Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
My mother did, and my two sisters and I do, get headaches. My mother's mother had severe sinus headaches to the extent that she had surgery to the sinus above her left eye and was left with an indentation there. My headaches are usually on the left side, with pain around and in my eye. My mother and my sisters have suffered from migraine headaches. My mother had a prescription for Percodan, in the days that that was prescribed for headaches. The currently prescribed migraine medications don't help my headaches. For relief, I have recently begun to rely on over-the-counter Excedrin, as the caffeine diminishes the pain. My headaches never last more than three days, for which I am grateful, especially this time, because next Wednesday I start the classes which I hope will lead to a job in a medical office, clinic or hospital setting, one of the few settings in which I can work because there are the least number of environmental triggers for the headaches I experience.
Today's gouache and watercolor painting with chalk pastel added, which I did in the 1980s, is called "Woman With Windows." It occurred to me today that she looks as if she might have a headache, too. I haven't been able to do much for the last couple of days except sleep and read through the headache while taking Excedrin.
The main triggers for my headaches are environmental mold, smoke, incense and scented candles. Most unfortunately, this excludes me from many settings which would otherwise be relaxing and peaceful such as the houses of friends, libraries, old bookstores, antique stores, greenhouses, many historical houses and buildings, damp houses by the ocean, some churches and many meditation groups. December is a difficult month for me because of the prevalence of greenhouse-grown poinsettia plants, which I love for their exquisite redness and greenness, although I have to limit my exposure to them as much as possible -- something not easily accomplished, considering that they are almost everywhere a person goes.
Of course, Western Washington is a moldy moldy place for much of the year, but my home is free of mold. That is what makes it possible for me to live in Western Washington. It seems that there is a threshold dynamic. As long as I spend most of my time in non-triggering environments, I am free from headaches. Still, I rarely go for more than a month without, at least, a mild headache. For many years I thought the headaches came from foods that I was eating, but I have been eating pretty much every kind of food for the past month, without triggering a headache. I haven't consciously eaten anything in the last few days that might trigger a headache. Overripe fruit with its attendant mold is a trigger. It is possible that I ate some overripe fruit. I am not sure exactly what caused this headache but it is characteristic of a headache caused by environmental triggers or overripe fruit.
The headaches became particularly severe and frequent when I was a volunteer shelf-reader at the local public library. It took me several years to figure out that the headaches were triggered by the many wonderful old books for children. I loved volunteering and knew that I would enjoy working full-time in a library. If not for the disabling headaches, that would be my choice of work. Doing research in a library is not possible for me and limits options for returning to college.
Odd. I just got an email dated February 23, 1970, from The Teaching Company. That was the year that my boyfriend spent in Da Nang in Vietnam. That would have been during his first month.
That's it for now. Looking forward to being free of this headache for the last day of 2007. May all beings be free of headaches.
May we see the beginning of peace, if not the end of war, in 2008.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
(35-minute drawing time, 5:50 to 6:30 a.m., using two "Paused" images from the PBS film "Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet." The first image is of a hospital nurse and the second image is of her hands holding the hands of an elderly man in her care while they talk. Click on the pictures for a clearer image. I haven't figured out why the image degrades when I save it. I used the Appleworks6 "Painting" program on an iBookG4 while listening to nothing except what was in front of me.)
(Today, while writing, I am listening to "LIVE: Ravi Shankar at the Monterery International Pop Festival. Two friends and I were there in 1967 and heard this performance.
On Sunday, June 18, 1967, two other 17-year-old young women and I drove from Redwood City, California to Monterey, California for the afternoon concert of Ravi Shankar at what came to be known as the Monterey Pop Festival. We had just graduated from high school a few weeks earlier. Two of us had been to the Magic Mountain Music Festival, earlier in June. As it states in one of the links, Monterey was the first "widely promoted" rock festival in the world, but the first rock festival was the Fantasy Fair & Magic Mountain Music Festival which took place at the summit of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County.
None of us were familiar with the music of Ravi Shankar, but the only tickets left were for his concert on Sunday afternoon. As it turned out, we were extraordinarily fortunate to have heard that astonishing and memorable concert. The beautiful and complex energy of Ravi Shankar and his friends performing the sacred music of India couldn't have been more moving. The music lifted me, carried me and set me down again in amazement. I have listened to this concert again and again, always with renewed awe and gratitude.)
I have a perpetual calendar with daily images of quilt patterns. The names of quilt patterns fascinate me. Today's pattern is called "Balance."
When practicing yoga postures, balance is not a fixed state. Early in my practice of yoga postures, I thought the goal was to be as still as a statue. I felt like a complete failure in those poses which required balance. Then one day, while my yoga teacher was demonstrating a pose that involved balance, I noticed that her foot was not still at all but making constant tiny adjustments which resulted in balance. From then on, although I still found it difficult to balance on one foot, I gave up the idea of being motionless in a balancing pose. In fact, in some of the balance postures I am constantly about to fall dramatically, one way or the other. I let that be okay.
The same goes for a balanced life. Not easy, but I keep practicing.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
A thoughtful friend gave me this book as a gift. I recommend it.
(1-2 hour drawing time, 5:55 to 6:25 a.m. -- 6B pencil on heavy weight, medium tooth surface, 9 x 12 Canson drawing pad, while not listening to anything except what is right in front of me.
Today's "Paused" images are from an excellent PBS documentary from 2002 titled "Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet." Interestingly, it was before September 11, 2001, that this film was in the process of being made.
As I wrote yesterday, I seek out stories from all traditions. Particularly moving, from this documentary, is the story of Kevin James, the son of an African-American/Native American father and a Jewish mother. As an adult, Kevin James became a Muslim as well as a firefighter for the New York City Fire Department. On September 11, 2001, he found himself among the first responders.)
It is my tradition on the first day of Kwanzaa, December 26, to watch the video, "Harambee!". Here's a synopsis.
Which reminds me of what whiskey river quoted on December 23:
""The family is one of nature's masterpieces."
- George Santayana
This morning at 7 a.m. I stood out on my porch in the dark and took this picture.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
(1/2 hour "contour" drawing, 6:30 to 7 a.m. -- 6B pencil on heavy weight, medium tooth surface, 9 x 12 Canson drawing pad, while listening to "Chants of India.".
I was looking at the corner of my living room near the windows, where my Suzuki keyboard is.
This morning I made my drawing time part of my yoga asana practice. As of today, I am calling my drawing posture "Lekhavidhasana, "from the Sanskrit word "lekhavidhi" meaning "the act of drawing or painting" and the word "asana" meaning "posture or pose." When I draw, I sit in a cross-legged pose on a comfortable chair.
What has been happening is, since I have been drawing daily in the early morning, I have not been doing my early morning yoga practice. So I decided that I would do "Lekhavidhasana" just before doing Savasana (The Corpse Pose) at the end of the asana part of my Yoga practice.
In order to add Lekhavidhasana, "The Drawing Pose", I have to let go of doing a number of other poses, but the benefit I get from drawing daily feels equal to the benefit from the poses I won't have time to do.)
I love stories. Stories from all traditions. Here is something from a A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas:
"Go on the Useless Presents."
". . . a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; AND A PAINTING BOOK IN WHICH I COULD MAKE THE GRASS, THE TREES, THE SEA AND THE ANIMALS ANY COLOUR I PLEASED, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds . . . "
I love the way Dylan Thomas finishes his remembrance:
". . . I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept."
As I've been writing this post, I've been listening to "Apple Scruffs," a song written by George Harrison. Listen here for a clip.
Monday, December 24, 2007
May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
(from "Forever Young," Bob Dylan, 1974)
(Gouache and watercolor painting by Old Girl Of The North Country, 2002)
Sunday, December 23, 2007
(1/2 hour "contour" drawing, 6:00 to 6:30 a.m., from "paused" images from the DVD, "No Direction Home" -- 6B pencil on heavy weight, medium tooth surface, 9 x 12 Canson drawing pad, while listening to "Chants of India," by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison)
(Blog post written while listening to "Dieu A Nos Cotes (With God On Our Side), sung by Hart-Rouge, a Quebec ensemble who appeared on "A Nod to Bob." Listen to a clip here.
"Let's face it. America's a big country. And if you're French-Canadian, it's easy to see it as a big brewing pot melting minorities like butter. Dylan is one of those songwriters who has forced us to look again, to dig a little deeper and see a side of the States that challenges all the cultural and political bullying. Although 'God On Our Side' comes out of a specific time and place, it dares the listener to take the second look and view the world in a different way. We suspect that Hugues Aufray, who had a hit with the French version of this song (he actually recorded a dozen Dylan translations), probably chose it for the same reason."
Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side.
(from "With God On Our Side," Bob Dylan, 1963)
Saturday, December 22, 2007
It's been dark and rainy all day except for this sunbreak.
"I'm Not There" left me with a feeling of darkness and light in the balance:
"I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand."
(from "Every Grain Of Sand," written by Bob Dylan)
Appropriate film for me to see during Winter Solstice time.
(1-1/2 hour "contour" drawing, 4:20 to 5:50 a.m., using a fairly recent photo of Bob Dylan, drawn using the Appleworks6 "Painting" program on an iBookG4, while listening to the soundtrack for "I'm Not There", downloaded from iTunes at the end of October.)
Yesterday I went downtown, somewhat apprehensively, to see Todd Hayne's film, "I'm Not There" at The Pickford. There was a sign on the ticket window with an apology. The film hadn't arrived in time for the 12:50 showing. I drove downtown again for the 3:40 show, where there were plenty of empty seats.
I was surprised at the level at which I was "moved" by what is certainly a peculiar and challenging movie. As I am writing this and listening to the soundtrack from "I'm Not There," Marcus Carl Franklin starts singing "When The Ship Comes In":
". . . A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline.
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck,
The hour that the ship comes in . . . "
The 37-song soundtrack introduces me to the music of a distinctive assortment of younger voices singing Bob Dylan songs, including a teenage actor from the film, Marcus Carl Franklin, as well the older voices of Richie Havens, Willie Nelson and Rambling Jack Elliott.
And I have no trouble at all understanding how a person could find nothing good at all to say about Todd Hayne's film or Bob Dylan and his music.
I'm one of those who never stopped listening to Bob Dylan, for good or for worse, because I felt a kinship with him that has survived since I was 14 years old. I began by idolizing him and grew to appreciate what I see as his qualities of being a vulnerable, unpredictable and creative human being. How could I not love the person who, as a young man wrote:
" . . . I'm just average, common too
I'm just like him, the same as you
I'm everybody's brother and son
I ain't different from anyone
It ain't no use a-talking to me
It's just the same as talking to you . . . "
(from "I Shall Be Free, No. 10")
and as a 65-year-old man wrote:
". . . They say prayer has the power to heal
So pray for me, mother
In the human heart an evil spirit can dwell
I am a-tryin' to love my neighbor and do good unto others
But oh, mother, things ain't going well . . . "
(from "Ain't Talkin")
Particularly moving for me were the parts of "I'm Not There" concerned with Bob Dylan as a husband and father:
(photo copyright by Elliott Landy)
No man can see Bob Dylan through a woman's eyes, just as no woman can see Bob Dylan through a man's eyes.
Perhaps that is the genius of Cate Blanchett playing the role of Jude Quinn / Bob Dylan in a way that is as unforgettable to me as Bob Dylan himself.
Friday, December 21, 2007
(1 hour and 15 minutes, 4:30 to 5:45 a.m., drawn using Appleworks6 "Painting" program, while listening to "Chants of India," which plays for approximately 1 hour and is a work of love by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison, as well as listening for the last fifteen minutes to "Dead To The World, by Patti Smith)
(Click on drawing for better image)
"Of course you will say that I ought to be practical and try to paint the way they want me to paint. Well, I'll tell you a secret. I have tried and I have tried very hard, but I can't do it. I just can't do it! And that is why I'm just a little crazy." (Rembrandt Van Rijn 1606-69)
Thursday, December 20, 2007
(40-minute drawing, 4:40 to 5:20 a.m. -- 6B pencil on heavy weight, medium tooth surface, 9 x 12 Canson drawing pad, while listening to "Chants of India," which plays for approximately 1 hour and is a work of love by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. Contour drawings come from "paused" frames from Martin Scorsese's film on DVD, "No Direction Home.")
"We invent nothing, truly. We borrow and re-create. We uncover and discover. All has been given, as the mystics say. We have only to open our eyes and hearts, to become one with that which is.
(quote by Henry Miller, from Zen Calendar, December 20, 2007)
Henry Miller said, "To paint is to love again."
(Photo of me taken in Plain, Washington, by V.M., who will remain anonymous, unless I'm instructed otherwise)
See Denise Levertov's, "Celebration" at wood s lot.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
(1/2 hour drawing, 5:00 to 5:30 a.m. -- 6B pencil on heavy weight, medium tooth surface, 9 x 12 Canson drawing pad, while listening to "Chants of India," which plays for approximately 1 hour and is a work of love by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison)
"A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it
most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it,
loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image." ~ Joan
(Gouache and watercolor painting titled, "Calendar Series: 42nd Month / Gifts Of Love From Imaginary Brothers," painted by Old Girl Of The North Country in 1989)
I've been enjoying reading Loren Webster's recent posts on the Tao.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. In this long vigil he often has to vary his methods of stimulation; but in this long vigil he is also himself striving against a continual tendency to sleep.
Although I sat down to draw from an image of Bob Dylan on "pause" from the video of the film, "No Direction Home," I found that I didn't want to draw from a "paused" image. Then Oboe jumped up on the table to curl up on the newspaper, warmed by the table lamp. I took that opportunity to try to draw her. My first two attempts made me wonder why I think I can draw. Fortunately, I remembered "contour drawing," after which I felt much happier with my ability to draw. I spent the entire hour on one piece of paper.
(1 hour drawing, 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. -- 6B pencil on heavy weight, medium tooth surface, 9 x 12 Canson drawing pad, while listening to "Chants of India," which plays for approximately 1 hour and is a work of love by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison)
Monday, December 17, 2007
Man knows that he springs from nature and not nature from him. This is an old and very primitive knowledge.
(Loren Eiseley, featured on Zen Calendar, December 17, 2007)
I bought these wonderful sculptures from The Lucia Douglas Gallery, using gift money from my father who was a sculptor in wood and clay but denied being an artist. When I was a little girl, he made a sculpture of a mermaid with green molding clay. I wonder where that clay sculpture is now. Will have to photograph some of his woodcarving and post it.
On the left is "Malin Head," a steel sculpture, 7-3/4" tall, by C.A. Scott.
On the right is "Intuition Free," a small version of a bronze sculpture, 6-1/2" tall, by Ann Morris.
Their sculpture can be visited at Big Rock Garden. Scroll down the link to see the large version of "Intuition Free" and more sculpture by C. A. Scott.
(1 hour drawing, 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. -- 6B pencil on heavy weight, medium tooth surface, 9 x 12 Canson drawing pad, while listening to Chants of India, a work of love by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison, which plays for approximately 1 hour)
Sunday, December 16, 2007
(1 hour drawing, 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. -- 6B pencil on heavy weight, medium tooth surface, 9 x 12 Canson drawing pad)
For the Christmas before my father died on St. Patrick's Day in 2003, he gave me some money to buy myself a present. Inspired by George Harrison's ukulele playing on his final album, Brainwashed, and learning that George had dozens of ukuleles around his house, I used part of the money to buy myself a ukulele in honor of George Harrison. When I visited my father on his 89th birthday, the last time I saw him, I brought my ukulele and played him a simple 3-chord tune in my goofy not-a-natural-musician style. My last visit with my father was peaceful. It seemed that whatever had been the problem between us was resolved. We had dinner in the assisted-living community dining room. He introduced me to his friends. I felt that he was proud of me, something I didn't usually feel. After dinner we watched an interview on TV with Elvis Presley's ex-wife, Priscilla. As I was leaving, he said, "I'll see you in the spring."
From "Pisces Fish," by George Harrison:
". . . and the river runs through my soul"
See One Word, Miracle.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
(1 hour drawing, 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. -- 6B pencil on heavy weight, medium tooth surface, 9 x 12 Canson drawing pad)
"Since everything is but an apparition,
Perfect in being what it is,
Having nothing to do with good or bad,
Acceptance or rejection
You might as well burst out laughing."
-- Longchen (Tibetan Buddhist)
"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."
-- Thomas Merton (Trappist monk)
Friday, December 14, 2007
("Three Low Chairs At Dawn," by Old Girl Of The North Country using Appleworks6 "Painting" program)
I emailed Brother Toby of Starcross Community who gave me permission to print this excerpt from his book, A WINTER WALK:
"Some days, when I get fed up with what I am missing, I preach to myself in the style of an exercise coach. "All right now. Today we are going to take a risk. any risk!" Well, it works. I can't relate many successfully completed missions, but I can list some risks I attempted in a recent year: suggesting to the school a "Family At-Home Friday" when the weekend was taken up with school holiday events; it violated state law. Calling up an old friend from whom I had been estranged; he was put off. Taking a stressed-out teenager up on a hill to watch the stars; it started to rain. Sneaking into the back pew of a large church for a shot of sacred nourishment; the priest was attacking people who cremated their relatives as being insensitive and godless cheapskates. You get the picture. But success doesn't matter. The point is that I dropped my emotional defenses and let myself be vulnerable. and sometimes there actually were special rewards. My teenage son thought the star trip was hilarious, and for months he asked what else I had planned for "quality time." One out of four attempts isn't bad, and someplace along the line I managed to lose Mr. Scrooge."
(c) Tolbert McCarroll 2006
"Practice and enlightenment are not two." (Dogen, from Zen Calender, December 14, 2007)
One more thing -- See "recycling art in South Africa" at Ikastikos
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Now I know, at least a little bit, why I am so resistant to drawing and painting. Once I start, I find it difficult to stop.
This morning, when I woke up at 4 a.m. which has been my chosen waking time recently, it occurred to me that, as with my yoga practice and my blog/writing practice, if I don't make time in the morning to draw, the chances of doing a daily drawing practice diminish as the day progresses. So, a complication arises. I want to do yoga, writing and drawing, but once I start drawing I don't want to stop to do writing and yoga. Actually, it's not that I don't want to do writing and yoga, it's that I need to figure out how to stop drawing in time to do writing and yoga before I enter the responsibilities of the day.
My drawing today is based on a recurring dream that was dreamed once again last night just after I first fell asleep. Ever since sometime in 1970, when my boyfriend was in Vietnam and I was living in my parents' home, I have had a recurring dream that has taken many forms over the years. In the original dream, I was startled awake by a Viet Cong who was lunging towards me, trying to kill me. It took a few seconds for me to realize that I was dreaming because the vision of someone beside my bed was so vivid. My heart was beating in that frightened way that sounds as if everyone in the house can hear it. It took some time before I was able to return to sleep. I was afraid that my boyfriend had died in Vietnam.
It was only in the first dream that the person was a Viet Cong. In the recurring dreams, the shadowy figure by my bed has taken many forms, usually as a man, but also as an unidentifiable woman, as my mother, as my father, as a quiet curious child I don't know, as a dog, as a wolf, as a fox, as a cat. Usually the figure is threatening my life, but occasionally it has not been threatening. On the occasions when the figure is not threatening, I still wonder what it is doing in my bedroom. Always there is the loud racing heartbeat. Over the years, the fear became mixed with anger at the dream appearance of someone uninvited, no matter now benign they might be.
At one time I had hoped that I would never have this dream again, believing that when I stopped having the dream it would mean that something in my psyche was healed, but gradually I came to see this dream as an unusual gift. I am struck by the fact that it occurred again on the night before I planned to start drawing again and that this time there were two people, a man and a woman.
Although the dream was of the frightening kind, when I tried to draw it a shift occurred, and it became "Before, During And After The War."
Now it's almost 7 a.m. The sun won't rise this morning until nearly 8:30. Time to do my yoga practice. Not sure how I will be able to do yoga, writing and drawing once I start my 8 a.m. classes in January, but anything is possible.
Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to draw something today!
The photo below was taken through my living room window on a cold clear morning before sunrise a few days ago.
A Lifeline Home
wood s lot.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
When I was in high school in the mid 1960s, I read the following quote by Cennino Cennini and began to draw something every day for a long time after that:
"Do not fail to draw something every day, for no matter how
little it is, it will be well worth while, and it will do you a
world of good." (Cennino Cennini, 1370-1440)
This morning, while stopping by Whiskey River, I discovered Resonant Enigma whose heading reads:
"We talk far too much. We should talk less and draw more. I personally should like to renounce speech altogether and, like organic Nature, communicate everything I have to say in sketches." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
I would like to have a daily practice of drawing as well as writing. In the past, I did all my writing by hand. Now I do most of my writing on an electronic keyboard. When I was writing by hand, it occurred to me that making marks on a piece of paper in the form of letters satisfied something of my need to be drawing. I am wondering if typing on an electronic keyboard somehow fulfills part of my need to draw. There is something I enjoy immensely about making meaningful marks on electronic "paper," but it is not the same as holding a pencil and drawing on paper.
Recently I've been stopping by Bird By Bird who regularly posts her wonderful drawings of birds. Looking at her drawings, as well as those of Resonant Enigma, inspires me to want to draw on paper again.
The above image, "Family Traveling At Night," was drawn by Old Girl Of The North Country in 2005, using my index finger as a "pencil" on my iBookG4 track pad and the Appleworks6 "Painting" function.
It's time for me to draw something every day again, either on my computer or on paper. Why do I have so much resistance to doing something I love to do?
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
(source of above image by Jacob Lawrence)
"By and large books are mankind's best invention." (Ursula K. Le Guin)
"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of
library." (Jorge Luis Borges)
In Memoriam: Norval Morrisseau. Thanks to wood s lot for the link.
Monday, December 10, 2007
This morning while reading The Sandbox, I found
this and this on a blog from Afghanistan written by a man with 100 days left before his return to the United States .
May all soldiers return home safely. May I continue to listen to soldiers and their families who speak from all points of view.
In STRENGTH TO LOVE, a collection of sermons by Martin Luther King, Jr., the first sermon is titled "A tough mind and a tender heart." In this sermon he says, "We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart."
A tough mind and a tender heart is what I am looking for in our next president. Whom, I wonder, would Martin Luther King, Jr., who took a clear and courageous stand against the war in Vietnam, vote for in 2008?
I don't presume to have the answer.
(Untitled drawing in India ink by Old Girl Of The North Country)
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. (lyrics from "Anthem," by Leonard Cohen from the album called "Future," 1992)
("Double Portrait With Light," painted by Old Girl Of The North Country in the early days of 2000)
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Thirty years ago, during the years my organized-religion-averse mother was volunteering at Starcross, a small lay community in the monastic tradition in Sonoma County in California, she sent me a book for Christmas. The book was titled NOTES FROM THE SONG OF LIFE: SPIRITUAL REFLECTIONS and was written by Tolbert McCarroll, a monk living at Starcross. The book contained a month's worth of writings, to be read as daily meditations. Although having a clear aversion to anything remotely related to "God," I read the book even though I felt somewhat annoyed with my mother for sending it to me. I found a few things about it I liked (grudgingly), and put it away on my bookshelf, somewhat embarrassed to have it in my possession. What stuck with me, though, were the words from the chapter called "God".
"If you are fortunate, you will run across some truly spiritual people. If you believe that they have no desire to determine your path or control your behavior you will feel free to listen to their experiences."
About twenty years ago, I did run across a diverse group of people who shared their experiences with me without any expectation that I would choose their way of life. At that point, I looked for and found the book my mother had given to me. It became a daily guide for me during what would be many difficult years. I didn't become a member of any religion but I did find a way of living where I gradually became more at peace with myself and with other people.
Last year, when Tolbert McCarroll published a book called A WINTER WALK, I ordered a copy. A WINTER WALK has 32 short chapters, one of which can be read each day of December and on New Year's Day. Tolbert McCarroll was the founder of the Humanist Institute in the 1960s, drawing from both Eastern and Western spiritual traditions and seeking links between contemporary psychology and religious experience. Among his influences are the ancient Taoist masters, the 14th Century Western Mystics, Chinese Zen masters and, in a A WINTER WALK, Chanukah stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. I greatly appreciate his non-dogmatic approach to spiritual storytelling.
Today's chapter in A WINTER WALK is called "Bodhi Day." It seems that December 8th is the day that many Buddhists celebrate the Buddha's enlightenment and decorate dwarf fig trees --Bodhi trees. Siddhartha confronted his inner demons for eight days and at the end of the eighth day he found enlightenment and became the Buddha, the Enlightened One.
It was last year on this day that I decided to create a blog in which I could show, one day at a time, a 40-year retrospective of my art work. December 8th has been a difficult anniversary for me since 1970 when my beloved boyfriend returned from Vietnam -- the day that, sadly, marked the beginning of the end of the relationship in which we had placed so much hope.
Last year, on December 8, an understanding person suggested that I do something different to mark the anniversary so that in 2007 when the day came again, I would have a new way of seeing that day.
I did and I do.
My first blog post, a drawing I did in high school and which looks somewhat like my surfer and artist boyfriend who went to Vietnam in 1970, was titled "IMAGINARY BROTHER AS WITNESS 1966":
Today I went on an early morning walk with a old friend. We walked on the trail next to Bellingham Bay where we saw the lovely flowering tree which heads this post.