"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray" -Rumi
I am using a tiny imaginary wood burning tool to etch these delicate words into my brain before heading into the quiet heart of fall. As I sat, nestled in the small nook of a cedar tree the other day, listening to the ravens discuss their fall plans I considered mine. The cool, still air of fall is one of my favourite things. Renewal, new work, pumpkin soup; these are the offerings of this new season that I am looking forward to.
I will surface like a diver from the pool of summer that was filled with gardening and visitors and a little travel. Summer has such energy. I am tired of it now. I welcome the quiet, focused energy of fall. There is a different kind of doing that comes with fall. A few visitors have noted that fall feels like the real beginning of the new year.
And while my summer was filled with many things, my studio mostly lay silent and closed. I am taking the approach that things have been percolating below the surface, rather than going down the rabbit hole of regret and self recrimination. As the weather dampens and the lion's share of weeding and reshaping an old garden are behind me, the garden no longer calls me out of bed in the morning.
So "the strange pull of what I love" calls to me now. I will follow it, without assumption as much as I can. I want to sit in front of a canvas with no expectation, with no judgement, with a simple silent presence. I want to fall quietly into the underground cave of exploration and creation. I want to move through that space in such a way that hope and fear do not stick to me. This is my fall destination. It will not take many steps, no planes or trains, but I hope to travel miles from where I am now. In my little carry on case I will pack some carefully folded trust and wrinkle free faith; trust in a benevolent universe and faith in my ability to learn from it. Where will "the strange pull of what you love" take you this fall?
I am thinking about travel today. The idea of starting out on a physical journey is strong for me right now for a couple of reasons. The weather is fine, families have returned home from summer vacations and this is the time of year I have often traveled. So I feel the call of places other than home. In a way it is the echo of what I have done in the past, a kind of easy to see karmic call, the urge to repeat what one has done in the past (sobering when one thinks of the less wholesome inclinations one has!) I am remembering to just breath that in and experience what that restlessness feels like in my body.
And I am thinking about travel in general because a young traveler who has my heart has put on her traveling shoes. My daughter, not knowing exactly what comes next in her life, has bravely sold much of what she owns and taken to the road. She had a starting point, but no destination. This encompasses true bravery in my mind: an opening into the unknown, an act of faith, a trust in the universe and in a hero's sense the journey of the self toward the Self.
A while back I borrowed a book from a friend called: "The Art of Pilgrimage subtitled "The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred" by Phil Cousineau. His premise is that any journey can be a sacred pilgrimage if we choose (and perhaps sometimes even if we don't make this conscious choice, it happens anyway). Cousineau says, "Pilgrimage is often regarded as the universal quest for the self. Though the form of the path changes from culture to culture, through different epochs of history, one element remains the same: the renewal of the soul..... For the wandering poet, Basho, pilgrimage was a journey that embodied the essentials of Zen, a simple journey in which the path was the goal, yet also a spiritual metaphor for the well lived life."
And even for those of us who are not leaving our homes behind we can be inspired by Thoreau who made his daily life at Walden a pilgrimage, Cousineau reminds us. The essence of his journey was walking, spending time in nature and seeing deeply, being present. He was apparently inspired by an inscription from King Tching Thang's bathtub which read: " Renew Thyself completely each day, do it again and again and forever again."
And as a final thought about travel here's a quote from Roshi Joan Halifax's book "A Fruitful Darkness": "Everybody has a geography itself that can be used for change. That is why we travel to far off places. Whether we know it ourselves or not, we need to renew ourselves in territories that are fresh and wild. We need to come home through the body of alien lands. For some these journeys of change are taken intentionally and mindfully. They are pilgrimages, occasions when the Earth heals us directly. Pilgrimage has been for me and for many others, a form of inquiry in action."
So where will your heart travel this long weekend? How will you renew your soul at this cross roads of summer and fall? What will you truly see? I wish you safe, happy and fruitful travels.
Last night I wandered through the woods, carrying a jar of freshly made baba ganoush, following a delightful hand drawn map to find the back gate of neighbours, where we sat in the dwindling light enjoying a glass of wine. I think my adventures will lead me up a mountain to a monastery this weekend to find a new supply of incense. I hope to remain mindful so that my steps are pilgrimages into the unknown, mysterious adventures sewn together into the slightly tattered tapestry of my life.
Buddhism & Art...if I had to pick two words that give an overview of what I get up to in this world those would be my choices. Buddhism is the ground upon which I rest all else. I like to think it brings me some sanity. It helps me think in some logical way about what I am doing and look at it as deeply as possible. What did I just do? Why ? What's that all about? ...To try and look at my life without sliding over things or fooling myself...To be present for life, not rejecting or preferring one experience over another. Buddhist practice makes my life full and rich, sometimes filled with joy and sometimes with a deep experience of the suffering present in this world.
After all those words does it seem odd to say that it is the simplicity of Zen that appeals to me? This inclination to simplicity pulls me to try and integrate my practice and work, to paint Buddhas, to observe my process as I work.
I am drawn to mixed media, integrating script and words with images and colour.