Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rowdy Abundance

new abstract "If Trees Were Mountains" 11"x14"

I am still gulping in this season of rowdy abundance that has thrown itself at my doorstep. The sun gets up early and stays up late and somehow I try to keep up.  The settling darkness laughs at my foolish tag along attempts as I fall into bed exhausted. I don't want to miss a minute.  I am full of energy for all that needs to be done, for sipping in the deliciousness of the greenness and the savouring the occasional tepid breeze. The grass is waist high in parts of the meadow. The tent caterpillars have consumed the leaves from entire trees giving them an eerie silvery glow. They are cocooned in in a tangle of emptiness. Soon their little moth selves will bump against my windows at night like little winged zombies.

The birds dart about in frenzied feeding. Even the tiny woodpecker comes to tap at the plastic feeder hoping to find something to his liking. The quail keep look out for each other as they eat, this seems so endearingly sweet, but of course it is merely a survival behaviour. The hot pink hawthorne tree who showed no sign of blooming last week is tosses it hot pinkness into the sky, even in the distance. In my human way I am constantly reading meaning into the natural world where there is none, or at least not my imagined stories of sweetness or worry or delight. They have their stories but not the ones I stitch together for them, charged with my own hope and fear.

And I  have been plunged into this radical abundance, feeling the energetic pull to be part of it. The lazy slow days of hibernation have disappeared into the drawer with the wool socks. The stack of books I am reading is as tall as the grass. There is "In Buddha's Kitchen" and "Gardening At Dragons Gate", both written by women Dharma practitioners.  Wendy Johnson gardens at Green Gulch Zen Centre in California, Kimberley Snow cooks at a Tibetan Centre in Northern California.  As I read these books at different times over the days the stories seem to merge together and I weave one book out of two. But as I travel deeper into the books  their roads of similarity diverge with the writing and story of the gardening book emerging stronger and more vivid. And so the stories separate and the reading of one increases and the other falls quietly into the background.

New Buddha 16"x20"  heading off to Norway this week

Also traveling  from bedside to coffee table are: "Long Life" and "Why I Wake Early" by Mary Oliver, "Pilgrim" by David Whyte, "Broken Open" by Elizabeth Lesser, "Journey In Ladakh" by Andrew Harvey, and "Collage Discovery Workshop" by Claudine Hellmuth. I am living in the waist tall grass of my reading list, sometimes feeling overwhelmed and sometimes simply picking up what I fancy and reading a bit. I imagine the birds and dear (ha, ha, good typo, deer), must feel this sense of lush madness each day as they make their way through the world.

And between reading list and my infatuation with the outdoor world there seems little time left for virtual living. I read the odd blog. I watch Jeane broadcast from the shed, check a few emails but this is the stuff of colder seasons or rainy days. I suspect many of us have the same inclination, torn from our screens by the the energy of growing things, of warm breezes, a world that offers us so much for so little.

How about you? How has the energy of the season tangled and mixed with your life creating a new you? I am reminded of a quote attributed to the Buddha that I have used on a painting: "Each day we are born again. What we do today is what matters most."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Small Bird Built A Nest In My Heart

A small bird
A nest
In my heart
I saw her
carefully tugging
Prayer flag threads

I didn't see her carry
the dry twigs of despair
the brittle lichen of longing
instead she placed them secretly
knowing they would hold
what was
waiting to fly
from my heart

It is the season of earth's great generosity and abundance. The natural world is bursting with voluptuous Spring greenness, a colour so rich and vibrant that it tickles you from the inside. The maples, the lilacs and the green fingered pine trees.  And all the while in the garden, the weeds grow like -- weeds.

And as a human living in this divine explosion of energy I make some attempt, in my foolishness, to tame a small part of this world that grows up around my door. I pull weeds.  I use the weedeater and the lawn mower. I plant seeds in a garden whose clay soil is a better host to hardy, practiced weeds than to tender veggie seeds. In my grumbling and digging I realize my need to amend the soil. Tiny lights are lit from the candle of despair.

And so the list of tasks that rattle around in my head is also made abundant by this lush season. I am humbled by my role of lion tamer to the natural world. Each morning the overnight surges and spurts of growth greet me and ask me "who do you think you are?"

The deer browse hungrily, eyeing the trellis rose just out of reach, scratching the itch of their velvety antlers. Quail take a dust bath in hollows they have etched with their round bodies and crazy scratching. We watch them argue over whose turn it is in the prime spot under the bird feeder. Seven tiny ducklings swim under the willow that hangs into the pond. Their is always new snacks for the eyes.

I watch the feelings of delight at the sights of nature untamed and then am swamped by the sense of overwhelm that rises in an instant, feeding on my desire to manicure a small square of earth for the part of me that savours order and tidiness. It is a constant movement like the breeze that comes over the hill. My work is to delight in the coexistence of these two senses like a parent of children that like to argue a bit.

And how is it in your part of this lovely planet as it springs to life?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Getting A Big, Free Unusual Happy Life

Small Abstract in matte 11"x14"

For my birthday I got myself a big new free happy unusual life! Nice of me, don't you think? I've been wanting this for quite some time now but every year I forget. Mostly I am never quite sure where to get this, what it looks like and if I can afford it.  Can you think of a better gift, really?  You might even want this yourself?  Oh, did I mention it's a book? By Nina Wise. No I forgot, well memory's not what it used to be and there are up sides to that. The book is subtitled "self-expression and spiritual practice for those who have time for neither" It is my good fortune to have time for both, but still the book appeals.

I like to think of a birthday the same way I think of the turning of the year on January 1st.  Our birth was a new year for us as we inhaled our first breath and this is the anniversary of it. I like to think of my birthday as a time of re-orientation and reflection, a time to consider where I might  go from here, to consider and set intentions, instead of just stumbling along the well worn ruts or reciting the lines of my life by rote. And always with a nod to the bigger picture and the fact that life may have other plans for me.

And of course more than anything, a birthday is a time to be grateful for life so far.  The normal inclination is to pick at what remains undone like some small sore, to notice what doesn't please and what we wish we hadn't done. But there is a moratorium on this line of thinking that comes accompanied by a bar of chocolate (it's a party, right?). This is a time of celebration, don't you think? We tend, in our busyness, in our usual state of partial awareness to forget the essence of these defining moments. Someone bakes a cake, someone buys us a gift, we get a few phone calls, maybe have a nice dinner but the deeper essence of it scuttles along the ocean floor of our lives. I say, get out the Zen pom poms and do a little cheer, shout into the forest. What is the sound of one more year passing? Which way are we pointing ourselves, deeper into the forest or craning, like a wise seedling toward the light?

This year my dharma radar has picked up some previously hidden hot spots.  The power of our minds and how we can train them  in more wholesome ways of being has been an important aspect of practice this year.  A retreat, a general tiredness of the landscape of fear and the book the Buddha's Brain were all auspicious opportunities, pointing me in this direction. I have spent some time just being with worry and fear, getting a taste of their particular flavour in the body and then watching them move through time and again like little dust storms of angst. Seeing how these emotions pull like twisted stitches on the fabric of my days has been sobering.  Seeing that I have a choice to sew a different stitch has made all the difference.  The power of the mind led me to consider  the energy of intention and its cultivation. Like any year, this one has been rich with opportunity to wake up. I like to think that the keel of my little boat has balanced a little more evenly and steadily this turn around the pond (even if I don't have both oars in the water all the time). I have been reminded of the preciousness of this human life by some brave souls which has encouraged me to consider how I really want to spend my time.

So in the tradition of the native people of this land who give gifts when they hold a celebration, I would like to invite anyone who would like a small trinket of art to send me their snail mail address and I will pop a little something in the mail to you. It seems a fitting way to hold a party.

And here are few of the treasures that have come to live with me and give me great delight, bring beauty to my eyes and  and inspire me.

By Jeane Myers

by Juana Almaguer (Gallery Juana on etsy)
Tag by Leslie Avon Miller