A couple of weeks ago I showed you the first in my “Time Stamp” series. These are small meditations on a moment. I’m trying to capture the feeling of a particular place and time not a literal image. So here is my second in this endeavor. A morning hike through Gina’s Orchard here at The Bishop’s Ranch revealed a clutch of wild iris, a little patch of purple in a sea of green. Here is my fabric collage marking of that moment.
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.
I love doing still life paintings and drawings. Just the name itself denotes a quiet, reflective, tranquil pursuit. Still Life. Perhaps it’s because my life doesn’t seem to have enough still spaces that I am so drawn to the subject matter. I love the whole process of creating a piece of still life art. First you scan your surrounding for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Then take time to arrange the objects of ordinariness into a balanced and pleasing scene. Just this part of the process is a pleasure, a stopping and stilling of life’s vigorous pace. If you stop right here at creating a little scene of pleasure, that could be enough; enough to make a still, calm space in the swirling winds of everydayness. Taking the next step of sitting still (there’s that word again) and sealing that scene in a piece of art over a few hours or days is a lovely, leisurely quest. This notion of still life reminds me of something my yoga instructor said at this week’s class. She always begins the class with a meditation, she led us into quieting our minds by reminding us to ground our bodies on the earth sitting quietly, gently, grounded in the space between earth and heaven. I was so struck by that image: the space between heaven and earth. That is where we reside, in this blessed space that is neither earth nor heaven but somehow both at the same time. We must remember to create an aperture, an opening for still life, it is in still life that we recognize this blessed space in which we dwell; the thin bright line between heaven and earth.
This still life drawing was done on my iPad. I am still having fun with this new medium. The image will be available to purchase in print form in a large range of sizes on my website (if not today then soon) go to the website or email me for information. http://lisathorpe.com/
January has been a strange and wonderful ride here in the Sonoma Valley. The weather has been, to put it mildly, strange. The New Year began unseasonably dry. For those of you unfamiliar with our habitat zone here, winter and spring are when it rains, summer and fall typically have little or no rain. January is usually one of the most productive rain months, reservoirs begin to come up to capacity and the snow pack in the Sierras deepens with a promise of summer melts that continue to fill the reservoirs for the thirsty valley below. This year, however, the rains did not come. The Old Year ended and the New Year began, and still no rain. The fine weather became the most talked about topic, every where from the checkout counter to the front page of the local paper; rain, or the lack there of, was on everyone’s mind. In those conversations there was a complex mixture of feelings “can you believe this weather” followed by “but we sure could use the rain”. I my self gloried in the wondrous winter weather, taking advantage of dry days to venture out on trails that should be muddy and mucky with swollen creeks crossings making them impassable or at least adventurous to cross. I must say those sunny crisp days helped my mental state, brushing back the post holiday doldrums giving me a brighter outlook in the dark days of winter. Gratitude for the sun and bright blue sky warmed my January heart. Well into the month, and just a little off the meteorologist predictions, the rain came. And boy did it come, last week the clouds started building and when it began to rain on Thursday, there was so much pent up desire in those winter clouds, they could not stop, it rained and rained and rained…so that by Monday morning nearly ten inches fell on our little hilltop here at The Bishop’s Ranch. Just like the sunny days of early January the rain was the topic of the day. Not a single person complained we all laughed as we shook out our raincoats and umbrellas and donned our rubber boots. Gratitude for the rain and blustery grey sky filled my thirsty January heart.
The experience of the past month reminded me of an interview I heard with Matthieu Ricard talking to Krista Tippit on her radio show “On Being”. Ricard is a French born Buddhist Monk. Before becoming a monk he trained in France as a scientist with a brilliant career. Now he is a liaison to the Dali Lama on issues of science and acts as his French translator. A few years back a gathering of scientist and great thinkers including the Dali Lama and Ricard was conviened and the Mind and Life Institute was formed. From this collaboration scientific research was launched into the functioning of the brain and the effects of meditation and emotion on the neuro pathways. Ricard became one of the studies early participants. He has been declared the “Happiest Man in the World”, a title he laughs off. His brain has developed a unique set of neuro pathways that are attributed to mediation and his practice of compassion. A research study showed that regular people like us were able to reshape their brains by practicing 20 minutes of meditation a day for 8 weeks. This neuroplasticity means that the brain can carve new channels, we can redirect our thinking, and it can reshape our lives, through out our life. This gets me back to the Gratitude groove. Greeting each day with gratitude can dig a positive neuro pathway in our brain, a drainage ditch of positive thinking. It’s like clearing out the rain gutters of our brain of all the yucky gloopy stuff that has accumulated so that the positive channels are clear to send all that cleansing good energy all through our thoughts and body and life. We CAN change our minds. Thank you January for reminding me to be grateful for what comes when it comes; I’m cleaning out my mental rain gutters and setting up my rain barrel, so let it rain!
Here is a link to the Mind & Life Institute http://www.mindandlife.org/.
You can listen to Krista Tippits “On Being” interview with Matthieu Ricard by going to the American Public Media site podcasts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84rP844SssY&feature=related
Here is a link to a 1 min. youtube video that simple illustrates Neuroplasticity; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84rP844SssY&feature=related
My webmaster husband is away for the week so this painting is not posted on my website yet but will be soon and is for sale… to see what is posted click > http://lisathorpe.com/