From my August Newsletter. To sign up for my monthly newsletter, go to www.sacredartstudio.net
August. For our earth-honoring ancestors, this is the month of Lammas, a time of thanksgiving which marks the middle of summer and beginning of the harvest season. Because of our wet Spring, harvest season arrived late here in my garden but there has been an abundance of lettuce and the tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini are finally coming in albeit slowly. Broccoli not so good. I’m still learning but everyday I go into the garden with delight to check on their progress while realizing that growing food, simplifying, and learning the ancient ways connects me to the ancestors. I like that. Our spiritual teachers tell us this is the remembering time. So, amidst the oil spill, global warming, the economic crisis, and the overall challenges of modern life, I’m acutely aware of the sacredness of each day and am mindful to not take this one “wild and precious life” for granted, to quote the poet Mary Oliver. In Messenger, she writes:
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird –
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
Oliver speaks so exquisitely to the holiness of our world. Seeing and paying attention to that which is at hand is at the heart of the creative process. “Standing still and learning to be astonished.” Beauty. To create art, we must “learn to see” which requires slowness and attention. I remember my first art instructor during my undergraduate years who wadded up a large piece of white paper, threw it on the model stand, and told the class to draw it. Perplexed by the unglamorous nature of the subject, I remember that being one of the most challenging assignments I was asked to undertake. White was not just white. Under the light, and with more scrutiny, I saw colors of yellow, gray, pale blue, and lavender. Light and deep shadow. It was a valuable lesson in seeing and one that provided an early context in which to view the world around me. Not so many years later, my vision would be transformed once again but through grief and loss. Both the light and the dark invite us into a more intimate encounter with the world around us.
An exercise for practicing the art of seeing:
· Choose an object from nature or let it choose you.
· Sit in silence. Contemplate its characteristics.
· Notice the shape, color, texture, light, dark, edges.
· Feel it, smell it, and roll it around in your hands.
· Draw the object without looking at the paper.
· Or write a poem. Or move with it.
What did you notice?
How are you encountering the world? Are you taking time for the sunflowers and the hummingbirds? For creativity? To write? To draw? To dance? To grieve? To quote Oliver, all the ingredients are here, which is gratitude. Like our beloved poet, my work and, indeed, our work is in loving the world.