Archive for October, 2010

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is spent.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” (Robert Frost)

Lately, as parents pass on and friends my age show signs of illness and decline, I look in the mirror and see that my own body, too, is beginning to succumb to the inevitable outcome of the material dimension. I passed the Puer Aeternus stage quite a while back, (when everything seemed possible and I was invincible) but recently, I have begun to contemplate how, exactly, I have spent my brief time here on planet Earth. I see that I have no children to justify my years, no pension, no fortune, no fame. Perhaps no one will even remember me…almost certainly not in a hundred years. It is an odd feeling to notice one’s body winding down, and yet to feel the Spirit, the curiosity and enthusiasm for life only just now beginning to wake up and stretch out. Does it happen like this for everyone? Perhaps this is where those phrases about life being over “all too quickly” and “in the blink of an eye” come from?

One thing that I know for certain…I have not spent my life following the herd. Sometimes in darker moments, I wonder if that was wise. But if given the choices all over again, I most certainly would have made creativity, intellectual and spiritual curiosity, and relationship the highest priorities…far above security, money and social acceptance. That may not be everyone’s definition of a life well spent, but it has been mine. When I temporarily lose my way, I remember this quote:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Not Following” (pencil, watercolor, gouache)

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On My Bookshelf…

I’ve just added a new widget to the sidebar: On My Bookshelf. It’s a link to my website’s Links page, where you can see many of the books that have inspired me over the past few years. Enjoy your browsing… no library card necessary.

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is racing.

“They’re gaining on us!” the actor yells, and it is such a familiar feeling that we empathize immediately. Racing ahead, winning or losing, measuring oneself against some invisible yardstick is the stuff of being human, it seems. And as exhilarating as it may sometimes be, our language is replete with the expressions of despair that racing can engender.

I would like to chalk this feeling of time running out to our modern world, but even in the nineteen century, Thoreau wrote of its effects on the spirit when he said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” (Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862) We may say it more humorously now (“Some days you eat the bear… some days the bear eats you.”), but the underlying feelings of pressure and despair are still there.

Despair is that sinking feeling accompanied by less-than-joyful thoughts like, “You are falling behind, your life is going by, others are getting ahead while you are here stuck in the quicksand.” This is not a mind spurring on evolution or personal growth, this is simply the nattering of an Unhappy Mind. But it’s a state of mind that I can easily become lost in, especially in this ever-driven culture. Perhaps it is also the state of mind that drives humans to buy more, have more, do more and be more in a very unbalanced and (dare I say it?) psychotic way?

When I catch myself in this mind trap once again, I try to remember that who I really am is Infinite. The pressures of time and comparison lighten, and I remind myself that in this present moment of this life, all I have to do is the next thing in front of me. Life becomes simple, and unfolds itself from this moment like a red carpet rolling out before the movie star. All I have to do is trust that it is so.

An Indian proverb says, “When we take one step toward God, he takes seven steps toward us.” Insert “the Mystery” for God here, and this becomes a non-denominational guide for Life. I take heart.

Now… back to working on that book dummy…

“Cloud Racing” (watercolor, pen & ink, gesso, gouache)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill


The Illustration Friday word of the week is spooky.

In this season of costumes and masks, we all love to play at the game of hiding, and headless horsemen and ghosts are great fun. But I am not so enthusiastic about playing the Invisible Man in real life.  I feel it happening when someone disappears completely into a mental story. (No, not of the fairytale variety, but maybe related?) I become the invisible audience, and the smoke screen of their words makes them invisible as well. Voila!

Being Here Now can be such hard work, so perhaps humans need a little Time Out, or a visit to Free Parking occasionally. I can understand that. But I miss the real connection… and I think both of us will go away feeling a little more empty.


c. Susan Sorrell Hill


And for my down-to-earth friends who are whimpering in the background from the heavy effects of these metaphysical ramblings… a more palatable spooky creature, courtesy of fictional Transylvania.


“Sunset Over Myself” (oil on canvas)

“Dracula Sketch” (watercolor, pencil)


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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is transportation… and I just couldn’t resist posting another image. This one’s a bit more complex and, well, strange….

And, for those of you IF’s paying attention: sorry about the multiple thumbnail posts, something went wiggy.


“Leaving” (watercolor, pen and ink, gouache)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill


The Illustration Friday word of the week is transportation.

This week, in honor of my word-weary friends, and to give myself a break while I am hard at work on a book project, my post will be brief… but still full of tasty food for thought…

“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.” Chinese proverb

And… the proper place for those pesky birds:

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.” Chinese proverb

“For the Birds” (watercolor, pen & ink)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is beneath.

I have always been fascinated by the inner workings of other people. What are their thoughts, their motivations, their history… their reality? What makes them tick? Perhaps it is only morbid curiosity, but I prefer to think that it is a healthy contemplation of the many ways a person can walk through this adventure called “life in a human body.” What lies beneath the confident facade of the hero, or the wrinkled face of an old woman? Why does one person act this way, while another does something quite different with the same circumstances? Why does the larger flow of events go this way, instead of that way?

Humans have always attempted to understand the patterns behind the mysteries of life. Astrologers, scientists, historians, the makers of oracles, philosophers and religious contemplatives of all persuasions have all attempted to create a system that would explain and predict the inner workings of what is, essentially, unknowable. But we humans, even at our most profound, have only a limited perspective. We are really no closer to understanding the Meaning of Life in this twenty-first century than we were before history began. Through no fault of our own, the inner workings, the larger cause-and-effects and the purposes of it all continue to elude us. Maybe our awareness and intelligence is meant to be used differently?

It is only my personal opinion, but it does seem that the Nature of Reality, the Meaning of Life, and any name one might use to describe ‘God’… will always be an unsolvable Mystery. And perhaps the only reasonable approach to a Mystery is wonder and awe? This mysterious thing which is the pattern behind everything and everyone, has been around a lot longer than humans have. Surely it knows what it is doing…

“Make-Believe” (watercolor, pen and ink, pencil)

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