Last Sunday we watched Can Animals Predict Disaster? on PBS.
When the tsunami hit Thailand & Sri Lanka last December, the only animals who died in the huge wave were the ones who were caged or chained. All the wildlife, including nocturnal bats, fled to higher ground, and chained elephants broke free. One man's life was saved when his dogs refused to go for their usual run on the beach that morning.
This phenomenon can be explained partly by the acute hearing that many animals are blessed with, and partly by the fact that many can sense "infrasound," low-frequency sound waves that can travel vast distances through water, earth or air.
It's well known that elephants in Africa will "freeze" with their trunks touching the ground, "listening". Their feet & trunks are sensitive to vibrations, and their awareness can extend to events up to 25 miles away. Predators like lions also have many nerve endings in their feet (Hmmm...maybe reflexologists know something about this.)
What does this have to do with painting outdoors? Like the elephants, we pay attention. We spend time in the open air observing the light, the weather, the colors and how they interact. The most important part of any painting is the quality and scope of our awareness, and the way we create meaning out of it.
When we go painting, our life isn't on the line, but it might feel like it sometimes!