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

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Monday, June 20, 2022

Sky Earth Heart : A Threefold Path

Here is a simple practice.

Step outside or look out the window. Let your eyes relax. 

Look up in the sky. Allow your eyes to be drawn to something. It could be flying through the space, or drifting by, or reaching up. Describe what interests you in a short phrase and write it down.  

Then look down and note something that is on the ground or growing from the earth. Describe this simply and write it under the first line. 

Wait until something small - a detail - attracts your attention. Describe this and add it to the page. 

Read the three lines back to yourself and notice how you feel. If you want, add this at the end. 

This is a practice of allowing the world to come to you rather searching for something. It is a practice of noticing and listening deeper. Each time I follow this outer and inner path I understand where I am in the moment - the world reflecting back.

Here are some examples. Sometimes I add a stroke of color to the writing or change the color of the words.   

 Sometimes I add color between the lines -

Sometimes I illustrate the three things simply and combine them with the words on the page. When I do this I notice I need fewer words ! Human-made objects - outside or inside - can also be part of the journey. 

And then I come back to just the words - and that is plenty. 

This practice evolved from contact with my buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa and his teachings on Heaven, Earth and Man. It also interweaves and is influenced by A Simple Everyday Life Practice by my friend Arawana Hayashi in her wonderful book The Art of Making a True Move. 

Looking out - looking in - making an expression on the page - a way to meet the world. 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

At the Equator - Part Two

 If you missed Part One here it is . . . 

I traveled to Cuenca halfway through my time in Ecuador and began to explore this historic city.There were museums to wander in full of objects from ancient Ecuadorian culture. 

At the Museo Pumapungo I circled around the pottery displays, slowly sensing what I could take on. 

No photographs were allowed so I had to rely on catching as much as I could quickly (my traveling companion was moving along) and filling in the details from memory later. 

I sketched a colorful ceramic plate, imperfect and quirky in its forms. 

I noted the colors but didn't get the date. 

I was drawn to some simple animal forms on the heads of metal funerary pins. This led me later online to the deeper story about the Incan funeral practices :

The bodies were folded into fetal positions, wrapped in layers of textiles and placed in tombs with offerings of food and corn beer to nourish the spirits, It was believed this bundle making would transform powerful ancestors who could create new life, like a seed giving birth to plant. The bundles were like plant bulbs, the cemeteries like gardens.  

At the Arqueological Museum I walked through the collections and then chose one object from each room to draw, moving up through the centuries. Here I could take photos to refer back to as I later shaped the forms in watercolor. 

Spending time with each of them felt like time travel. The intimate dialogue with ancient things through drawing attention stretched and energized me. 

We wandered through a big food market and I took pictures of unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. This turned into a portrait gallery of shapes and names. 

On the last morning in Cuenca I quickly sketched the view out the hotel window across the roofs and beyond. Over the next few days I painted in the details, referring back to the photo I'd taken and seeing if I could keep a light touch on a complex scene. When I made it to the sky the cloud strokes were quick and simple. 

During the last days back at the retreat center I worked on finishing up the sketchbook and also took on that frangipani plant again. This time I filled the whole page, jumping in, getting lost, finding the way, enjoying the delicate web of overlapping complexity. 

Some friends stopped by to look at the sketchbook the day before I flew home. We gazed out at the view from my porch and they pointed out two things that I had not noticed all the time I'd been there !

May we all - in this troubled world - take in the long view

and also what is near - and opening - and bright.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

At the Equator - Part One

I traveled down to Ecuador in January, moving through the dystopian world of multiple airports, finding my way to the Hosteria Izhcayluma near the town of Vllcabamba far in the south. In a new environment my sketchbook becomes a way of opening, recording and getting engaged with the place. Here is the first page, which I left blank until the end. By then I knew what the essential image of the trip was. I wrote the place and dates in the colors of the Ecuadorian flag. I saw many rainbows there . . .
Getting started in the sketchbook is always a challenge. There is the jet lag and all the adjusting, and then it just takes courage to step into the unknown and take the drawing leap. I felt tentative, afraid of making a mistake, telling myself I had to produce something - ugh. With all this going on inside just touching the page, getting the pencil moving, beginning to look out, was what I needed. Drawing is the act of connection. I waited until I felt drawn towards something, my eye followed the form, my pencil follwed my eye. I was in an alive conversation again. I started with the frangipani plant just beyond my porch, taking on a single branch. I began with line, added watercolor and then wrote some words that described the process. The words for me complete the experience.
Gazing out at the soft green mountains and valleys, watching the weather move through. I drew with only the brush this time.
The century plant (agave) was right there in my view. I painted it a couple times, first precisely, then simpler, looser.
Then I took on the whole scene, writing the description at the end, which included a particular sound. . .
I picked up two dark pods, dropped from the Jacaranda tree nearby. No flowers blooming now, just these complex sculptural shapes to study. A couple days later I added the branch and some colorful words telling more of the Jacaranda story.
My traveling companion Laura and I took a walk along the Rio Chamba. I was struck by these huge moving grasses across the river. I paused and quickly sketched before continuing on. I also took a small video of the scene to remind me of the energy. Back in my room I added color and words, letting the three part fullness of the place speak.
Sitting in a restaurant in Vilcabamba looking out on patterned walls and roofs and the mountains beyond. I drew the basic elements with pencil and took a photo, then finihsed up the details later, walking that edge between precision and looseness. With the words I found the way it all connected.
Halfway through our time we traveled to the historic city of Cuenca. Getting there took five hours on winding roads in a shuttle bus moving through high mountains and valleys. I like to sketch in a small notebook when on the road, catching details as they flash past to record more fully later. Here is a page from my tiny notebook -
Eventually the winding road and my intense focus turned into intense nausea (yikes ). Amazingly Laura had some Dramamine in her backpack (hallelujah) and I was able to steady my insides and make it through. Here is what I saw along the road to Cuenca, painted when not in motion !
More images and stories to follow soon !
In the meantime take a look at my new expanded website -