Isn't it odd how we don't get the roses without also getting the thorns. Just like life.
As the saying goes, "it's been a week."
A death in the family stirred things up for me and for everyone who knew and loved the person. In times like this, I am grateful for my meditation practice. I was able to sit with the feelings, seeing them for what they are, and not run away from either the pain or the blessings. Those thorns were sharp and surprised me repeatedly. But the roses, in the form of kind and funny memories, have been worth it and will continue to be so.
And given what has been happening in the world right now, (tragedies too numerous to name), I know I am not alone in feeling that this week has been a tough one.
May we all seek and find our inner peace.
Ok, so maybe it IS odd. I had a lot of fun doing this. One thing about these knots--no matter how attractive or unattractive the result--they totally focus the mind while drawing. So much so that no other thinking happens. Or if it does, it is completely ignored in favor of focusing on the drawing.
I find this fascinating and reminiscent of certain meditative states. Quiet mind. Ahhhhhh...a treasure in today's world.
"We learn the rope of life by untying its knots." --Jean Toomer
"Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other." --Sojourner Truth
It's curious, the parallels I often see between meditation and drawing. In meditation, we might call what happened here, "striving." That is such a common issue in meditation--the idea that one has to get somewhere and work harder and harder to get there. It truly doesn't help. At all.
And here in this drawing I did the equivalent. I was using a smooth tile and chalk pencils. The paper, surprisingly, wasn't loving the chalk. It was the combination of the two, not something I could control. But I kept thinking if I continued working, or rather, OVERworking (a form of striving), I could make it better.
Well, uh-uh. Instead, it just got muddier. It would have been better if I'd used colored pencils rather than chalk pencils.
I realized this at the start of the tile but was having too much fun to make the switch.
I like it anyway because it was fun and involved one brand-new tangle and one that I forget to use. I often say this about the drawings i am not enamored of, right after I finish. Sometimes when I look at them later, I really do like them. Often, in fact. And sometimes I don't. But the reasons I'm happy anyway are: 1) just the act of drawing brings joy to me; and 2) learning art--and I most certainly am a learner--is all about quantity. Practice, practice, practice. As I said in my last post, any practice, even practice that produces something "meh," is bound to build skill.
Bring it on.
Oh my gosh. The last time I got to draw was May 5th. Way, WAY too long for me. Last night I finally got back to it and it felt sooooo good.
I am definitely rusty, rusty, rusty. This is overworked, and yet, I just loved every minute of doing it. I couldn't stop after such a long time of no tangling, and that resulted in the overwork (and the lack of sleep since I didn't start the coloring until after 10 pm). But it was worth every second for the pleasure it gave me.
Just the same sort of sigh-of-relief as when you finally get to scratch a bothersome itch.
The linework, before color was added, is on the right.
So what caused this long, long drought? I'm teaching rug hooking in the midwest later this summer and I needed to produce multiple samples for the upcoming class. That has been taking up all my time. I will post the samples soon but now that they are done, I just want to get back to regular rug hooking, punching, and DRAWING.
There will be another short delay while I finish prepping, traveling and teaching. By September I hope to be back to a regular schedule of drawing and blogging.
In the meantime, meditation is keeping me sane and happy throughout this long summer.
Meditation: Because some answers can only be found on the inner net.
– Shira Tamir
Certainly not perfect, but good enough. Perfection is not the goal.
I took a break today from the Lunar Phase Project (see the last few posts) and followed along on a video by Tanglewerks CZT. She has many videos; the one I watched had no words, just music (and I shut off the music). She did her mandala on a white tile. I put it mine a grey tile, made a few changes, and added white chalk to spice things up. It was a lovely way to spend the first few hours of a day--just quiet practice. A meditation indeed.
...or am I just incredibly messy?
Hard to tell. Both, I think. I'm at the beginning of a new rug (one reason I haven't been posting drawings much is that I've been so busy doing punchneedle embroidery, finishing off my last traditionally hooked rug, and now starting a new traditionally hooked rug).
Here's what my studio floor looked like last night and still today.
I guess I know myself well enough to know that I need to throw stuff all over the floor and leave it while I look at it for a few days. This mess with its stumble-inducing health hazards--you take your life in your hands trying to walk across the floor--will in fact result in much trial and error but eventually I'll be able to work out a color plan.
Many rug makers I know can pull a few wools from their neat shelves, roll them together for testing purposes, decide on an initial plan, start working, tweak a bit and then boom! They are on their way. Not me. My mother would probably ask me if I was raised by wolves in Lower Slobbovia, but in fact, this is how I need to work. Yes, for me, it's all about creating chaos and allowing things to arise out of the mess.
Pretty much like the way our minds work in meditation. Until we learn to let things to arise out of the mess and begin to sort through them, allowing them to pass on their way, we just have the mess on our hands. But eventually we're able to sort through it and clear the space. Or perhaps it's just that life unfolds as it will, and things get sorted on their own.
I'm very moved by chaos theory, and that sense of energy. That quantum physics. We don't really, in Hindu tradition, have a father figure of a God. It's about cosmic energy, a little spark of which is inside every individual as the soul.
Yes, I'm now officially addicted to this tangle with its deeply graphic qualities. I added some blue and gold rings in chalk pencil when I was finished, the colors of Ukraine, since the tangle is derived from Ukranian folk art (see yesterday's post).
Tangle: Kivka. Done on a black pre-strung Zendala tile. I ignored the string, but when I was done drawing the string still showed faintly so I added the chalk pencil rings to cover it. Gold and Silver Slicci Metallic pens. Both pens were at least 10 years old and previously unused. I am lucky they worked. I don't even remember where I got them.
As one person, I cannot bring peace to Ukraine. I cannot restore what they have lost: lives, livelihoods, homes, family, and peace of mind. No one person can do this alone.
But I can join with others to protest, to support. And I can take the time to sit quietly and calm myself, so that I make wiser decisions when I protest or when I support.
Drawing and meditation both do that for me. So does drawing AS meditation. The more peace and compassion I can develop within myself, the more peace and compassion I can bring into the world. Perhaps only in small ways, but if each of us were able to do this, it would be powerful.
So I have taken the time to draw this afternoon, breathing deeply and working line by line, one line at a time. It is calming. It gives me courage to watch the news tonight. Again. To witness the inhumanity. Again. It gives me courage to keep protesting, to keep supporting, to keep loving, despite it all.
Can you get more simple than this? I don't think so. This must be the equivalent of doing musical scales each day.
I'm using Bijou tiles here (only 2" square) to practice one basic tangle a day. Except I'm way behind and these each only take a few minutes to do, so I've been doing about 2-4 tiles a day to catch up. This is part of a 365 tangle challenge, and I appreciate that the intention is to keep it very simple each day all year.
Good advice, whether in drawing or in meditation. Practice-practice-practice is one great first tip, and the next: don't over-complicate things. Review the basics frequently. Take time to breathe. No need to rush or push. All of these things are true for both art and true in meditation. Art and meditation are deeply interconnected, in my view.
The temperature was zero Farenheit when I woke up and this afternoon has reached a blazing 11° F (that would be MINUS 11.6°Centigrade, correct?). I've been basking in the warmth by drawing a blue and black zendala that captures the winter colors.
Wind outside is howling, and howled all through last night.
Daylight is fading. Snow is on the way.
Hot cocoa, anyone?
By Mary Oliver
all the singing is in
the tops of the trees
where the wind-bird
with its white eyes
shoves and pushes
among the branches.
Like any of us
he wants to go to sleep,
but he's restless--
he has an idea,
and slowly it unfolds
from under his beating wings
as long as he stays awake.
But his big, round music, after all,
is too breathy to last.
So, it's over.
In the pine-crown
he makes his nest,
he's done all he can.
I don't know the name of this bird,
I only imagine his glittering beak
tucked in a white wing
while the clouds--
which he has summoned
from the north--
which he has taught
to be mild, and silent--
thicken, and begin to fall
into the world below
like stars, or the feathers
of some unimaginable bird
that loves us,
that is asleep now, and silent--
that has turned itself
And here it is, my current punchneedle embroidery project. You've seen the progress in the past few posts, from the beginnings to the middle and now it's about 2/3's done.
This is a relatively large project. It will be 9"x20" when completed.
Slowly but surely I am getting there; punch by punch by punch. There will be thousands of punches by the time I reach the end.
In meditation, we go breath by breath. I often think I was well prepared for meditation by the textile pieces I did as a teenager, so many years ago. Stitch by stitch, breath by breath. Cultivating an ability to stay with each moment, with each stitch. With each breath.
Another new project, with all the excitement of a new beginning. This piece is one I've had my eye on making for years, literally...it's called the Stone House Runner and it's also from Old Tattered Flag. Julie, one of the owners, is such a great designer. You can get this as a punch needle embroidery piece OR as a full-sized stunning rug design. At some point, despite wanting to focus on my own designs, I may also want to make this as a rug because it's so beautiful. Here you are just seeing a small part of the entire design. I've put off punching this for 5+ years and now is the time.
Beginning again with projects brings so much excitement. Unless, that is, I have to pull something out and totally re-do something (start over), in which case it can bring another emotion entirely, one that's less fun.
Still, I'm reminded of that most basic instruction in meditation: When the mind wanders, just notice that, and begin again. Without judgement. Oh yes, that's the hardest part: without judgement! Both in meditation and when re-doing a project at work or in a hobby or in art.
And yet, there is always, always something fresh and interesting when we start over/begin again. Always something to learn. As I practice this in both meditation and art, I get enormous pleasure from those learnings. Just as I am with this new piece. It's excitement AND contentment, all rolled into one.
The birds they sing at the break of day...'Start again,' I hear them say.
I've been wanting to attempt an illustrated letter for quite a while and decided to try it this evening. I learned a lot doing this.
Every line in a drawing is a new experience. There's no "right" place to begin. We just start. Each individual line is a new creation. There's no "right" way to draw anything. Some drawings are "better" than others...but if we're drawing mindfully, they all teach us something, no matter the result.
It's the same with meditation. There is no one right way to meditate. Every moment is new, and if our minds wander--which of course, they always do--we simply draw in a new breath, and begin again.
I made hard-boiled eggs last week and after they cooled this is what I saw. I took a photograph because if ever there was an egg begging for kintsugi, this one was it.
However, I ate the egg in my dinner salad, so no kintsugi took place.
Not sure what kintsugi is? It's the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics using gold in the cracks, resulting in a mended object of striking beauty. Look HERE.
The beauty is in the brokenness.
The instant I saw that egg I wanted to paint it, though I've no idea why. Perhaps I've been thinking about kintsugi recently as I observe so much brokenness surrounding us all.
Compassion can be one way to join our pieces back together, to form a strong bond, and to heal ourselves.
I contemplate this, and then write:
Pick up your broken pieces.
Lovingly place them together.
Add the gold.
Allow time for healing.
And then, look.
So much beauty.
And here is one lovely article I saw on the topic.
It's hot and humid outside, not my preferred weather. Demotivating.
However, I see the value of "warming up" in other contexts, like when doing any kind of art. Warming up = doing anything mental and/or physical to get oneself going. Even sitting down for only ten minutes when there is supposedly NO TIME. Here's last night's warm-up below, a quick tangle done just before sleep, inspired by the Sunday night Tangle Time with Amy Kam.
This morning I noticed I didn't want to meditate. Not. At. All. So I applied the warm-up idea to meditation, telling myself that I only had to sit for ten minutes. And reminding myself that I could look right at the resistance the whole time if I wanted to, and that everyone has resistance at times. I did, and of course discovered that I easily meditated for my entire usual time (way longer than ten minutes) and enjoyed it.
Yep, warming up...I may not like it when the weather does it, but it's pretty darned handy for the arts and for meditation.
After warming up today, I did this:
I'm not sure it's finished yet. Probably is.
This was my second try at drawing Tisoooh (see my first attempt HERE) and I could not believe how much easier it was. So much easier! I want to continue to explore.
Thanks to my friend Susie Ng in Thailand, who actually tried the same video I described in my previous post about it and then went good-crazy into experimenting with Tisoooh on her own. You can see her amazing results HERE (scroll down until you find them but prepare for a visual feast along the way). Susie is a phenomenal artist, as you'll see!
Waking up early this morning I could hear rain pounding down. It's a lovely soothing sound under normal circumstances, but clearly something is very out of whack when half the continent is in a drought of emergency proportions and the other half is experiencing unending rain. If we could only share and balance...but we have interfered too much already.
I like this tile very much and am enjoying having made it. It's my interpretation of what Amy Kam was suggesting in her wonderful meditative Sunday night "Tangle Time," now on Eventbrite every week; and yet, the cloudiness and darkness reminded me of our recent storms and weather issues.
There is a balance between taking "right action," based on a true understanding and wisdom, to correct an issue such as climate change, and rushing in to "fix things" with no clear understanding of what we are doing. Or acting out of some form of individualistic greed.
It is the same in meditation. First, see the thing as it is. Take time to be curious. To understand, to experience. Only then will wisdom come, and be accompanied by right action.
I needed this reminder.
This was my own version of another fun composition from Amy Kam of The Peaceful Pen. The big central diagonal attention-grabbing tangle was new to me. A sparkly watercolor pre-coat on the tile made it challenging to draw.
And here's a quote that applies equally to tangling and to meditation.
Learn to poke around. Take your time. Go slow. Get down on your hands and knees and dig around. Sit in one place for an hour at a time and let the world come to you.
(John Bates - A Northwoods Companion, Spring/Summer issue, 1997.
Today more than a hundred CZTs from around the globe gathered online with CZTs in Singapore to do an hour-long meditative tile on behalf of those who have suffered from Covid-19.
These were the same CZTs who last year donated $10K US and this year donated $12K US to Covid relief efforts as a result of their two very successful and well-run schools for tanglers.
What I loved about doing it, though, was that 3 or 4 different CZTs from the other side of the globe led us all through an hour-long meditation in which, as we drew, we focused our compassionate attention on anyone who has suffered from Covid. They did a superb job leading the meditation. I so admire the structure they've created to support humanitarian efforts. Thanks!
And now for the tiny treasure. Yesterday I went to my local bead-and-jewelry-repair shop to get my watch battery replaced. While waiting, I spotted this wooden box, which is no more than about 1 1/2" square. With what appears to be a tangled Turtle on top.
In fact the box is so small I had to take a picture and enlarge the photo in order to see the fine detail on the turtle, which just blew me away. The top of the box slides off so smoothly it's just a marvel of craftsmanship. It's so small that I cannot imagine what to put inside.
This continent was originally called Turtle Island by the First Nations People, and I still call it that. I am very fond of turtles and simply couldn't resist this tiny masterpiece.
And this leads us right back to the meditative nature of the turtle:
Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.
Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a mustache: You won't be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, peace will come looking for you.
Turtles always strike me as devastatingly serious. If turtles could talk, I'd believe everything they said.
Is there such a thing as perfection? Does it even matter? The closest thing I see to perfection is in Nature. I took this picture on the 15th of June, standing in my street looking west around 9.20 pm. That perfect crescent moon, the stunning clouds, the clear air, the silhouettes of the trees. That's about as good as it gets for me.
My camera isn't perfect (though I love it!) nor are my photographic skills, so the crescent is "glistening" and a bit fuzzy rather than sharp. But as with all imperfections, I love it anyway.
I will never be a perfect meditator; I don't believe there is such a thing, nor is it necessary. But as with the moon above, I love it anyway.
As Ryokan says:
The thief left it behind:
at my window.
Last night I tuned into Tangle Time with Amy Kan CZT and was delighted to see that she was using the tangle "Gotta Go" in her Sunday night practice. I love this tangle and can't imagine why I don't use it more often.
Since I knew I'd done it before, I looked back through my work and discovered I'd last used it as a tangle in 2015 (see below). I haven't done it since, especially as I don't tend to do grid-based tangles.
This is one reason I enjoy learning from other CZTs--if I'm practicing with someone who likes grid-based tangles, I'm forced to do one too, and I need that prod. And it's fun! Here was the 2015 version I did in an old "Tangle-a-Day" calendar, with the tangle creator's name, Lianne Woods:
Out of practice means out of mind.
This applies to meditation, as well. Except with meditation, if I neglect practice, I am IN the mind 100% of the time, rather than being mindful.
I am a very fortunate person. Very. Yesterday, a weekend day, I had to call for help twice: My air conditioning broke in this very hot weather (mice in the compressor chewed thru the wires and blew a fuse) and later I had to call a plumber because of a leak in my kitchen faucet spewing water everywhere. Why is that lucky? Because when I called, both of them came within 60-90 minutes even though it was a weekend, both were wonderful and both problems got resolved completely.
I'm also very lucky because I have water. And because I even have air conditioning. But especially because I have water, when so many in the world do not have safe drinking water for miles, let alone in their homes. I know how lucky I am.
Below are two pieces: the first is my attempt to draw a tangle called Drawings (pronounced "Draw-Wings"). I've never been all that good at this tangle but I love the way others do it. Yesterday I was determined to improve so I drew it on a post-it note and gave myself permission to mess up bigtime if that's what happened. So of course it came out pretty well.
I was really interested to see how well it came out when I deliberately reminded myself that the outcome did not matter. Just the practice.
After doing the post-it, I looked over at a tile I'd been stuck on for several days. I mean, I was REALLY stuck. I was planning to discard it. It was not symmetrical. The center sphere wasn't really a sphere. I had no idea what to do next and most of it was blank. I'd done the two tangles Snelly (as the "string" or container) and inserted the tangle Aleuba--this is a tile for Hanny Nura's Full Moon Mosaic on FB where each month she suggests a string and one or two tangles, always involving the moon somehow, and then everyone does what they like with them. Including adding other tangles. So I'd created the string and inserted the second tangle she suggested but the tile looked awful.
What the hell, I thought, I'll throw in some Drawings tangles in those big empty spaces. Just for practice--this can't get any worse. And then I'll add a bit of color. What came out was this, which I quite like even though it's still asymmetrical.
Well of course the big lessons are: Unless it's a life or death issue (just about never), give myself permission to screw up and see what happens. And the typical, constant lesson from Zentangle® is: don't give up on something. Keep working. If it fails, so what? It's just a fifty-cent tile. It's just practice. I feel like I got lucky again.
Seems to me that all of life is just practice. Right?
The more I practice, the luckier I get.
What should we do when there appears to be very little energy for "doing?" Sometimes we have days like that. I had one today.
Fortunately, I had two small Bijou (2"x2") tiles already prepped with Map Tangled backgrounds, so today I did them as experiments. I had to make an effort to get going since I had no energy at all.
The jury is out on whether I like the results all that much. On this first tile I put the tangle Pepper (with a few orbs added) which I tarted up with Gold Jellyroll pen in between the black Micron PN strokes and also in the negative spaces. I'm still contemplating this one. But at least it got me drawing on a day when I felt...blah. As we sometimes do, for no reason. Just blah. Not bad, not good.
How often do we notice these moments of complete neutrality? I usually don't, unless a lot of them get strung together during a day--unusual, but it does happen once in awhile. Should neutral always equal "blah?" Many folks experience an occasional no-energy day.
Perhaps I just needed a day to do nothing? Or simply to contemplate neutrality? There hasn't been much to feel neutral about in a long, long time (locally or globally). Perhaps neutrality has been snoozing, and is now waking up again. Is it actually neutrality, then, or could my over-stimulated nervous system from these last few traumatic years not recognize what it means to rest and restore itself?
Experiment #2,is also done on a pre-prepped Map Tangled background on another tiny tile. Only this time, the prep included putting a silver metallic Fine Tec watercolor glaze over the regular pink-rose watercolor. I used a purple Micron PN to do the tangle, which is Diva Dance--a tangle I love but always find quite baffling. I need remedial Diva Dance lessons!
Diva Dance reminds me of neurons in the brain, quivering and firing. And yet when I'm drawing, I'm usually totally absorbed and just not thinking. Perhaps my own dancing neurons go into some type of trance when I draw. A good thing, on days like this one.
A metallic shine is hard to capture on camera, and the deep rose color did not show truly here. As is the case with the other small experiment above, I am still waiting to decide how I feel about the tile.
In the end, it doesn't matter. The practice itself--and "showing up" even on a day when I didn't have much energy--was my intention, not the final outcome.
Show up. Sit down. Whatever comes up is simply what is arising in this moment. Notice it. No judgement.
Exactly like meditation.
Truly, I am a lucky gal.
I did this tangle last night for a friend whom I think of as a real gem.
This woman has been my mentor for the last two years in a meditation teacher training program. She has been unbelievably kind, sensitive, helpful, and has drawn liberally from and shared her own deep practice and her decades of experience teaching meditation to others. In the process she has been a powerful example to me, as well as to the other four people in my small peer group for the last couple of years. We have been fortunate to know her.
In Buddhism there are many lists, one of which is known as "The Three Jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma, and and Sangha." I mailed off this little Zentangle® Gem Portrait today with that in mind, to say thank you to her. She has managed to embody the Buddha's teachings, transmitting the Dharma clearly and faithfully, and with patience and kindness has helped us to form a peer supervision group (the Sangha) that will continue long after the program ends.
Thank you, Adi.
"...You should understand that you are one of the Three Jewels. You shouldn't put the Three Jewels outside of yourselves; you should always think of yourselves as being one of the Three Jewels—and that includes your body, your speech, and your mind.”
― Dhomang Yangthang, The Union of Dzogchen and Mahamudra
Yes, it really looks this way.
This exquisite photograph of the Grand Canyon at Sunset was taken on the Martin Luther King Holiday, 2021, by Michael Quinn, a fabulous National Park Service photographer who has lived at the Canyon forever.
I think it speaks to his heart.
It certainly speaks to mine.
Eating Fruit at the Grand Canyon - A song to make death easy
Since this great hole in earth is beyond
My comprehension and I am hungry,
I sit on the rim and eat fruit
The colors of the stone i see,
Strawberries of iron cliffs, sagebrush
melons, white sand apple, grapes
The barely purple of the stonewashed slopes,
And every color I eat is in my vision,
Colonized by my eye, by me and everyone
I have known, so vast, so remote,
That we can only gaze at ourselves, wondering
At our reaches, eat fat fruit while we
Grow calm if we can, our folded
Rocky interiors pressed upwards through
Our throats, side canyons seeming almost
Accessible, the grand river of blood
Carving us even as we sit, devouring
Color that will blush on our skin
Nourish us so that we may climb
The walls of the interior, bewildered,
Tremulous, but observant as we move
Down in, one foot, another,
careful not to fall, to fall,
The fruit fueling us in subtle
Surges of color in this vastly deep
Where birds make shadow and echo
And we have no idea
Why we cannot comprehend ourselves,
Each other, a place so deep and bright
It has no needs and we wonder
What we’re doing here on this fragment
Of galactic dust, spinning, cradled,
Awestruck, momentarily alive.”
― Diane Hume George
Out my back window, immensely tall trees are swaying in a wind passing through the back yard. I'm thinking about the way the light makes the sky at this moment--just before sunset--look like stainless steel. Exactly the color of stainless steel. Clouds have blocked the setting sun and as I watch, the tone of the clouds shifts slightly more towards blue.
I never tire of watching the changing sky, or the way the gray and brown tree branches dance across it, finding their own rhythm in the evening wind. This light is moving us gradually from day to night. It subtly alters the cloud colors in each passing moment.
Just like thoughts change, and just the way life changes from moment to moment.
I want to be fully present for this moment. Just this moment.
When I finished typing and looked up, I could see a horizontal band of luscious rose-tinted light crossing the sky below the stainless steel and blue clouds. And below that, a band of gold-white from the last rays of the sun.
Exquisite, this moment.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society