I have been busy, I feel like I’m always busy – I am in perpetual motion and while I proport to be an artist not enough of my time is spent making art. By far I spend more time promoting my art workshops, designing new workshops, writing about new techniques, and teaching than I do making. I am forever in an internal conversation about the balance of teaching and making. I do enjoy both and to be frank I couldn’t make a living on just the art – people hunger to open up their creative hearts and I love to help them through my workshops. But sometimes I want to make for the making, not because I’m going to teach a workshop and I need a sample, not because I’m going to write a magazine article and need to pitch an idea – just make. So, this week despite an anvils weight of anxiety about all the things I need to do for an upcoming workshop and art sale, despite the fact that there are always contacts I should be making and connections I should be deepening, and despite the absolute mess in my studio, despite all this I chose to make. And what do you suppose I chose to paint? A still life. What a wonderful term – Still Life.
Still –noun -deep silence and calm; stillness – Synonyms quietness, silence, stillness, hush, soundlessness, noiselessness, calmness, calm, tranquility, peace, peacefulness, peace and quiet, serenity
Life –noun – the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death – Synonyms existence, being, living, animation, aliveness, entity, sentience, creation
What an interesting parring – perhaps that is why artists are drawn to create a still life. Something in the tug between stillness and animation the juxtaposition of tranquility and change. A still life is capturing a quiet moment in the act of changing. The fruit will wither the flower fade the moment in between is caught up in the still life.
Unbeknownst to me – in the chaos of my week, my month, my year – still life called. Despite that fact that I didn’t have time for making this week, I didn’t have room for making this week- still life called. I’m so glad it did and I’m so glad I listened. The making of these two paintings calmed me, readied me, revived me. The stillness in the action brought me back into my body and breath and made me ready for this weekend’s teaching – this month’s selling and showing.
I give thanks to the universe for showing me this perfect persimmon, this fecund pomegranate and whispering in my ear to stop, to make and observe this quiet, abundant moment – to allow and honor – Still Life.
Yesterday it rained. It rained eight tenths of an inch. Such a gift in this parched, scorched part of the world. This morning, as the clouds pushed east and the sun rose amid the mist of yesterday’s rain, I walked the labyrinth. I have been walking the labyrinth several times a week as part of my new commitment to meditate each day. I find walking the labyrinth helps me clear my monkey mind and be present to the big mind, the universe, God. I have taken to walking the pressed gravel path barefoot. Carefully placing each footfall – feeling the earth fully helps me be present. Today as I removed my clogs the rain soaked trees dripping in delight, the exuberant birds greeting the sun, the rain and their flock fellows, the ground made a new sound a new crunch each step spoke of the soil’s joy at being moist again. The labyrinth here at The Bishop’s Ranch, like many, has a path that at the beginning leads you very close to the center then it meanders back and forth and around taking the sojourner far from the middle. The labyrinth doesn’t have any dead ends or secret passages way if one stays on the path no matter how long the passage you will come to the center. When walking the labyrinth I remind myself that it is a metaphor for my life journey. I know the center I seek is there I have glimpsed it on my long life excursion but I must stay on the path even when it feels far from the comfort of the center circle. When I arrive in the middle I take a moment to count my blessing and say my prayers. And then because life beckons I exit. I always try to walk out with the same deliberate careful step I took as I had when I entered but try as I might I find the way out faster than the way in. But as in the beginning of the journey the labyrinth brings me close to the center one last time before birthing me into the wide world again – a reminder to slow down, to feel the earth on my bare feet to listen to the birds song and feel the fresh rain before it slips away.
Life is a complicated thing – when some things are revealed others are hidden. We are never in a place where we can see, feel, know, understand it all. I am no exception, the future is unclear, the past is up for interpretation, and NOW, well now can seem like so much fog – tangible and real but not meant to be held or contained. In an effort to be more in the now I’ve taken on a few personal challenges. These are tidbits of advice gleaned from a facebook posts here and podcast there – no guru formula – just my own way of sorting my priorities – my own daily check list of things to make my life more grounded in today, to keep my body, mind and soul healthy. Last fall my husband and I started an early morning exercise regime that I have been mostly faithful to along with some diet changes. Those have been good for my body and now I’m ready to take my daily commitment to the next layer- mind and soul. I’m trying to make a meditation practice happen, a friend was visiting recently and asked if I walked that labyrinth here at the Ranch regularly- the answer was no but then I thought why not? So last week after exercising I walked over and took my shoes off and slowly walked to the center and out again- aware of the path on my bare feet, the breeze, the birds it was lovely, a simple passage to NOW. My other new daily resolution is to commit a random act of kindness at least once a day. These are simple things, holding a door, offering to take someones shopping cart to the holding pen in the parking lot, holding a women’s bike while she wrestles her child into the baby seat …. what ever it might be it forces me to be aware of the moment to be enough in the now to respond to what is around me and to offer the simple kindness of noticing, helping.
Here is my little list that I am trying to do most days:
- Eat right (you know what I mean)
- Get enough sleep
- Commit at least one random act of kindness a day
That’s it- seems simple enough right? Let me know what’s working for you!
My word for the week is PLEASING. Let me back up a bit and explain. I have been trying to meditate more, trying to create a little quiet space in my mind and body each week if not each day. A few months ago my friend Julie told me about choosing a word to repeat each time your mind wanders, just a little trick to keep from thinking about the todo list during meditation. So this Monday I was at yogo and we began the meditation with bhramari breathing, which I have seen referred to as “bee breath”. The way it works it you breath in and upon breathing out you hum. The hum can come from deep in your chest, your throat, or high up in your sinuses. When bhramari breathing happens in a group there is the wonderful overlap of humming that weaves in and out of harmony that is rich and luminous. So on this particular Monday, as the class began it’s bee breath, a hum from the deep arose and the word PLEASING popped into my head. And this has been my word all week. Not just in meditation but in life and all it’s parts. I have endeavored to find all the parts of my day pleasing. The brisk dewy morning- pleasing- the savory taste of last weekends leftovers for lunch – pleasing – the fact that no one cried in my kindergarten art classes this week – pleasing – and the overwhelmingly brilliant colors of the fall vineyards – pleasing. This word has danced delighted through my mind all week, reminding me of the great pleasure of ordinary things, and isn’t most of our life made up of ordinary things in the end? This one life is punctuated by the extraordinary, but the majority is one ordinary act after the other. And so in this ordinary life if we can open our eyes a bit wider, fill our lungs a bit deeper, let flavors linger on our tongues longer, and stop and listen with tenderness- then I think, maybe this ordinary life can be very, very pleasing indeed.