Friday, 24 December 2010

peace on earth


My uncle Louis sends me the most amazing links in his emails.   Aside from politics and nationalism, ecology and money spent, all of which have their place, I hope you can see the enormity of this gift that NASA's "poet astronaut"  Colonel Douglas H. Wheelock has made available to his fellow earthlings as he says:
"Every moment I get to look out the window at our beautiful planet,  my soul just sings!!... 'I see skies of blue…and clouds of white…the bright blessed day…'" (6-29-10)

Here is  one .  And here's  another.

And here are the lyrics to a song performed by the English comedy troupe,  Monty Python,  which one of this link's viewers remembered..

                                              Galaxy Song

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the ‘Milky Way’.


Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide.
We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go ’round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.

Oh yes,  a little irony comes in handy when one is feeling small and insignificant.
But,  for the record,  I'd like to suggest that we not only pray  (which has scientific proof of its benefits),   but aspire to be the spiritual intelligence that over-rides even the greatest intellectual intelligence as we proceed in our humble,  yet noble,  lives.

p  e  a  c  e     o  n     e  a  r  t  h

Thursday, 16 December 2010

we infinity

Today I have added a link called  "a short film on Infinity"  to my  'Links'  sidebar  (that I originally added to a posting I did in September).   It is particularly meaningful as it gives perspective on ourselves as a lifeform.   I found it very moving;  I hope you enjoy it.

a garland of snow on the deck railing this evening

And now,  since I never know who is reading this,  I  find myself wondering how my words are received outside my immediate circle.   There is a readership 'statistics' section for this blog that I can access that has shown me readers from,  not only my homeland of Canada but also China,  Russia,  Malaysia,  Croatia,  Germany,  England and the United States.   It astounds me that people are finding me,  and some are even returning!   And so, that we might not remain unacquainted,  I invite you to leave your thoughts in the  'comments'  section  (that appears at the bottom of each of my entries).

On the other hand,  it is clear to me that many people don't read my words at all.  They just like to look at the pictures.  I get that.

an experiment in machine embroidery that I did a while back
that I've since decided I like

In a world where we are inundated with information,  I have to ask myself,  "What do I possibly have to offer?"   That includes words OR pictures.   After all,  it has all been said or done before....or has it?    Each of us who inhabit this planet are    u n iq u e   though we sometimes forget that as we emulate each other,  seeking to belong.    Belong to what?   To the group,  the tribe,  our peers,  who we admire,  religion,  politics,  caste,  class,  economic status;  oh my goodness,  it does go on,  doesn't it?  

a photoshop-coloured iron-on transfer of my mom at age 15
 fabric collage that I hand-stitched a couple of years ago onto burlap

Sure, I have questioned myself about the value of my words and creative work.  This is where I have to stop and remember that this expression of my own uniqueness   (these words and pictures)  might be an inspiration or give hope to those who are struggling to find themselves amidst all this  "belonging".    I hope my place on the path of self-discovery and consciousness will shine a beacon for someone else as other fellow travellers' expression of themselves has been for me.

 Until next time,  "Namaste".
 I honour the Spirit in you which is also in me.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

this very world is paradise


 I have a story I want to share with you today.   It is the story of Hakim Sanai,  the great poet of 12th century Afghanistan.   I have illustrated this story with historically relevant art and artifacts that I hope will  give a sense of time and place.

12th century Persian star tile
The Detroit Institute of Art

These were times of aggression by the Seljuk  (Turkish)  Persians who controlled Afghanistan for about 200 years,  pillaging their wealthy neighbour to the southwest, India.   In the court of Bahram Shah,  Sultan of Ghazni,  there served a brilliant young man,  Hakim Sanai who was already popular as Advisor to the king and Court Poet,  celebrating the nobility of his time.

   Seljuk (Turkish) period polychrome bowl depicting royalty circa 1187 

 One day,  as Bahram Shah  prepared for battle,  Hakim Sanai hurried to present a poem of praise that he had just written for him.   As Hakim was running past a walled garden,  he heard from within it the bellowing of the scurrilous madman and amoral drunkard,  Lai Khur.   "Bring me another drink that I may propose a toast to the blindness of the king,"  he said to his attendant,  a poor man who tried to hush him with words of fearful prudence.   But Lai Khur roared defiantly,   "He deserves a toast worse than this,  for what kind of king would leave our beautiful city to go on a fool's errand  when he is honoured  and needed here?   He is already blind to the work God has given him!"

late 12th - early 13th century Persian bowl depicting victorious king
 from11th century poet Firdausi's Shahnama (the Book of Kings)

Hakim began to slow down as he heard this,  but before he was out of range,  he heard something even more disturbing.   "And now let me drink to the blindness of the poet, Sanai."    Because Hakim Sanai was so loved in this part of the world,  the servant protested even more,  but Lai Khur growled,  "Sanai is a fool as well;  for all his cleverness and insight,  he is unable to see the futility of what he does.   Indeed, he is blind to his existence;  in fact, to the needs of his very soul.   Yes, I toast for his greater blindness that he might finally wake up!"

leaf from the Qur'an in 'eastern kufi' script
late 11th or 12th century Iran or Afghanistan 

Shocked to his core,  Hakim Sanai heard these words in his deepest heart,  and changed his life from that moment on.   Leaving Ghazni,  he pursued  "the way of the heart"  under the Sufi master,  Yusef Hamdani,  and returned, eventually, to Ghazni.  Upon his arrival,  the Bahram Shah rejoiced,  offering his only sister as a bride to errant poet,  but Hakim no longer belonged to that world and left on a pilgrimage for Mecca and Medina.

page from De Materia Medica of Dioscorides
showing him with a student, Northern Iraq 1229

It was when he came back that he wrote the ecstatic poem Walled Garden of Truth,   his ode to his oneness with God,  or the Beloved, one of the most venerated works.   When Hakim Sanai began to write of of his experience he was accused of heresy,  but managed to find protection from his accusers and lived to write the poetry that was loved by so many,  eventually inspiring the great Sufi poet,  Jalaluddin Rumi.

from the manuscript  'Assemblies' of Hariri, known as the St. Baast Hariri,
here seen with an old man who speaks to him in verse, Syrian late 13th century

Here is a famous story you may have heard before from The Walled Garden of Truth.

"There was a great city in the country of Ghûr in which all the people were blind.   A certain king passed by that place,  bringing his army and pitching his camp on the plain.   He had a large and magnificent elephant to minister to his pomp and excite awe,  and to attack in battle.   A desire arose among the people to see this monstrous elephant,  and a number of the blind visited it,  every one running in his haste to find out its shape and form.   They came,  and being without the sight of their eyes,  groped about it with their hands;  each of them by touching one part obtained a notion of one aspect;  each one got a conception of an impossible object,  and fully believed his fancy to be true.   When they returned to the people of the city,  the others gathered round them,  all expectant,  so misguided and deluded were they. They asked about the appearance and shape of the elephant,  and what they told,  all listened to.   Someone asked the one whose hand had come upon its ear about the elephant;  he said, "It is a huge and formidable object, broad and rough and spreading, like a carpet."   And he whose hand had come upon its trunk said,  "I have found out about it;  it is straight and hollow in the middle like a pipe,  a terrible thing and an instrument of destruction."    And he who had felt the thick hard legs of the elephant said,  "As I have it in mind,  its form is straight like a planed pillar."   Every one had seen some one of its parts,  and all had seen it wrongly.   No mind knew the whole.   Knowledge is never the companion of the blind;   all,  like fools deceived,  fancied absurdities.

Men know not the Divine essence; into this subject the philosophers may not enter."

illustration from the Manafi' al-Hawayan by Ibn Bakhtishu'
Persian, 1295

 As with his chance and veiled encounter with Lai Khur  (whose belligerent words woke him to his soul's deepest longing)  so the truth,  he wrote,  is hidden from us only that our desire to know it can be awakened.  In Persian,  the word for walled garden also means "paradise".   The Sufis see this very world we live in as paradise;  the heart that knows this,  knows all there is to know.

For an even better overview of this story press here.   Within you will find a similar story about Alexander the Great's encounter with Diogenes.


With apologies for the poor quality,  this is a reproduction of a 14th century Syrian painting.   Clustered together,  we see some owls who live in a mountain protected by fire from some crows who would attack them.   To me this represents what Sanai wrote above:  truth is hidden from us only that our desire to know it can be awakened.

Deciding to make my own New Year's cards this year, what came to mind but owls.

These first two are quite small measuring 3" wide x 2" high.
They are drawn with pen and acrylic polymer emulsion "ink"
and painted with watercolour.

In the same medium, this painting is 6" wide x 4 1/4" high,
already sent to a dear friend for her 82nd birthday which!

Wishing us all Owl Wisdom to wrap our consciousness in.

Friday, 3 December 2010

winter's come at last

And here it is.
How silly of me to regret not taking shots of our first full blast of winter last weekend
after Tuesday's rain wiped out the heavy snowfall.
 Yesterday's snow is here to stay, at least for a while, as temperatures drop.

This fall I found myself dreading the onslaught of winter for the first time.
But my old romantic self  kicked in as the wintr'y mantle settled.
You can barely see the garden shed,  tall enough to stand in,  wrapped in its mystic veil.

It's as if the bearded old men of the forest ventured out in the half light.

The weight of the wet snow created heavy robes for these denizens of the forest's edge..

This morning we found that this great old tree took the hit for the canoe we store underneath.

Our old girl, Cedar, loved it.  She fairly lost her head!

Then she took off on several mad tears that cracked me up.

I just love the light.

There is an ethereal quality to it that is so heart-filling.

Of course, there is a price to pay; some trees just can't take the weight of the snow. 
This chunk broke off the top of a rotten old tree and it is only right that it came down. 
 It's harder when you see perfectly (apparently) good trees bend and snap and break.

It took longer than usual getting down to the main road, camera in one hand, shaking overladen branches off and dragging fallen debris off the road with the other, all in time to meet the mailman.  

The road doesn't usually flood until spring, so this little bit doesn't faze us.

By late afternoon the snow on the pond began to crackle; the water hasn't frozen enough to sustain it.

And one last kiss of sun before nightfall.

I hope you can find the same joy in winter that I do.  It feels like a blank page on which one can write anything they wish: a new beginning.   I love the the contrast the seasons lend to the year. 
 It is the variety that gives the spice,no?

Thanks for sharing this time with me.  Blessings.

Monday, 29 November 2010

time is an elastic band


Well, I didn't see that coming:  November come and (almost) gone.
And I have my 1st non-acquainted "follower", Green Papilio.  Welcome!

It's not that I haven't been creating, but the job I chose to do has been sooo time-consuming even as the days pass quickly.  I've always said that time is like an elastic band.  It was heartening to read Elizabeth Gilbert's reference to the Balinese perception of time, how it shrinks and expands depending on one's state of mind (in her book Eat,Pray,Love which I just finished.)

I set myself the task of creating a host for the Liquitex transparent acrylic "ink" that I bought last spring.  A 1920's silhouette evolved on which I planned to place a myriad of pattern.  What fun.

And then I thought, why not a mirror image in which I could play with the symmetry.  I usually draw only one subject and felt that I was overdue to incorporate a 2nd.  I would have drawn 3 if my paper was big enough.
And oh, the paper: it is a luscious and hearty fine grain cold press 140lb. acid-free watercolour paper measuring 18"x24" in Canson's XL series. (So much for humble materials.)

So thank-you for bearing with me as I continue to explore the possibilities.

                                                                 All good wishes to All.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

fine and delicate

Here is a progression of the hand stitched embroidery inspired by the watercolour in my last entry.
 The whole image from the top of her "halo" to the bottom  of the outline measures about 2 inches and represents about 10 hours of work.

 I eventually succumbed to a double thread from a single sewing thread as the hours mounted.  Working by the light of my magnifying lamp,  I wanted as fine and delicate a piece as I could manage at a time in my life when my eyesight is somewhat compromised.  One gets a taste for things that appear to be just beyond your grasp...and why not?

I believe it was the poet Robert Browning who said  " a man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for".   Sometimes it's the only thing that makes sense to me.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

grey watercolour days

These grey days of late October still hold some surprises if one only stops and looks a little closer.

At first glance I thought this shot was of the trees reflected in our little creek
 until I remembered that it was a closeup of a tree trunk.  I fooled myself!

Yes, the colours are more subdued... muted.... but the palette is simply more sophisticated.

Yet there is brilliance right underfoot in these starbursts of moss.

And the wild strawberry leaves make still another tapestry.

Golden flies gather sustenance from wild asters; even they become focal points of beauty.

Yes, these grey days do add a depth of colour that make our late-blooming chrysanthemums and dill glow.

And so, a little muted myself, pulling colour off the dried edges of a used water container,
I salvage enough for this dazed little lady, and find the next day that she is the inspiration
 for some new work in fabric and stitch that I will show you next time.

Look for the subtle message in the greyest days.
 It may lay muted but its glowing ember can turn into a fire.


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

meaning and creation

We are  so caught up by our senses, such a visual species are we.  Of course, some thrive on music and others on talk, and, as social creatures, can feel it quite necessary to their very being. 
 What does that leave?  Touch, smell, taste.
  How lovely it is to connect with our senses, and then overlay them with meaning.

Yes, meaning. That which fills the soul.

Meaning can also mean "definition".  And isn't that perfect, for how do we define ourselves?
By what measure?  One can use Relative Truth to define or give meaning to oneself: 
the truth of what appears to be
or one can use Absolute Truth in whch exists the inherent nature of everything.

I think that, like fibre and collage artist, Lenore Tawney,  meaning in life is like "creation ...a defiance of ordinary verbal communication.  Its origins lie in the ineffable part of one's own being and are much closer to the silence of the universe than to its noises and verbalizations. Art is always just beyond language.  Each work, seems to be called up from a bottomless chaos and despite the magic order it finds in the artist's creation, retains always the memory of the original chaos to which it is destined to return. [One] of deep insight knows that authentic life is not lived arbitrarily but is governed by a secret mesh of invisible images [ absolute truth]" 

And therefore it is all one.  We are all one. 

We must be patient, above all with ourselves.
Then we will find that Wisdom and Compassion are indivisible
for, in fact, Compassion is Wisdom reaching out.


Monday, 18 October 2010

new banner new doll


And here it is, that surprise I was anticipating . Such fun.  I hope you like the new banner as much as I do.  It was actually created months ago but I guess it was waiting for the right time to be born into this dimension.

  Maybe this strange painting doesn't look like it, but I'm in quite a celebratory mood and eager to try
                                                                         something new.

So along the same line, this little one came out.

And then, for a little variety, I tried some drybrush
 along with a watercolour wash for a lovely print quality I think.

All in all, it's been a satisfying day.

You may remember this little guy I first showed you in early June,
a linen Lavender Legs doll I made  in May.

And his sister, Lucille, who followed soon after.

Well, this Lavender Legs sweetie got her finishing touch, some eyelashes, this morning,
and she's ready for her debut.

A most gratifying day.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if every day could be like that.  And yet we have only to look in our hearts to find it waiting there, like a patient friend, the sweetest gift of all.



Wednesday, 13 October 2010

autumn is late afternoon

It's always later than I think;   I always hope to post sooner, but the clock keeps ticking.
 " the best laid plans of mice and men gang oft astray..."  and suddenly the leaves are off the trees!
I caught myself calling out  "No, no, no!" at one point as I ran for my camera to catch the leaves falling in great masses to the ground, as if they all agreed to " JUMP NOW".

As I compiled these following pictures from the mass I photographed, I thought about how the seasons seem to have their time of day.  For me, autumn is always about late afternoon.

 There's something about the light, the golden light...

And the irresistably pungent smell of fallen leaves. 
 Here the baby bracken rise again from the summer mown lawn.

Vermillion blackberry leaves against a bright carpet of moss.

It's not just a shot of red and yellow leaves but a million colours if you only stop and look.

Or maybe a billion!

It's the season that makes our vinyl Barbie doll box of a house look romantic and inviting.

How I already miss it.

And so, except for stacking some more firewood and raking leaves, I will be sequestered more and more indoors.  The reprieve from the rain and cold is over.  Ah , bittersweet autumn.

 I will show you a picture of the doll I have been working on and another surprise in my next entry.

Wishing you the sweetness without the bitter, and gratitude for a zillion blessings.