It is a small thing, but this past week I was forced experience a different way of being in the world. An injured shoulder required me to stop using my left arm for the week. I am left-handed, so that made everything a bit awkward. Including painting. But I often draw wrong-handed to keep things loose, so the opportunity to paint an entire piece that way was too good to pass up.
This painting, created entirely wrong-handedly, does bring me both wonder and joy. And the realization that maybe, just maybe, the way I usually do things isn't the only or best way to do them. Apparently, it is never too late in life to become a diver. :)
I've been contemplating the idea of home - the feeling even the word itself conjures. Nhat Hanh invites us to come home each time we sit, each time we breathe, each time we are present to the wonders of life.
But the word home evokes different images, emotions and responses in each of us. A place, a time, a person, an ideal. Cox's photo has us peeking into what appears to be an abandoned home, yet the light lifts the image and makes it hopeful.
Nichtern's advice applies here. The pursuit of the next level of painting feels otherworldly, holy - just out of reach. It is the creative version of living at the edge of your eyeballs. There is a temptation to pursue it solely, intensely and fiercely. A temptation to raise the bar with each effort. But finding the sacred in what I already do well and easily is a sweet delight and an opportunity to both create and refuel at the same time.
I am reminded of a meditation on eating a tangerine by buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh: “Each time you look at a tangerine, you can see deeply into it. You can see everything in the universe in one tangerine. When you peel it and smell it, it’s wonderful. You can take your time eating a tangerine and be very happy.”
And so I will be communing with this avocado toast, dear reader. I'd love to hear what breakfast food held the universe for you this morning. :)
Cover that with a frosting of introversion, a desire for deep and meaningful connection, and a perhaps jaded view of love in general and you'd think it was a formula for comedic failure. Except it wasn't.
Following the repeated theme (cue 2 x 4 smacking against my head) of surrender to what is and a determination to follow the breadcrumbs of the universe (yes, even if they lead to a witch's cottage), somehow I tumbled right into a new beginning, "next step in the ongoing dance between self and other" - NICHTERN - which is as deeply connected as it is lighthearted and playful. Yay. :)
And so, as Buttercup and Westley (as Dread Pirate Roberts) awkwardly roll down a hill toward their next adventure, I find myself smiling at a universe which has a quirky sense of humor along with a penchant for heavy boards banging against the head.
This painting began a long time ago - more than a year - during a workshop with Pat Dews. The woman's face peering from the black bird was a watercolor creation waiting for inspiration. I grabbed it with the intention of painting over, but it became more of a painting around. First the bird (the boundaries of the mind, perhaps?) and then the background (in the style of Stan Kurth) . When the Gandhi quote crossed my path, it dawned on me that the piece required a layer of protection - the ghostly coyote/wolf stands between an open mind and the world, allowing a moment to choose which thoughts to allow passage through. Only those with clean feet, of course. Perhaps a new doormat and boot tray are recommended?
The blog (and the blogger) will be on vacation next week as we spend time with loved ones and gather joy for our pockets. Wishing you and yours a delightfully malarkey-filled Thanksgiving.
"...I hope you softly trip into unexpected moments of bareness, where the glow of your heart will touch everything it meets, and you can't help but remember how dear it is to be alive."
That's a heap load of whoa there. How many of us hope to trip into moments of bareness? Or allow our hearts to touch everything they meet? How to stay in that openness and vulnerability and to stop resisting where life wants to take us - that is the challenge. How to lean in when all of our instincts are to look away. How to listen to our pain and figure out what it is saying to us. Sharing our stories is a good way to lean in. Sometimes we learn something in the telling. Other times in the listening. And now and again, a story shared in a moment of vulnerability helps us softly trip into bareness together.
Nepo, in his way with the most delicious of phrases, brings us to the very point when love is knowable.
"We're all born with a depth of heart that only unchecked love and care can open. We become of utmost use when we act on this opening of the heart. Once we act, we start to live a life that is tender and resilient." (Nepo)
We act when we offer our hand, but also when we accept a hand offered, hold it closely and allow our hearts to open. The reward - a tender and resilient life - can you imagine? I am heading in that direction. It is the right way to go.
"When the tangle of the daily has us forget how precious life is, we tend to keep what matters from what needs to be done. Somewhere in the press of our day, in the press of a conflict that we won't let go of, in the press of a fear that makes us forget the deeper order of things - suddenly there's this shift and we make what matters a reward for getting to the end of trouble. But trouble never ends. It comes and goes like clouds. That is why what matters needs to come first." (Nepo)
I wonder if Mark Nepo knows how often he slaps me in the head with his words.
Recently, I've begun to reverse the priority of things. What matters comes first. The "tangle of the daily" comes after. You might be wondering what this looks like....an often empty refrigerator, a pile of ironing waiting for attention, a hike before working, a snuggle before errands, chowder with my sister before art deadlines, a long phone call with a dear one instead of sleep, painting past meal times, porch sitting in the sun. You get the idea. The resulting mind shift is flabbergasting. True, I don't get as much stuff done. The old stuff, that is. Instead, I get this other stuff, the stuff that matters, fully completed and stuffed in my joy pockets until the task list isn't even on my mind.
For you, dear reader, this might be easy and done every day. For me, the one who always focused on "getting to the end of trouble" before sitting in the preciousness of life, this is monumental. I'll stay here awhile. You know where to find me. :)
After spending time with Rick Bartow's work, I am even more convinced that we must to keep our mitts off the painting and resist over defining. The incomplete body form of the woman in this painting, along with the shredded, ragged textures, hints at the parts beneath the skin. And that's what we're all gunning for - in art and in life - the parts beneath the skin where our hearts are open. I'll meet you there. :)
Jen Jovan and her imaJENation