This is a photo of a spirit rock. No, it doesn't refer to the remarkable meditation center in California. But it certainly it relates to meditation. A dear friend made it, covering the tiny stone with her hand-netting and adding those tiny beads She gave it to me as a housewarming gift. Both of us know that doing this kind of work is highly meditative--it's why I'm so drawn to art at this point in my life, along with a daily meditation practice.
Stones have always held a lot of symbolism for me, especially river rocks with their smooth round shapes and heft. They are symbols of wholeness, endurance, and comfort.
I will enjoy this sweet gift for a long time. It is so lovely to connect with much-valued old friends.
"A rugged stone grows smooth from hand to hand."
"Our lives are unique stones in the mosaic of human experience--priceless and irreplaceable."
--Henri J.M. Nouwen
Meanwhile, I cannot decide if I'm enjoying the "sketching and watercolor" course or not. I'm a bit puzzled by why I'm having so much trouble with the watercolor and specifically with the brush (watercolor brush). If it weren't the 2nd brush I've tried--with similar issues--I'd say the brush is leaking. Too much water swishing around, and you can see it's leaking outside the bounds of the apple (yes, apple...not a tomato) above. I could go on and on, but I won't. Let's just say I haven't had this experience before, not that I've had much experience at all. I'll keep going with this and see what happens. It's tough not to just grab my colored pencils, though.
In watercolor, if you are not in trouble, then you're in trouble.
In watercolour, particularly, it's almost always better to chuck than fix.
--Joe Joseph P. Blodgett
...Really? Guess I'll find out.
I hope you will take a careful look at the above piece. It's made from 28 triangular tiles placed together. Each tile is unique, and was tangled by my good friend AE. The overall effect is stunning. And, they can all be moved around easily for a completely different look.
Take another moment to look at each individual triangle and you'll see the level of creativity at work here.
* * *
This afternoon I returned from spending five days with AE.. She's been dealing with a particularly challenging and confusing illness for months now, and coincidentally (or was it...?), she learned Zentangle right around the time that the illness announced itself. For the last several weeks she has been receiving intensive and intrusive treatments, and I can't emphasize how often she has mentioned that tangling has enabled her to cope.
And while coping, she has been producing these mini-beauties. Here are a few more examples (with thanks to her for letting me post these):
The meditative nature of Zentangle has been extremely helpful while she has been in treatment. Tiles are the perfect size for portability and for tangling while waiting to be seen in a doctor's office. One of the things I truly love about tangling is that it is a form of moving meditation, and enables a person to focus completely on the present, line by line, and not get caught up in past or future. This is a huge advantage if you are waiting for a treatment session, a doctor's appointment or any stressful situation. AE has been making the best of her time, as you can see here.
* * *
We have known each other for almost 40 years (how the hell did that happen?) and have a lot of shared interests. We met while pursuing a particular spiritual tradition and soon discovered a mutual love of art and crafts. For years we both did bead work (she focused on loom work, I focused on bead embroidery) and between us we accrued enough beads to open a bead store. Not that that was our intention; as we are both "tool hoarders," we never considered selling our stock and each still have pounds of seed beads. We are constant knitters and each have huge yarn stashes. We both enjoy writing and have blogs; she has also written a novel. We've each accumulated way too many art supplies. We each meditate daily. We both read constantly, and our home libraries have many similar books. I wouldn't even want to speculate about how many books each of our homes contain...too many.
I have to laugh at the similarities--we are each hopelessly determined and obsessive in pursuing our interests. In just a few short months, she's produced as many tangles as I have in all the years I've been tangling. She has taken her tangling kit to every doctor's appointment and treatment session, and used that time well. It's an honor to share some of her work here.
And yet we are also very different, something I also enjoy. I value our discussions, whether we are agreeing or disagreeing.
I am fortunate to have her as a friend, and hope we continue our crazy, obscure, satisfying interests for years to come. She is kind, resilient, talented, hilarious and courageous. A gift in my life.
"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down."
– Oprah Winfrey
"There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate."
― Linda Grayson
Talk about a dramatic year. And it still has over three months to go.
I know I'm not the only one dealing with drama; Americans in general have their hands full with WAY too much drama at the moment--and given who is in the White House, it's bound to accelerate. And alas, our drama tends to become the world's drama.
However, this isn't a post about politics.
So far this year for me:
I'm feeling concerned and hopeful for my dear friends, all of them--near and far. Feeling impatient to get on with my altered life here. Feeling concerned about the political scene locally and globally. Feeling more concerned than ever about our fragile, beautiful planet.
If I weren't meditating daily...well, I don't want to think about it.
May we be safe.
May we be healthy.
May we find peace, and find compassion for each other.
May we grow kinder.
May we care for our mother, the Earth.
Trying to arrange for some work to be done in my kitchen, I had given a local contractor nine dates to choose from. He chose today, the last date I gave him, saying he'd be here "after lunch." I didn't have much hope, I will admit, as I've had a bad experience with him in the past. Using him was not my choice--he's the contractor the company uses for its installations.
Of course, it's now 7 pm and despite my calling him around 3 pm (voicemail), he didn't show up and hasn't contacted me.
Good thing I am reading the following book, which I am thoroughly enjoying:
I am loving this book--although not sure I agree with all of it, but it is a lot to take in. It's very well written and funny. And yet...I wish he had not used the word "true," in the title, which smacks of dogmatism to me. Probably a reflection of my upbringing, but it makes me uneasy.
Anyway, it was no coincidence that I was reading this today.
We've all heard of Sylvia Plath, famous for her extraordinary poetry, fascinating life, and tragic suicide. But who knew she was also a visual artist? I certainly didn't.
Check out this fascinating article from one of my favorite websites called Brain Pickings. Plath was a visual artist as well as a phenomenal poet. I wish I could post some of those photographs here, but I haven't asked permission, so instead I will direct you to the site of the article where you can see them in all their glory.
Meanwhile, my damaged hand is continuing to respond to intense exercise. It hurts like hell most of the time but it's finally beginning to act like a hand again. (At least it isn't my dominant hand--and for that piece of luck, I am eternally grateful.)
I've been able to tangle a bit more. Here's a recent piece and how it evolved.
The first stage, lines in progress:
Next, here is the piece with the line work done, but without any shading:
And below is the finished piece on the actual journal page, after shading:
This was so much fun to draw, as it was simply line after line after line, each one drawn slowly and deliberately. A meditation in motion.
Another insomniac night produced this in my Zentangle® Pre-Strung Journal that's near the bed. I was too lazy to get up and find my colored pencils so used only the Rainbow Lead Pencil. Many of the pre-drawn strings in this journal slide right off the page, as this one does. I love the way Zentangle regularly breaks all the rules.
I am currently reading Tara Brach's extraordinary book, Radical Acceptance, and have been thinking about acceptance in relationships. Note that "acceptance" does not necessarily indicate "agreement with," but rather is an acknowledgement of exactly what is happening--before any action is chosen. In other words, not blindly reacting, but instead seeing the situation clearly and then perhaps being able to choose a wise action rather than going with the first impulse.
I've been bringing these ideas into meditation and learning from them. In a world gone mad with angry, hostile relationships, full of trolls and bullies, there has never been more need for being able to see clearly and choose one's reaction wisely.
This carried over into my tangling, as I found myself starting with the tangle Betweed and then thinking about similarities between Betweed and Mooka, which is what I was playing with here.
...after which I slept quite well, even if not long!
Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change.
Accept - then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.
Oh my gawd. Who knew that I would be taking a five-month sabbatical from blogging? I knew I would have to stop for awhile, but never thought it would be this long.
Little did I know that UN-packing on the other side of the move would take so much longer than the packing ever did. I moved in late March, and I am still nowhere near ready to call myself settled.
In fact, I can declare myself un-settled. Very unsettled indeed, on a number of levels.
I am confident that it will all come right in the end, but in this transition things have often felt very broken. The absence of time to make art has been a major contributor to that. I still do not have either the space or the time to draw, tangle, or hook/punch rugs.
I've had down days for sure--but I am making progress and once I sort out some of the remaining unpacking challenges, I'll be in good shape.
In all of the boxes I've unpacked, I've only noticed three broken items. All of them were much-loved pottery, and two are broken beyond repair. Last night I set about to try to fix this one:
It's one of my favorite bowls by Nancy Shotola, whose pottery I've been collecting for years now. When I finished my clumsy repair, it looked like this:
Yup. Bloody awful.
But you know, it made me think of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with gold-infused resin, transforming them into objects even lovelier than they were before. (It's also referred to as "kintsukuroi.") hope you'll take a moment to view the photos on that site.
My own clumsy, non-Kintsugi repair of that bowl meant that when I tested it by filling it with water after the glue had "set" overnight, all the water ran out of the bottom immediately. Alas. Unless I can figure out a way to repair-my-repair, I will no longer be able to use the bowl for storing liquids. But that doesn't mean it can no longer be used, right?
There are life metaphors aplenty here. Such as, learning to let go. Or the famous Leonard Cohen quote, "There is crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Or the Hemingway quote from A Farewell to Arms about being strong at the broken places.
(Although I think the Hemingway quote is usually taken out of context; I'm not sure that, in its original context, it has the meaning we would like to attribute to it!)
Fortunately I have continued to meditate day after day, and that has undoubtedly kept me on a more even keel. But even with the support of meditation, things have been rocky.
There is simply no hastening the process of transition.
I have truly wonderful friends nearby. And much-loved friends from my previous location have also been coming to visit. I'm thinking of joining a chorus which rehearses only two blocks from here. And I have found a great studio space that's only a twenty-minute walk, if I can ever find the time to begin doing art again.
Here's a relevant quote from Thomas Wolfe's book, You Can't Go Home Again, which encapsulates much of what I've been pondering:
"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."
I've been thinking about the function of nostalgia in our lives. When is nostalgia useful? When is nostalgia an obstacle?
Here is just one reason I most certainly cannot go back, even if I wished to. It's a photograph of what's underway in my old apartment.
Renovation is well underway in just about every room.
And that is true for me as well--renovation is definitely underway within my psyche. It's turning up a lot of grime as I break through old psychological walls and floors. There are days when I hardly recognize myself. There are days when almost every single thing I do is a "first time adventure." (Exhausting) There are days, hours, minutes, that are dark. There are storms moving through. But, there are these days as well (below):
Whatever the weather, I needed to do this.
To return to my original analogy about the broken bowls: I needed to shatter the container of my life and re-form it.
I'm at the stage now where things are in pieces and I am just beginning to put them back together.
It's disorienting, exciting, upsetting, hard, and comical. This is a stage requiring a lot of patience.
I am not patient.
In fact, I am highly proficient at impatience, heavily laced with whining.
However, I am committed to seeing this through.
As with the art of Kintsugi, If i can mix the gold with the resin here and apply it carefully, then what comes out of this should be even more lovely than what went before. Perhaps that is the one "art" that I am focusing on right now.
Wish me luck.
Here is a poem by Mollie Grant which says it all:
Kintsugi: the Japanese Art of Golden Repair
(I have not been able to reach her to get permission to print it here so I'm just directing you to her page and you can read the poem there.)
And check out this short post for a wonderful poem by Lisa Cohen on Kintsugi.
Lovely snow over the weekend, but oh-so-cold. As I walked through my freezing kitchen this morning I spotted this guy out my back door. I'll be thinking of him as the Snow Buddha from now on. He reminded me to make the best of things, including the chaos I'll be experiencing for the next few months.
I doubt I can live up to his attitude. But I'll do my best.
Meanwhile, in starting to pack yesterday I had to roll up one of the small rugs to make room for boxes. This is a tiny rug I hooked a long, long time ago. I haven't measured it in ages but I'm guessing it's something like 2.5 feet by 18". That's probably way off, but you get the idea--it's small. It's also a long-time favorite of mine. This is just a partial view of it. When I was making it, I was lucky enough to know and live relatively near to Pat Merikallio, a fabulously talented colorist, artist, and rug maker. She now lives on the West Coast, but she was kind enough to help me with the color planning and I am a forever fan of her color instincts and all her rugs. Thank you, Pat!
But alas, just look at the binding. Yikes. I confess I've known for awhile that it was disintegrating and have been too lazy to address it. Once I get myself moved I will make it a priority. I may even have some of the original wool.
It occurred to me as I was writing this that adjusting my attitude and "fixing things" are common themes for me. I was just reading this quote from Jack Kornfield about meditation, which has implications for both these themes: "Part of spiritual and emotional maturity is recognizing that it's not like you're going to try to fix yourself and become a different person. You remain the same person, but you become awakened."
Which I certainly am not. Maybe someday?
2016 was a very tough year. No matter which "side" you were on in the brutal election season, it was tough on all of us. The results of the election devastated and terrified me, and many others, on behalf of the future of our people and our planet.
But I cannot move forward or act effectively if I continue to live in this place of devastation and terror.
So, my word for 2017 is: ACCEPTANCE.
Now before those of you who share my political views take umbrage, please bear in mind that "ACCEPTANCE" DOES NOT IMPLY "APPROVAL" or "AGREEMENT." But if we are to take right action on any situation, we must first see the situation clearly as it is. In other words, a gray sky is gray, even if we would prefer it to be blue. The traffic jam we are caught in is indeed a traffic jam, no matter how much we'd prefer to be speeding down the highway. Do we have to like it? No. Agree with it? NO. But in order to deal with it, we have to accept that it is what is happening in this moment. That's where we are.
So, now what?
I've been pondering this and looking for good resources on acceptance. Tara Brach's books, like True Refuge, are on my reading list. I am observing how consistently people confuse Acceptance with Agreement. They are NOT the same. Acting from a place of denial or blind rage produces terrible results, and is one consequence of not being willing to face things "as they are" in order to choose the best possible action.
I know whereof I speak. I've just spent the entire last month refusing to accept the way things are in my life. With predictably ineffective and poor results. It's time to face reality.
I hasten to add that I have a l-o-n-g way to go to achieve any sort of acceptance, but I plan to be focusing on it. 2017 is going to be a challenging year for me, not just because of the election results but because I am relocating after many years in one place. I need to remember what one good friend was saying to herself yesterday: "Stay in the now. Stay in the now. Stay in the fucking NOW." (She was talking about her acceptance of her own temporary medical issue, but it applies 100% to me as well.) Anyone who knows me and has been around me lately knows how far away I am from achieving the wisdom and peace that acceptance can bring.
The Buddhists have the best perspective on this, and here are some short online pieces that I have found useful. You do not have to be Buddhist to appreciate these thoughts:
1. Support yourself through the learning process
2. See things for what they really are
3. Take things less personally
4. Don’t confuse acceptance with a statement of preference
5. Get used to the way things actually are
6. See acceptance as the ability to relax around things
7. See acceptance as something you do for yourself
8. Recognise that something good comes out of acceptance
9. See challenges as part of a story that is cool in some ways
10. Recognise that flaws belong to the nature of things
11. See flaws as the price for an overall package you can accept
12. Imagine how much worse some things could have been
13. Start to laugh at things more often
14. Practise detachment from thoughts
15. Practise simple contentment with the present moment
16. Remember that nothing lasts forever
I'll be focusing on Acceptance this year, which means I hope to be clearer and more effective at seeing when things need to change (and when they don't), and how best to act to change them. My meditation practice will help, and I hope my friends will feel free to remind me of this focus when I lose it.
“Sometimes you just have to regret things and move on.”
― Charlaine Harris
Yup, this is it. This is all that is left of my original Rainbow Lead Pencil. And I'm still using it! I've nicknamed it "Stubby." That's a dime just underneath it, for size comparison, and below that is a regular mechanical lead pencil.
A friend has been asking about where to find this particular brand. Unfortunately, there is absolutely NO identifying information on the pencil at all. I wrote about my search for its exact twin HERE. It's a long, long post, but if you are very determined to get one of these, reading the entire thing may be somewhat helpful...at least to affirm that I share your frustration. (At the time I wrote that post, last August, I had ordered but not tried the Koh-i-Noor Rainbow Lead pencils. I got them and tried them later, and disliked them. I then ordered what I thought might be a match-to-my-original pencil from Oriental Trading Company, but the ones I received were very dull in color and I ended up discarding those also. Your mileage may vary, of course.)
I still have no dependable information on where to get this brand of Rainbow Lead pencils. If anyone knows, please put the info in the comments! Meanwhile, have a good laugh over "Stubby," my beloved art tool.
To round out my day, I took a few moments tonight to practice some new-to-me tangles and some old favorites. Because I need to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, I had to stop here and not spend any time shading - so this is line-work only. Perhaps some time in the next few days I can add the shading.
This was relaxing to do and I'm hoping it will help me slide gracefully into a good night's sleep.
"Sleep is the best meditation."
-The Dalai Lama
(Jeez, did he really say that?)
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
No immediate group classes scheduled (I'm open to hearing about a good venue in Western Massachusetts. I am always happy to teach 1-1 and/or in a small group in your home.
Come and amaze yourself!
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society