Artist Peter Stone captures our essential connection to place in his powerful landscapes and words. The following images and words are excerpted from his book, Sanctuaries, where over twenty-five of his paintings are reproduced along with his poetic text.
Peter Stone on Sanctuaries:
“One of the themes of the book is that awareness of our connection with the land begins before we are born. The first opportunities for exploring this spiritual bond arise when we are children and are sustainable through our local customs and beliefs. In turn, a protected cultural heritage fosters stewardship and conservation. The paintings strive to make these ideas accessible, to older children as well as adults, through the language of mythological symbols and secondary or hidden images as well as through story.
If it is true that myths help us to narrate and understand our lives, to cope with sorrow and death and pass through joy and birth, to seek and grapple with the mysterious, then perhaps it is true that their clues already surround us. The forms in the lands and waters that uphold us, and to which we are attuned, may be archetypal. Thus, no matter what our climate or the boundaries of our culture, we have the potential to sanctify even the barest patch of earth.”
The people of the Wampanoag Nation live in the territory of what is now called Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, west to Narragansett Bay and the Providence River. Their lands extend north toward the Great Blue Hills and the southern boundary of the Massachusett Nation.They are allied in spiritual kinship with the wolf.
The Pilgrims and others settled within this region, the Wampanoag Homeland.
My grandfathers lived here. As they do now, in a wondrous way.These fields grow splendid circles of hay, from soil that my grandmothers fertilized with dead herring and planted when the oak leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear.
In this place the tenderness of moonlight deserves to be loved, haunting as it soothes the hollows of our hearts. Where the meaning of this land is as it ever was,
And a sigh stirs forth when the sun rises from the water.
This is the home of my grandfathers, the Wampanoag, the Eastern people. The People of the First Light.
Here the flowers are our sisters and the rivers move with the blood of my people.
In the shrinking days of falling leaves, I walk the riverbanks that remain. I smell humus and pine and burnished land. I hear the cry of the Red-tailed Hawk.
I tremble in delightful awe.
In the winter my steps crunch softly in the snow beside the memory of footprints of the wolf.
The bare trees clatter and sway.
But, no matter how raw the spring floods or howling nor’easters,
Those of us who live here know that when the air turns powdered with haze
the humid days will grow long and mild. And balmy sou’westers will blow carefree across the saltmeadows again.
My grandfathers and I are the
custodians of this precious land.
We listen to the heartbeat of the seasons and care for the earth that bears life.
For the children of our children.
For their innocent laughter.
For when we walk along the shore, or through the woods and fields, the sun drips from each leaf and shimmers on the grasses.Osprey cries, Fish rises, and Deer hesitates in the underbrush.I see and hear these echoes.
And rejoice for the sanctuaries of my grandfathers that still exist.Come, celebrate them in the hidden vistas beyond the edge of a winding dirt road,The old orchards that still dance with beckoning spring light,
The swamplands and bogs bright with wild cranberries.
Walk these woods still standing
And meadows unspoiled.
For it is true. Just as no sacred name has ever lost its meaning.
Our people lived here. As they do now, in a wondrous way.
MORE ABOUT THE WORKS OF PETER STONE
Dawning – It is equally obvious at the beginning of each day.
Backwater – Where the estuary met the sea I witnessed three figures in a passing canoe. They melded with the distant shore, a reflection of the landscape for how they slipped by in reverent silence.
Hay Bales – The cycle of seasons, from harvest to harvest. The Oglala Sioux holy man, Black Elk, spoke famously about an enduring truth, “…the Power of the World always works in circles…”
Serpent’s Way – The snake sheds its skin to be renewed, just as the moon slips free of its shadow. A dirt road that winds like a serpent and beckons like the moon. What better path for embarking on another adventure?
Southwest Winds - The Wampanoag God is Kiehtan, the Creator. He brings all things, whether drought or flood or bitter cold, or winds and rain to quench and nourish the fertile lands. His house
is toward the southwest.
Sycamore Passage – Every passage starts with the crossing of a threshold. Springtime is ever a threshold that begins all journeys anew.
Mother & Child – Here their forms became visible within the cedars again. I have painted them countless times since, from Cape Cod to Connecticut.
Moonwalk – Isn’t a starry sky such a grand window on the infinite?
It has the power to still us, in whatever direction we’re headed.
Cape Moonrise – And none is complete without the tides that touch the womb, drawn by the moon.
The Sacred Land – The wings of the air and the humid silver light, the four-legged creatures and all green things that grow, these represent the infinite forces and mystical possibilities in nature.
And none of them belongs to us. Recognizing this, a resonance rises within us. Why? Because we are nature too.
BY PETER C. STONE, FALL 2005
From the artist:
With Sanctuaries I have returned to New England landscapes in combining a love of texture with simplicity and spiritual serenity. Remote landscapes and their inhabitants have always been a lure for this artist, especially where the sea is a dominant aspect of life. W. H. Auden wrote that defense of the beautiful is God’s best gift to the human soul. The process of making that connection between ourselves and even the most inaccessible landscapes or arduous conditions has been a driving force in my work.
The work of artist/author Peter C. Stone has been presented in more than forty solo exhibitions and numerous group shows at galleries and museums in the United States, England, and Canada. Mr. Stone is represented on Cape Cod by Winstanley-Roark Fine Arts in Dennis. Sanctuaries may be ordered through your local bookstore (distribution: Ingram) or direct from the publisher 1-800-497-0037.