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?)
Two people I greatly admire are leaving my life tomorrow. I will sorely miss them. They are flying home to another country, a country in turmoil. They were here for only a year to study, and during that year I got to know them a little. They are a young couple. They are well-educated, thoughtful, kind, and passionate about peace and freedom. When they get home, this passion will likely have a price. They are being tracked by their despotic government. They may no longer have jobs. They may be targeted, and they may even be imprisoned. I desperately hope they are safe from the moment their plane lands on their native soil, but I am not confident of it.
I am not naming names or their country. Even though it's highly unlikely that this post could ever cause trouble, I would not want to create any risk by identifying them.
Even if all were well in their country--and it isn't, not at all--I likely would never see them again. But now, I will not only miss them, I will worry about them from the moment they get on that plane. Things are very bad where they are going, very dangerous, and they are afraid. But they feel they must go, to work for peace.
Please let them succeed, and stay safe. It takes a heart full of courage--and love--to act in accordance with their beliefs.
I drew them a farewell card this morning before I left the house for the day, and left it at their door. Unfortunately I didn't photograph it before I gave it to them. So on the way home this evening I decided to duplicate it as well as I can remember. Here is my memory of the card, a tangled heart.
It's really two hearts, since they are a couple with love and respect for each other.
Here is a small kaleidoscopic image made from that photo. It has elements of a mandala that I will use to meditate on, while they are flying home.
Stay safe, and work for peace.
Stay safe, and work for peace.
Stay safe, and work for peace.
I will miss you.
Even just looking at that tile encourages me to take a deep breath and relax.
This next one is busier but was equally fun to create.
This morning I stumbled across an excellent post on meditation and people's misconceptions about it. It's quite short and is by Arnie Kozak, a guest blogger on the wonderful Susan Cain's site; you can read it here. He really touches on the most common assumption about meditation--that it's about "stopping the mind." It isn't.
But drawing frequently does stop my mind and pulls me into total absorption on the one line that I am drawing in this moment. Thus, meditation and drawing serve the same purpose in different ways for me.
"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."
This was the last tile I created on my peaceful day of tangling (see Part 1 for more info about that). I loved the way this came out. Once again I was in a room with over 100 people and deeply appreciated the total silence while we all focused on our tiles.
You may recognize elements of the photo above in the photo below. That's because I took the photo above and ran it through an iPhone app and created this mandala:
"Each person’s life is like a mandala – a vast, limitless circle. We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life."
- Pema Chodron
And then I used another app and came up with this:
While I'm drawing or tangling, time seems totally irrelevant. In that moment, there is no time, just breath. Just focus. Just being.
This is the essence of meditation, surely.
“The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art.”
Long ago and far away...or so it seems...I spent an entire day drawing. Ahhhhhhhh...
In reality, it was recently and not that far away. But I have traveled such a distance interior-ly between then and now.
What I am referring to: I had a chance to sit and tangle for an entire day a couple of weeks ago, and experienced all the benefits: the inner silence, the lovely calm focus, the lack of worry about outcome, and the great sense of peace and timelessness.
All these things can also come from meditation, although since meditation (vipassana) invites us to turn towards and become aware of whatever is present, there are frequent times when meditation asks us to sit with difficult feelings or sensations. A very wise process, though sometimes a turbulent one.
The only difference I find between drawing/tangling and classical meditation is the incredible focus that drawing evokes, and how that focus prevents me from being aware of anything else. Sometimes this is more useful than meditation.
Since that one lovely peaceful day of drawing, life has ramped up and things are, at the moment, confusing and unsettled. I am sitting with this in meditation and just observing that.
But clearly there is a place for both practices in my life, meditation and drawing, during times like this. Both feel as precious to me as breathing, and both lead me to clearer perspective and inner peace. Each method works in its own way.
Every day I meditate.
But so far, I have not mastered the practice of daily drawing or tangling. I see the benefits of both, and I always make time for meditation. But too often I do not make time for drawing. Instead I pay bills, or work, run irrelevant errands, or knit while watching television. Or--although this is nearly as beneficial--I work on designing, dyeing for, or hooking my latest rug. Rug hooking is incredibly meditative. But it still doesn't have the effect on me that drawing does, and the past couple of weeks have proved to me how true that is. I frequently feel I want to draw, but tell myself that other tasks are more important.
But are they?
Life is complicated. Drawing, breathing, seeing, following just that one line at a time, is so very simple. Perspective in drawing...perspective in life.
The viewer of art can go into a kind of meditation, a bit of a different sense or feeling.
- Dorthe Eisenhardt
I believe that painting should come through the avenues of meditation rather than the canals of action.
- Mark Tobey
This piece was done quite literally in a moving meditation with 120 other people. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.
And below is another piece I did for a challenge project. I used a white gellyroll pen and a gold metallic pen.
Underneath here, you can see a photo of what a few other participants did with the same challenge--look at the differences. I love that. I wish I had a photo of the entire grouping of these--I'm betting the final collection had at least 60 tiles in it, each one different.
I cranked up the Motown today while alternately standing and sitting to punch the rug, and was it ever fun! (If the above video doesn't play when you click on it, just click on the "view on YouTube button and another window will open and play it. You can listen and read at the same time.)
Martha Reeves (and the Vendellas) was one of my idols back in the day. Then there were all the other great songs...
"Dancing in the Streets," "Rescue Me," "I Heard It On the Grapvine," "R-e-s-p-e-c-t," "Up on the Roof..."
OMG, dance, dance, dance. Even when sitting down. How I miss Motown.
Thus, there will be an odd mix of Motown, assorted dharma talks, meditations, and the very long and wonderful George Eliot book Middlemarch (which I finished listening to a couple of weeks ago) woven into the fibers of this rug.
(Good mojo, I'm thinking.)
Tomorrow is likely to be very rainy and it might feel good to stay home and play with color. I may stay home to dye more yarn. Below are two views of the rug progress, plus a new tangle that I threw in at the very end.
A quick look at the back side of the rug, close up.
And here is the front. I spent 5 hours at the studio today and got a chunk more done. I am slowly moving toward being halfway finished with this very large rug (but am not there yet, not by any means). It's beginning to be hard to move it on the frame.
An experiment with some tangles. I had fun with this last night.
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 always 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
Skillful Meditation Project