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.