mountain slopes down to meet the flood plain just behind my studio. From late fall to early spring it is a massive shadowed cloak that descends, and from spring to fall it is a bright green lit body. It is not present as a picture. It hovers dramatically between being just some of the furniture of the world and startlingly something else: something protean, powerful and energetic, something drawing my own presence into its circle, always shouldering against where I am, against what I see, what I feel, and who I am. Then one morning I step outside the studio to see that Rainy Mountain has dissolved – the mists that live in these mountains have taken it for their own form of presence- an expression of the world making, unmaking and remaking itself, a process of re-becoming, like ocean waves that rise and then refold into one another. Even in the seeming millennial immutability of this land, some aspect, some dimension, breathes. The very ineffability makes possible the expansive reality of the land around me. It is a great gift to witness.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

NEW PAINTING: Spring Comes to Kawani

"Spring Comes to Kawani," 2015, oil on board, 12"h x 12"w.
Private collection.

The seasons come and go so, and more quickly so as I get older. Both in the outer landscape and the inner inscape. Spring this year seemed like a long time coming, but then suddenly one morning took up a rapacious gate. So differently experienced from fall, which comes on with flames, a last bright declaration, like an unrepentant warrior's last stand against all the destruction facing the world. Spring, on the other hand, begins hidden deep in the ground, stirring for long silent weeks something alchemical.

Beginning in March with those few unexpected errant warm days, I step out each morning onto my porch to gaze eastward looking for spring across the field past the studio to where a patch of woods slips out into the field and follows the path of a spring that runs underground there (I know this because I am blessed with the archaic gift of the dowser). Pine and poplar stand sentinel here, creating an understory where wild cherry and dogwood shelter beneath them. In this early morning spring light, with much still cloaked in darkness, with much that is stilled this time of day, I can see that this is the advance column of the once great and future forest that has always claimed rightful sovereignty to these mountains. Me, I'm just passing through.

Monday, June 15, 2015

New Painting & New Beginnings: "Spring Comes to the Cataloochee Valley"

"Spring Comes to the Cataloochee Valley," 2015, oil on canvas. 24" x 36"

Recently I have come to appreciate with acute sharpness, the experience of the 15 years I have now spent living in the mountains of the Southern Appalachians. They have been such richly deepening years for myself and my life partner Lynn. We have been so fortunate, and these mountains and their people have been so generous in their offering gifts. I have watched them change us, mellow us, and sharpen our commitments for what really matters. And feeling now that our time here is such a fleeting gift, as it always was in truth, as it always is for any of us any where, I have begun a series of paintings that are both landscape and inscape. Something to hold onto, like old photographers used to do fixing an image out of evanescent light emerging in the dark with chemicals. Art is like that. Life too.

This painting "Spring Comes to Cataloochee Valley," is the first, and it was inspired by my most recent of many visits to the Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was early May, spring just creeping across the valley, and it was morning when you can see how the mountains come and go so, mixing with great moving cloud banks. They've done this each early May for ever, and so each May, early in the morning, you can come see this forever.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Registration Closed for "Drawing From Our Own True Nature Workshop" - July 20-24, 2015

Registration closed for this summer's workshop July 20 - 24, 2015.  If interested in being on the wait list for next summer's workshop in 2016, just contact me through  Drawing From Our Own True Nature.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Only 13 days left to register for "Drawing From Our Own True Nature Workshop"

13 days left to register for "Drawing From Our Own True Nature Workshop - July 20 -24, 2015"
in the North Georgia Mountains.

There are still several places available.

DEADLINE: midnight, June 20.

For more information go to Drawing From Our Own True Nature

And a short thought piece:

It is said the Wintu people of north central California do not have words for right and left. Instead they refer to cardinal directions in all cases. So a woman walking to the mountains in the west who stops to pick up an interesting stone with her left hand and slips it into her pocket has picked it up with her south hand. 

If later that day returning she decides to return this stone to its rightful place she does so with her north hand. These people have so decided their priorities in life that it has become embedded in their language, and so therefore their thoughts are always oriented to what matters most to them.

But in the year 2000 only 3 people were left who spoke that language.

As one begins to draw more from nature, in time nature begins to speak back - and does so with a more than human voice. Gradually we come to know how we are embedded in what is a much larger and richer language of being. In one sense this conversation draws from our own true nature, and in another connected sense we are drawn from it ourselves into a larger awareness of both ourselves and the world.

In our time there are fewer and fewer speakers of this language. But it is our voice for this that will ultimately determine the fate of our species on this planet, and whether or not we can manage to respectfully re-inhabit this earth. It is the artist hidden in each one of us who has access to this language of being.

"Su Tung-P'o sat out one whole night by a creek on the slopes of Mt. Lu. Next morning he showed this poem to his teacher:

    The stream with its sounds   is a long broad tongue
    the looming mountain   is a wide-awake body
    Throughout the night   song after song
    How can I    speak at dawn.

Old Master Chang-tsung approved him. Two centuries later Dogen said:

    Sounds of streams and shapes of mountains.
    The sounds never stop and the shapes never cease.
    Was it Su who woke
    or was it the mountains and streams?"

- from poem 'We Wash Our Bowls in This Water,'  in 'Mountains and Rivers Without End,' by Gary Snyder.

Sunday, May 31, 2015



 My illustrated poem " This Line Drawn" appears in the current online issue of Eyedrum Periodically Issue 7: The Long Now

P.S. There are only 20 days left to register for my workshop: "Drawing From Our Own True Nature - July 20 - 24" in the North Georgia Mountains. The deadline to register is June 20th.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


North Georgia Mountains

Rabun County, Ga.

Come with artist poet Laurence Holden and eleven others for a week following a path through the forest, walking, drawing, listening, touching, writing, singing, and painting into our own true nature.

Each morning we will strike out on foot from Kawani, Laurence's home and studio in the North Georgia Mountains, to discover the rhythms and patterns in nature that resonate within each of us in ways that are singular to each of us and call us to know ourselves more intimately and more clearly.
Each afternoon we will return to Laurence's studio to reflect upon and reconsider with written words and drawn images the rhythms and patterns we've discovered in the nature of our lives..

Who Can Benefit

  • if you miss a personally embracing relationship with the natural world
  • if you have the recurring feeling that nature has something to teach you
  • if you enjoy the outdoors and would like to explore a new approach to the experience
  • if you are an artist or crafts person who draws inspiration from nature
  • if you suffer from nature deficit disorder
  • if you are an artist or crafts person stuck in a creative rut, or just grown stale in your approach

What to Expect

  • small group size - workshop is limited to only 12 participants.
  • developing a one-on-one collaborative relationship with Laurence over the 5 day session
  • an immersion in the natural world bit by bit through all your senses
  • exploring techniques handed down from before the dawn of time for seeing, sensing and understanding the patterns and rhythms of life embedded in nature
  • learning to connect the rhythms and patterns in nature with those already living within each us
  • beginning to recognize layer by layer the patterns and rhythms within yourself that generate and shape the grain of your own life.
  • a sharing of experiences and techniques in seeing, drawing, and organizing your experience
  • an opportunity for visual artists to develop skills of seeing/drawing to extend the expressive quality of their art process
    • NOTE: to get a taste of experiences click HERE to read blog entries describing past sessions.


June 20th - DEADLINE to pay for a place in the workshop (go to Sign up & Pay for Summer Workshop). The workshop is limited to just 12 participants.
Sunday, July 19, 7-9 pm. get to know and orientation session at Kawani.
Monday - Friday, July 20 - 24,  8:30 a.m. meet at Kawani and head out into the forest together. We will return each mid afternoon to Laurence's studio to explore and deepen the themes we've discovered together in the forest, and end at 5:00 p.m. for late afternoon refreshments on the porch.
Friday July 24, 5 -7 pm  refreshments and a gathering, sharing and summing up together what we've learned and exploring ways to extend your learning from here on your own.


           $500.00  (go to SIGN UP & PAY)

What to Bring

  • outdoor clothing, rain gear, sturdy walking shoes, drinking water, hiking staff, hat, lunch for each day.  (We will be out in whatever weather arrives - rain or shine)
  • sketch book  8/12 x 11" or larger, lead pencils, colored pencils, several sticks of vine charcoal, ball or felt tip pen, plus any other art supplies you are comfortable using - all to fit comfortably in a day pack - not much - just enough.
  • lunch packed for each of the five days.
  •  if allergic to bees/wasps, remember to bring your meds/epi-pen.


A Note on Fitness:

While the terrain we will be covering each day won't require strenuous effort, it is steep mountain country with slippery leaves, slick rocks on the creek crossings, trails that can be muddy, and we will be out much of every day rain or shine. You don't have to be a paragon of health to handle this by any means, but for those with health problems or walking difficulties, other venues might be better suited. If you are comfortable walking mountain hiking trails, you'll do fine.


There are many fine lodgings in Rabun County. Here are some recommended ones:
These are listed in order of distance from Kawani:
  • Beechwood Inn (4.2 miles away) Selected "Best Inn in Georgia 2013" by Georgia Magazine. The Inn is listed on the SELECT REGISTRY, Distinguished inns of North America and carries the prestigious AAA Three-Diamond Award.
  • America's Best Value Inn, Hwy. 441, Clayton, Ga. (4.4 miles away) Standard motel with friendly owners. Located on Hwy 441, near all the fast food places. Room rates vary depending on the time of year. 706-782-4702.
  • Parker Ranch  (5.2 miles away)
  • Sylvan Falls Mill B & B, Rabun Gap, Ga. (10 miles away) This historic grist mill has been transformed into a B & B. Tucked away in Wolffork Valley; guests enjoy a delicious breakfast featuring locally grown ingredients and baked goods made from organic grains that are ground in the mill. Dogs allowed in some rooms.  706-746-5138.
  • Dillard House, Dillard, Ga. (10.5 miles away) A family-owned restaurant and motel surrounded by pastoral views of the mountains. Some rooms have sliding glass doors to outdoor patios overlooking horse pastures. The Dillard House dining room—with its huge, country-style meals—is a short walk from the guest rooms. Other restaurants are a short drive away. Room rates begin at $69.00. Dogs are allowed. Call 800-541-0671 or 706-746-5348
  • Lake Rabun Hotel  (13 miles away) A charming small hotel built in 1922 and nestled in the woods overlooking Lake Rabun, with a fine restaurant, and they can pack a picnic lunch for you.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My poem "Only the River Now" in June issue of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel & at "Seedtime on the Cumberland" Celebration

I have been invited to read my poem "Only the River Now" (and maybe some others) at the June 6th launch of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel: Volume 18, The Dead with the Southern Appalachian Writers Collaborative Summer Gathering/Reading at Appalshop's 29th annual Seedtime on the Cumberland in Whitesburg, Kentucky, celebrating Appalachian people, music, arts, and culture.

You can listen live to this reading June 6th at 12 noon on WMMT-FM 88.7

My poem in this issue "Only the River Now" was inspired by my nearby river, the Chattooga, the surrounding mountain community, and the way things pass here. It is the only poem I've ever written that comes close to being a story. After I had written it, I put it away in a drawer very unsure about its "narrative arc," or even what that really meant. Several writers told me it was very important to have this arc.  So months later I had an opportunity to ask my dear poet friend Mildred Greear, who does write ballads, which are stories, what a story does have to have. She said - it only has to be true! Without her saying that, this poem would never have seen the light of day. So, of course, I've dedicated the poem to her.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"In the Valley of the Little Tennessee," Selected for Cover of Anthology: "The Reach Of Song"

My painting:

"In the Valley of the Little Tennessee," 2002, oil on canvas, 28" h. x 36"w.

Just selected by the Georgia Poetry Society to be the cover for their 2015 anthology: The Reach of Song, to be published this July.

Paintings and poems, image and word - just two sides of the same bright coin, tumbling in one great river, offering witness to this Creation. I'll meet you there!

This is such a very special honor for me - to join the mountains I cherish with the poetry I love with the painting I hold dear.  Place - painting - poetry - they make such a rich symphony together.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Two poems in the upcoming Spring issue of Elohi Gadugi: Narratives for a New World

Two of my poems, "We Are All Vagabonds," and "Channelling" appear in the upcoming Spring issue of Elohi Gaduga: Narratives for a New World, a journal in Oregon.

"Elohi gaduga" is their version of the Cherokee "e-lo-hi ga-du-hv" ᎡᎶᎯ ᎦᏚᎲ meaning the earth together in community.

I have read "We Are All Vagabonds" at many venues over the last several years, and it's one of my favorite ones to read before groups. It grew out of reflecting upon several day hikes to the Chattooga  River with Georgia Forest Watch where we would gather around a campfire at the river's edge for a poetry reading and some of Marie Dunkle's rousing Celtic fiddle playing. Around that campfire we were from many far flung places, and after our brief gathering around what was an ancient circle, no doubt we would scatter again to perhaps never to meet in just this way again. Every life is its own journey. We humankind have been doing this for millennia.

My poem "Channelling" explores a poignant moment I shared with my father in the last year of his life. I created an image to accompany this poem:

To subscribe to this journal go to

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Selections from exhibit: "Seedlight & More: Painting & Poems" through May 3, 2015

March 8 - May 3, 2015

Paintings and Illustrated Poems

"We  spend so much of our lives seeking to understand the patterns around us.
This I do too.
And then there is the gravity that bears upon all of them,
and us,
as well as the desire for ascension.
These paintings and poems are my way to understand this. "
- Laurence Holden

Here are a few selections from the exhibit:

"Rainy Mountain Dreaming," 2012
oil on canvas 49"h. x 39"w.

"Of Wintering Willows," 2013
acrylic on birch plywood.
48"h. x 36"w. x 2 3/4"d. 

"Seedlight:Under December Moon, Dreaming," 2014
oil on canvas  20”h. x 16”w. 


"Seedlight: In Winter's Evensong," 2014
oil on canvas 14"h. x 12"w.

"As We Pass Our Words"

Video: A Poetry Reading

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Meeting with Georgia Governor to lend him some art for his walls.

The Georgia Council for the Arts asked me to lend a painting to hang in Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's office through September. Here's the photo opp:

This loan is part of the Ga. Council's program The Art of Georgia II: Portraits of a Community "seeking to capture the uniqueness of communities throughout Georgia as seen, explored, and depicted through the artist’s eye."

This painting "In the Valley of the Little Tennessee,"  was painted on an early spring morning in the North Georgia Mountains well before leaf-out. I have stood in a parking lot in the small village of Dillard and painted the world as it was creating itself out of shadow and mist - as pure and simple a form of revelation as one could ever hope for.

In this painting, as in every other, I paint what I see - both the visible and the invisible in it. And what I see here is change - the morning coming and going, the day, the seasons, people, cultures. They all come and go, but these mountains and valleys and clouds remain. For thousands of years Mississipians tended this valley, then for centuries the Cherokees. Then the Scotch Irish, and today the fields here about are fast being replaced with RV parks, mobile home developments and shopping malls. But if we look deeper, the bone and marrow of what is are still here, and always have been - the mountains, the valley, the sky, the light and the dark.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

My Poem "The Gate" featured in the inaugural issue of Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing

I am pleased to be able to support this new venture which recognizes the deep relationship between art and healing. The editors' hope is that" this will be a place to which you come as you journey the luminous path to wholeness."

Here is an image I created to go with the poem:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


SUNDAY, MARCH 8, 2 - 6 P.M.


"We  spend so much of our lives seeking to understand the patterns around us.
This I do too.
And then there is the gravity that bears upon all of them,
and us,
as well as the desire for ascension.
These paintings and poems are my way to understand this. "
- Laurence Holden

"Seedlight: In the Mothering of All Things," 2015
oil on canvas

All things show their faces when we do.

All things speak when we do.

All things appear when we do. 

The first face, the first word,
they blossom into all the others.

They all are true.

©Laurence Holden, 2010