Every year at this time I find myself looking backwards. And forwards. Today I was doing some cleaning in my art room, and I found these 12-month-old-tiles below. Bittersweet, indeed.
In mid-December 2019, I was just back from a wonderful weekend with a good friend at Kripalu, drawing tangles with Martha Huggins (on the left) and Molly Hollibaugh (right) of the Zentangle® family. If this year had been normal, I'm sure I'd have done the same. But we all know it was not a normal year.
So here is a short review of some of the work we did in December 2019, with the fond hope that we will be able to do something similar in 2021. Looking at these tiles brought back so many good memories for me.
And although I'm not a Christmas celebrator, I just happened to get some non-Christmas presents this year (the timing just worked out that they arrived at Christmastime). Here are two that I'm thrilled by but haven't had time to try out yet.
This is a commemorative but perfectly functional Oxford Punchneedle, called The Peacock. Amy (Oxford) had only 1300 of these made from laminated wood, to commemorate her 25th year in business. It's a #13 Fine size and I cannot wait to try it out. Check out the bag, made of fabric to match the needle. I love it! I gifted this to myself from myself.
A friend is a gift you give yourself.
Robert Louis Stevenson
I spotted this bumper sticker on the back of a car a couple of blocks away from my house as I was out on a walk this afternoon. At first I walked past it, but I was laughing so loud I had to circle back to take the photograph. There were a few other things on the car that suggested to me that the owner might be an amateur or even a pro astronomer. Some type of scientist.
I want this on a t-shirt. They do make them, of course. I found them on amazon.
What a year.
This was the scene as I took a walk this morning. I do not live on a mountain, but this reminded me of one of my favorite instrumentals, Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
Such a lovely morning, and then in the afternoon, there was the sun and relative warmth.
Meanwhile, a good friend send me a greeting card I well remember from buying some of these myself in the 1980s. I haven't seen them in years and loved getting this. There was a whole series of these cards, based on flowers and vegetables. Here is the lovely Eggplant Deva, painted by Azra Simonetti circa 1986.
Some days have their own sweetness. This was one.
Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called "the present."
I've been so busy attending to another major commitment that I completely forgot this follow-up to my last post. Here I've added another three tiles and put them together into a hexagon. (I'm actually writing this on December 11th, having completely forgotten that the draft was sitting here since the 5th, waiting to be posted.) That's the way life is going at the moment. Scattered.
It makes me aware of the fact that we can only really attend to one thing at a time, while everything else fades into the background.
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
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.
The three watchwords of this year must be explore, adapt, and, learn. Because we have had to explore, adapt/find alternative ways to do things that we were forced into altering, and learn quickly, all because of the pandemic.
Here in the USA, Thanksgiving Day is an occasion that requires all three words this year. I've never been a celebrator myself--I prefer to stay home and keep a quiet day, often dining with friends later in the week.
All those friends would be simply astounded to know I actually have a turkey in my oven this year.In fact, they'd never believe it. Everyone knows I do not cook--I don't know how. Never learned. So here are 2 important facts: First, I am NOT dining with or having anyone in my house this year. Second, I didn't cook this turkey. I am merely warming it up as a favor to another friend who has two and can't get them both in her oven. Explore, adapt, learn--indeed!
Between the two of us, we are packing up plates and sharing with our neighbors. The food will go in bags and neighbors who cannot travel this year or who cannot have friends/family over can come pick up a contact-free Thanksgiving Dinner and go home and be safe and eat it. I wish I could say I thought of this, but I didn't--it was my neighbor's idea and I'm just warming up the bird for her. A genius of an idea! And one I am thankful for on this very strange Thanksgiving.
Since I'm working on getting back into the tangling groove, I made her the tangle above as a thank-you gift. I retraced my steps from the one I posted yesterday but this time I created it without the underlaid outer square of white wax pencil (there is indeed an underlay, but the one you can see above is intentional, whereas the one I did yesterday shows an unintentional white "frame" near the border of the piece). I used a light frame of graphite instead. It worked well and I think I've finally gotten this technique down. Good to know.
Despite this globally agonizing year, I am aware of much I still have to be thankful for. I wish that were so for everyone, even as I know of the struggles and losses so many have had. May we all find something good in our days today.
The poet Rumi has said:
Wear gratitude like a cloak
and it will feed
every corner of your life.
Below is a repeat of today's version next to yesterday's version, for simple comparison.
It never stops, the learning. Here I'm trying to learn a Zentangle® technique called TranZending--a form of layering one pattern over another. I've never really gotten the hang of this before, but am happy with how it turned out. I watched one of ZenLinea's videos and followed along. What I learned: for one thing, even tho she suggests some very very faint white colored pencil guidelines to start, and I did make them faint, the wax in the colored pencil still acts as a "resist" and doesn't really get colored over later on. Which is fine -- even promising -- if it's a design element. But here it wasn't meant to be a design element. Now I know.
I may try this one again. Lots to learn, and I'd like to try the guidelines in graphite and see what happens. Once I figure this out, I can apply to my own future tangle designs.
Here are the beginning and mid-stages of this piece:
I'm always open for people saying I'm wrong because most of the time I am.
Bubble Gum Pink Anything is always a turnoff for me. However, I discovered a blank but watercolor-washed tile that qualified as that shade or something really close. Someone else had done the wash, and it was in a pack of pre-colored blank tiles I bought from a vendor at a Zentangle® event a decade ago or so.
I wondered what, if anything, I could do with it when I ran into it yesterday. The color was hurting my eyes (as you'll read below, the photo actually drained out most of the eyeball-popping bright pink).
Since I am so rusty and trying to get my drawing mojo back, I'm studying instructions from other teachers whom I respect, and Zen Linea certainly qualifies. So I went to SkillShare and logged onto one of her videos and tried this on the Bubble Gum Pink tile.
Interesting to note that in the light available when I took this photo, the "Bubble Gum" quality of the pink really calmed down. Trust me: in person, the pink is MUCH louder than it looks here. And the violet color is much more subtle. So interesting how color can photograph.
But here's the fun part. At the end of the video I was using, there was a list of projects previous students had done. Not only was I shocked to see I had done this video before, but I had done in exactly one year ago today.
I had no memory of ever having done it before. Not only did I do it then, I did a second, alternative version the next day. So this version is my third. Pretty comical.
In my mail today was a small flat envelope with the return address of a place from which I could not remember having ordered a thing. Huh???
I puzzled over it, put the mail down to do a few other things, and didn't open it until just now.
This cracked me up! I had recently sent a donation to the Insight Meditation Society, or "IMS," in Barre, MA, and in response they sent a lovely thanks and included these three masks. A total surprise!
IMS is renowned for their meditation instruction, and with good reason. In times when Covid-19 isn't interfering, it's a tremendous place to go for a weekend program or on a meditation retreat. As you might imagine, they are offering a full slate of programs online at the moment to keep people safe during the pandemic. These messages of lovingkindness really made me smile.
Here is the start of a mandala, just the beginning linework.
I drew this last night while studying one of Romi Marks' videos. I screwed up the center--but luckily, there are "no mistakes!" in Zentangle® and so I just kept going and did my own thing in the center. And I like the way that came out. I also changed a few things in the next layer.
This is one major thing I learned about drawing since I've begun to draw regularly. In fact once I began drawing in the Zentangle® tradition it was resoundingly, repeatedly, and overtly reinforced.: There are no mistakes--keep going and see what you can make of what is in front of you. 90-95% of the time, not only can you work through whatever is there but you can actually surprise yourself with a good result.
It's the same in meditation. And, I believe, in much of life in general. What about that other 5-10%? Anywhere from "meh, or disappointing," to a genuine catastrophe. But still, those odds sound pretty good to me.
So I persevered and began adding color. Big difference! Encouraged, I drew the outside of the tile and stopped there for a bit, having worn myself out for the day:
And here below is the finished tile. I'm glad I stuck with it.
Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon.
Above you see one classic type of pretzel knot. On the left, when you think of it, is another type. Those are washed and dried worsted weight yarn skeins from my wildly successful bargain hunting the other day--twisted into the kind of gentle "knotty looping" that is useful when storing yarn.
I drew the tangled piece as a bookmark for a friend having a birthday next week. It's inspired by one of Sadelle Wiltshire's very nice freehand-knotting videos and this is what fell out of my pen. Perhaps I should do a Celtic Knot punchneedle piece with that yarn. These knots are very relaxing to draw.
And given the knotty problems facing us all right now, with the pandemic and a planet dealing the climate change, political messes and human rights issues, I seem to have knots on the brain.
We learn the rope of life by untying its knots.
With a bit more time now, I'm back into mindful drawing techniques. This is based on one of Sadelle Wiltshire's classes. More of this to come. Very easy, very mindful. And very small, hence the title of today's post.
My latest completed rug. This is one of only 4 rugs I've ever put up on a wall. For a closer look, see the October 1st post. Just to the left of it is the wonderful handmade mirror a dear friend created and gave me--I blogged about that on October 5. And on the side of the stairs you can just see my "Hooker" sign. Got that a few years ago and love seeing it every day.
I don't normally enjoy putting rugs on the wall--I prefer to walk on them. But the colors in this one are so subtle I finally decided the wall would be safer. It's all scrap wool that I had lying around.
I've also run out of room for rugs at the moment and may have to put a few more of my patiently-waiting rolled-up rugs on walls around the house.
Less than 3 minutes was all it took to hang this, once I had some assistance. A very small amount of time (title of today's post), and something I've wanted to do for weeks.
Today I made it (with mask on my face of course) to a new shop called Swanson's Fabrics in Western Massachusetts. I'd heard about it but hadn't gone until today. It was large enough to feel safe inside. Part of the time it was just me and the owner, and there were never more than 2-3 others at any one time, all distanced.
But oh, the treasures! Kathryn Swanson, the owner, has more than fabrics; she also has yarns, threads, sewing notions, and braiding equipment.
NOTE: All her fabrics are $4/yard. No matter what they are made of. Seriously! Cottons, upholstery and lots of other fabrics, and even wool yardage (the wools go out the door nearly as soon as they arrive--I grabbed 1.5 yards of the light colored wool you see above on the right, for $6 total).
And I'm pretty certain she mail-orders, so feel free to contact her and ask.
All of her fabrics, yarns, and notions are rescued from people's basements or from fabric stores or yarn stores that have gone out of business. You could go one day and find nothing, and go back the next day and find tons of wonderful new rescued goods.
When you click the link to her website above, be sure to go to her "About" tab and read her mission statement. I'm in awe.
I also got seventeen 100-gram skeins of off-white, 100% wool yarns, very high quality if a bit grubby from being stored for quite a while. I'm pretty sure they were originally from Sweden. Some are worsted weight and some are DK. I can overdye them all. Very exciting. I cleared her out of these, however, so you'll have to find your own treasures some other day.
This was a Big Find, and therefore doesn't fit the title of today's post. But I didn't think any of you would mind...
I did this last night just before I went to sleep.
My thought in this moment, this morning:
The Wheel of Change rolls on, every moment of every day.
"The thing that lies at the foundation of positive change, the way I see it, is service to a fellow human being."
Although it's too bad they are necessary (although they certainly are necessary!), a kind friend just sent me 3 masks that didn't fit her but will fit me. Recognize the the fabrics? Designer: William Morris. (A.K.A. "That wallpaper guy," as a good friend calls him, which cracks me up) I adore Morris and will be so happy to wear these.
As mentioned in yesterday's entry, I went to a meeting with CZT Tomomi Galeano where she had us practicing the tangle Waybop. Many people find it hard to do. I knew it would be a fun practice. We all just used scrap paper, and I used cheapo printer paper--in fact, I did this on the back of a bill, or what I thought was a bill, that I was planning on recycling.
Tomomi just did this as a free meeting for anyone who wanted to come. Another kind friend. I feel very fortunate with the number of kind people in my life.
Want to see the plain unvarnished first version? It's in yesterday's post.
The misshapen exterior is caused by my just cutting out the paper around the tangle. I did this exercise as pure practice and you can tell by the wobbly lines I was making decisions as I went along. I didn't expect any result, but was sort of charmed by it when it was done.
I finished it with some shading and color this morning. It turned out to be a good day for Waybop, or "bopping around." Suits my mood. Of course we still have turmoil ahead, but I believe we are up to the task. And today's weather where I am: absolutely exquisite. Warm but not hot, unexpectedly.
Similar to meditation, where some days are a slog, and others are just full of unexpected delights. Today is one of the latter.
Then, to my astonishment, when I finally flipped over the cheap paper, I realized I hadn't done it on a bill. I'd done it on the back of an email a friend sent me with a list of Peace Songs we would be singing together (on Zoom, of course). Interesting "coincidence" with the news today. May we all find peace in the years ahead.
It's a day for relief, and delight.
Above is yet another tangle I have never particularly liked: Rain (it's the outside tangle on that tile). And yet I am surprised at how much I like the way it works as a border. Challenging myself to use it was a good idea.
After trying that, I decided to try the tangle Waybop on a piece of scrap paper, so I stuck this on the back of a bill I had paid, and which I'd already tossed in my recycling bin. It's on cheap copy paper and isn't even shaded. Perhaps if I do shade it and the appearance changes dramatically, I'll repost the update on another day. I had fun experimenting.
"Try things against your grain to find out just what your grain really is."
We have no choice but to start from wherever we are, yes? I've finally had the time to start tangling again, but my recent lack of practice means I've gotten very rusty. No matter. It's just where I am in this moment. The tile at left is not one of my favorites but it's the truth of things.
The tangle is Auraknot, one that I've never quite "gotten," always making mistakes. In the past its' been frustrating! This time I finally got it, and did it successfully. One time as the frame, and then five additional times inside the frame. I was excited and pleased for myself!
But here's the thing: I'll probably never like this tangle. Even now that I know what I'm doing with it, it's just not that attractive to me. Maybe with more practice? We'll see.
It does make me think of the old saying from the I Ching, however: "Perseverance furthers." It was so satisfying to figure out how I'd been going off-course and correct myself. Now this tangle comes easily to me.
Many lessons for me here. We really can only begin anything from right where we are in that moment. And repetition can really pay off--in daily life and in formal meditation. Finally, we each have our preferences, and it's important to notice them.
With all that is going on externally in this country, tangling provides such a lovely respite and rest. And the more I do it, the more begins to come back to me. I'm working my way through Gratitangles2020 and I'm way ahead in the month already because I'm enjoying the process so much. At this rate I'll be done early. Here are two more tangles.
"Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
- JK Galbraith
Ah, here it is. The prime example of Don't-know Mind, that shocking moment of extreme uncertainty. I write this the day after the election, during a time when we still don't know the results.
Here we sit.
It's not comfortable. But that is the truth of this moment.
Even once a decision is clear, we still will not know what happens next. In fact, we never can know what happens next. We are always in Don't-know Mind; it's simply more obvious today than usual. Since we are wired to prefer certainty, it's so much more convenient to ignore the reality that Don't-know Mind is our continuous state.
Another thing I don't know : who stained or painted the small square of watercolor paper I used to tangle on last night. To whomever you are: thank you. The staining was faint but spread in lovely fashion across the paper and provided a wonderful smear-y background for linework and bits of color that I added. I like the way the original background spreads out beyond the border here.
I rarely do either of these tangles, so every line on this square is a product of Don't-know Mind.
Thank goodness for Zentangle®, which is amazingly relaxing, even in the most uncertain times.
"So much of our difficulty with uncertainty is that we've evolved to survive by trying to predict the future. The seasons, the crops, where the animals will be, if we're hunting.
But if we can really take care of what's right here, this present moment, what else is the future made of, but this moment right here, right now? The future is just a continuation of this. So there's no point in worrying and being anxious about the future, if we take good care of this moment, breathing in, knowing our heart is still beating, and how miraculous that is.
Breathing out, and feeling the gift of our lungs. That's the present moment."
- Kaira J. Lingo
It's Election Day here in the USA and the voting is hot and heavy. Last night I did another mandala, above. I'm reminded of how the Wheel of Life is ever-turning, ever changing, and today will prove that to be true. No matter who wins this election, my country has changed dramatically over the last four years, and it will continue to change during the next four. Inevitably. May we know peaceful change; may we grow into kindness and peace each day, and may we trace our roots to the Tree of Peace.
The tradition of the Tree of Peace was especially honored by the indigenous peoples of this country. There are many beautiful renditions of Native Peoples view of the Tree of Peace but I didn't want to use any of those out of copyright concerns. Below is an image from Wikimedia, used with permission. This image comes from Slovenia. Many world religions also speak of and value a Tree of Peace.
After yesterday's crazy busy-ness I thought I'd post something super-simple today. This is the tangle Dragonair, which is part of the Inktober 2020 challenge and is completely new to me. In fact, this is my first attempt, dashed off on a lavender-colored post-it note to see if I could figure it out. I did this before putting it into the journal page before yesterday's post, but today I added the white chalk pencil and graphite. A new favorite.
My goodness, isn't that a busy page! Yikes. But the Inktober challenge is meant to be an annual sampling of a wide variety of tangles, so unless I do each one on its own tile, it's always going to be an "eye-crossing" visual experience. And this one is certainly no exception.
The process is really fun, though. I get to sample things I might not have considered otherwise.
A few of these have become new loves; a few really left me cold.
A few that I've always had trouble drawing just smoothed right out and were easy.
And a few that I know very well somehow turned into hot messes on the page as I ran into unexpected trouble with them!
Sort of like the experience of a daily meditation practice. Or to quote Forrest Gump, "...you never know what you're going to get."
Meanwhile, our fall foliage season is rapidly winding down, but for some reason, this sugar maple didn't get that memo and is just getting started. Sooooo pretty.
The start of any creative project requires something called Beginner's Mind, or Don't-Know Mind, which is also an ideal state for meditation. Since every meditation is different, using Don't-Know Mind is the best way to approach each one.
Just as with wool work, holding expectations at bay until I find out how things actually look and what actually comes up in this moment always works best for me. I learn this lesson repeatedly. Next time you see rug photos, the work will look different. Next time I meditate will be different as well.
Below is a new frame I was lucky enough to have delivered today. It turns so easily. As I said, I have two rugs underway right now. The one above is traditionally hooked and the one below is punch hooked.
Frame is available from Notforgotten Farm.
Yup, I'm starting another rug. This (below) is the first throw-down of possible colors. Who knows how many will be used? The design is a "challenge" my local rug hooking group is taking on--we are all hooking one particular pattern in our own way. Some members are already done; I haven't even begun mine yet but hope to get it underway tomorrow or later this week. I'm getting excited.
I actually introduced the pattern to the group in February and everyone wanted to try it.
The entire phase of beginning a rug reminds me of meditation practice. Every single time one sits to meditate, it's a form of starting over. You never know what will happen. It may not be fun every single time, but it is always interesting.
It's the same with hooking rugs. I always have a hazy mental picture of what I'll be producing, but the final result may or may not agree. Getting to the finish line can be a series of daily, or even moment-to-moment, changes.
My next unpredictable rug adventure is officially underway.
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.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
My next Beginning Zentangle® class is not yet scheduled--stay tuned.
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