giving thanks, day #11: for art & ordinary beauty ~

giving thanks, day #11: for art & ordinary beauty ~

Today is a brilliant fall day. Following a drizzly, gloomy day. Which is much better than the reverse, right? Everything has a lucent sheen to it ~ light almost halates: there are tiny haloes around pinpoints of sunlight. I’m grateful for that.

And when I went to look for a pic to add to the blog (Creative Commons ROCKS!), I found Nick Saltmarsh’s lovely mural. What a great piece of art! Whimsical, and very Portland (put a bird on it). I’m grateful for this, as well.

In fact, today’s big gratitude is for both found & made beauty. Many of my friends are artists: painters, metal workers, cartoonists, bookbinders, weavers. And more: gardeners, cooks, cabinet makers. People who leave, in their wake, beauty they created w/ their own hands. It’s an amazing talent! And when I’m depressed, it’s a never-fail way to remind me that there is much good in human beings, despite current issues.

Found beauty is another element entirely, and may deserve its own post. But today, I’m grateful for beauty in general, and I’m not really distinguishing between the beauty of sunlight on a refractive surface, and the art of handmade glass. Both fill me w/ content. And I’m very grateful for that.

The Buddha tells us to live in the now of things: that there is only this breath, this moment. And I wonder if part of the ‘now’ is the beauty of each moment ~ the feel of the breeze rounding the deck corner, the bright autumn sky. How the last few leaves sift from the almost naked branches to the vivid carpet below. If I stop, and look around, and breathe, my heart stills, and I forget — for entire minutes! — my grief at a world so very full of hurt.

If I just let go of my hurt, long enough to sit in this perfect now (and yep: I do realise it’s pretty hokey sounding!), I stop hurting. Sure it returns, but never in quite the same searing sharpness.

So go sit where your gaze fall on something lovely, and just sit there, looking. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s enough, I promise. Do it a few times. And I really don’t see how you can avoid feeling grateful. ❤️

giving thanks: day of gratitude #6 ~

giving thanks: day of gratitude #6 ~

In keeping with my focus this month on everyday pleasures (achievable by most of us), today I’m grateful for watercolour pencils. Yes, really. They’re an inexpensive ‘luxury’ (no one ever died for lack of watercolour pencils, I’m sure!), but one that I increasingly rely on.

Most days — probably 4 out of 5 — I ‘draw’ my day. In a small ‘graph,’ I colour the day’s weather, my mood, and then I draw a kind of doodle ~ a variation on a Zentangle. Unlike most true Zentangles, I don’t fill in every millimetre of white space, and I do colour it. With those coloured pencils I’m grateful for. (And fyi: I’m also grateful for the pencil sharpener that keeps them nice & pointy!)

It’s a small moment out of my day, but it’s pleasant to try to distill my mood to colour (or colours). If the limited colours in my two boxes (I have four!) of pencils don’t provide me w/what I want? I can layer colours, then add a wash of water, & I have a colour I may not even have a name for. How cool is that??

Because art — even our own pretty lousy attempts at it! — is the best of therapies. When I colour w/ my pencils, or crayons in a colouring book, I’m lost to stress. All that exists is the colour in front of me, and the one to come. Sometimes the ways in which they relate, too. But not what I ‘should’ be doing, or what I’ve ‘forgotten’ to finish.

Adults do far too little play. We make everything (sometimes even play…) into work. And it’s sad. I love to colour — I even have 2 colouring apps on my phone & iPad. Those aren’t everyday pleasures, I realise, as they require smartphones, which many Americans flat can’t afford. I don’t apologise for my material happiness, but I’m well aware that it isn’t everyone’s good fortune.

Still, coloured pencils aren’t pricey. Not even the watercolour kind (which are MUCH more fun!). And you don’t need a fancy colouring book — you can use a straightedge, and draw a graph, and find ways to fill those neat boxes, one by one.

Try it! It may be the key to helping you relax as we enter an increasingly hectic pre-holiday season. ????

Kintsukuroi, or, aging and broken beauty

Kintsukuroi, or, aging and broken beauty

A friend of mine sent me a quote from Augusten Burroughs, who is not a writer I spend time with. He’s too … dark. I am well aware of the dark pain, and bleakness families can leave as their legacies, but I don’t want to read about it. I still feel cheated that I read Jane Smiley’s (a writer I adore, otherwise) A Thousand Acres. And worse yet, that a friend told me the horrible family in the novel was ‘just like’ her husband’s. TMI!

So I wouldn’t have found this quote on my own, which is almost certainly why M sent it. It has to do with healing, and the broken places within us. I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately, and so my dear friend sent me a lovely quote that says, basically, that ‘broken’ isn’t really broken. We aren’t reeeeaally missing pieces. It just feels that way.

I couldn’t help but think of a couple of Japanese words/concepts. My favourite is kintsukuroi. It’s the repair of a broken bowl, or piece of clay ware, with gold. The idea is, as the picture notes, that the bowl is now more beautiful for having been broken. That to highlight the break is to create an even more beautiful piece of art: to lift the ordinary to the sublime. It’s the logical extension of another favourite Japanese word/idea: wabi-sabi. This one is more familiar to Westerners, with its gentle insistence that imperfection adds to beauty, that what is most beautiful is the vase placed asymmetrically, the tree twisted by wind & age. That a crack in the bowl — especially when repaired w/healing gold — is not a flaw, but an asset.image

This is my newest metaphor for aging. At a workshop I taught the first half of Saturday, we were talking about how difficult aging is, and how few people want to hear about it. That aging isn’t … an attractive topic, for anyone other than those caught in the messy middle of it. And quite often? Even we don’t want to talk about it.

But when you look at aging as the gold holding together the pieces of us (both literal & figurative…) that inevitably chip, even break completely free, in the heavy combat that is daily life over decades? It’s no wonder that the face of a beloved elder can seem as lovely as a bonsai that has bowed to forces greater than itself, but maintained an inner beauty & dignity.

This is not how the West treats age, however. To be old is to be invisible, or ~ even worse ~ treated as a slow child. No wonder old people are often cranky! Our elders are seen as ‘less than,’ lacking. Missing brains, skill sets, who knows what??

No, i reject the whole Western paradigm of age as something to be resisted. Instead? I am going to see my experience(s) for the gold they are, and be grateful they have healed so many of my chipped, even broken, places. What was hard can become something quite lovely. The same way a winding thread of cracks can become a tiny streamlet of gold, that makes untested wholeness suddenly quite ordinary.