Barbara Bash is the author and illustrator of a number of books on wildlife and natural history and has worked for many years as a calligrapher and teacher of book arts and botanical drawing. In this exquisite volume filled with ink-and-watercolor illustrations along with a hand-calligraphed text, she chronicles four solitary retreats in a log cabin in the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York. She vividly conveys the different moods of the seasons as she lets her senses be drenched by the natural world. Bash, who has practiced and studied Tibetan Buddhism for years, interweaves sitting meditation and observations of her own feelings. Her commentary becomes a meeting ground for both being alone and being connected to the world.
Everything is worthy of study and affection. A snake stretched out in the sun, a beaver swimming in a pond, a big turtle in the woods, a bullfrog watching her, a woodchuck who waits just long enough to be sketched — these are a few of the guests she encounters in the Catskills. Bash gets in touch with her fear of the dark and her uncertainty and anxiety. In one passage she observes: "Everything is so uncovered, so raw. I question each move I make, so tentative of my footing. Thoreau would slap a paddle against a tree in the morning to wake up the forest. I feel wrong for crackling a leaf."
We came away from this illustrated journal with a keep respect for solitude. The stillness affords her few distractions. Bash nurtures her aloneness and makes of it something expansive and blooming.