Listening - watching
taking a moment
drawing the world
finding the way to connection
again and again.

For upcoming classes and events
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Monday, September 9, 2019

Plein Air

This past weekend I participated in a Plein Air Paint Out
in the hamlet of High Falls, New York where I live.

Fifteen local artists placed themselves around the town and painted all day.
At the end of the afternoon all the work that was created was auctioned off
to support the good work of the High Falls Conservancy.

I decided to sit behind my house at a little beach along the Rondout Creek.
I had wanted to paint here all summer, but you know how it goes . . .

Even so I resisted, felt not up to it, too tired.
I trudged down to the spot and sat there gazing, waiting to see what called me.
And then the world began to open.

I worked quickly, lightly, with pencil and watercolor.
The words that emerged and landed on the page brought forth the insight,
sealed the moment.

Friends stopped by and checked in.
There were also long stretches of quiet creation.
Here is what came through . . .


Right at the end this last one emerged - a visual haiku -
speaking to the nature of this river - pure and impure -
and the world.

Thank you to Richard and Carole Eppley and Chris Seubert for organizing it all
and getting me out there doing what I really want to do !

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Free Writing

I was recently asked to create some calligraphies of buddhist slogans
to be auctioned off at a fundraiser during the annual Family Camp
at Karme Choling, a retreat center in Vermont.

I happily agreed because it gave me a way to contribute and support
this good gathering and place.

Years ago, living in Boulder, Colorado, I did a lot of calligraphic commissions,
writing out wide ranging quotes for clients.
My creative work since then had shifted to a more personal voice
and big abstract brushstroke expression.

Over two days I free associated with these words,
letting the alphabetic forms and brushstrokes dance together.
I felt happy catching this fresh life, bringing together brightness, color, form, expression.

Memories arose from my years being a "Calligrapher to the Court"
during the alive time of Chogyam Trungpa's presence in America.
I touched again the deep role of "calligrapher as channel",
bringing vision into form - and the well being inherent in the task.

I also wondered - where is my Court now ?

Then I realized - it's the world. 

Here they are - offered out - enjoy . . .

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Frog Story

I knelt down to clean the little pond by the front door
and right there at the edge was a frog
looking straight up at me.
I paused.
It did not bolt away.
I knelt closer and said some things
about spring and welcoming
and appreciating its presence.
Then I reached out slowly
and touched its smooth forehead,
stroking it softly,
and we had a long moment of interspecies exchange.
Then I went back to cleaning the pond
and the frog went back to hiding close by.

Searching for a misplaced pump filter
I stretched my arm down to the bottom of the pond,
feeling around in the murky cold dark
and brushed up against a huge slippery frog leg.

Reaching for the net I scooped out
the biggest bullfrog I'd ever seen - dead -
eleven inches tip to toe.

Must have been the king of this spot
in charge - in place -
staying put through the winter.
But the rubber lining didn't allow for digging down in the mud
and life got colder and colder.

I laid the great grey luminous corpse in the woods under a bush.
Time to sink down truly now.

It's a new season with a new frog.
The old powers gone away.
Reaching down in the muddy depths.
Honoring what was found there.
Starting over fresh.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Earth Boar banners

Each year I create banners for Sky Lake Meditation Center
for Tibetan New Year / Losar / Shambhala Day.
This year the celebration was on February 5th.
I begin by going on the internet to gather ideas
for the animal and element of the year.
Then I start to sketch out designs and play with the banner form.

 This year, 2019, is the Earth Boar / Earth Pig / Earth Sow year .

The banners measured 22" x 6' and were painted on an earthy red fabric.
The paint was sumi ink and white acrylic. 

I started with ancient Chinese pictograms.
There is something so distilled and essential about these shapes.
I combined the pictogram for Earth and Pig 
so that they shared a common line in the center.

Next I let the letters stack and interact 
using a contemporary form of the Medieval Uncial alphabet
that seemed to fit with the shape of pigs.
The boar head became a decorative touch.

Then a lively italic script took charge 
and the boar became mask-like and mysterious. 

Here the numerals dominated
and created spaces and edges to play within.

Then some pigs showed up - 
floating and connected by a thread of vertical letters.

And Earth Mountains appeared 
with the boar and numerals becoming a kind of seal chop at the bottom. 

And finally - leaping and running pigs.

May this year bring us all some enlivening wisdom
and steady perseverance !

Monday, January 21, 2019

Under the Mango Tree

I spent two and a half weeks in Guinea, West Africa this December into January -
dancing, painting, batiking, conversing in French, engaging with this completely
different world.

One morning we got up at 5 am to drive from our house in Conakry the capital to
the town of Kindia (four hours away). We needed to leave before the main road
was closed for the monthly sweeping. Filling two big cars, along with police escorts
and drivers, we hobbled over rutted roads and through thick traffic in the dark.
But we were stopped just one car back from the barricade - almost made it, not quite.
There would be a four hour wait now until the road was re-opened.

The sky slowly began to lighten. We were surrounded by crowds of milling people.
Eventually we got out of the cars and walked ten minutes (a fortunate proximity)
to our balafon teacher's house on a quiet street. Her extended family began to gather -
first wife, daughters and husbands, children and grandchildren of all ages.

We sat in the open courtyard under a big mango tree as Djeli Guineé graciously
served us Nescafe with Gloria evaporated milk, boiled eggs, baguettes and sweet
rice pudding.

We sat - and watched - and were watched.
Others in our group began to engage with the family.
I held back. I relaxed. I waited.

Then I pulled out the sketchbook and held it on my lap.
Could I chance it - opening to this visual dance with the world?
What to draw ? How to connect ?

I caught the eye of one of the boys and gestured that he come near.

He hesitated, "Moi?"
I nodded and he stepped towards me.

I opened the book and then, as the other children gathered around, began to draw
the big Mango tree arching over our heads.

Quick fresh pencil lines of branches (bois)
and lively clusters of leaves (feuilles) appeared. A noisy rooster and chicks took shape
near the trunk. I drew the roots and remarked that they reminded me of serpents
and then I drew one among the meandering lines, head lifted and alert.
Everyone was quiet viewing this - a shadow presence showing up.

I began to write each child's name in the space around the tree.
The boy who had first joined me called out each letter and corrected my spelling.
Each child watched intently as their written presence magically appeared on the page.

Then I opened the watercolor set, brought out my brushes and started to paint.

I did not color in the serpent. I told everyone that it was a phantom - "fantastique" .
I knew something had shown up that was unsettling for them yet needed to be honored.

Then I mixed a transparent wash and painted over each name with a brushstroke like a wave.
I let each child choose what color they wanted to adorn their name.
The name waves floated around the tree.

I wrote "MANGÉ" in the center and the place and date in the corner of the page.

The children gathered around me as I held up the completed spread.

All of us gathered - under the tree - on the page - in this moment - complete.

(Thanks to Elise Gold for taking the photos ! )