Guru Purnima

sage ved vyasa & Ganeshji

Vyassa dictating the Mahabarata to Ganesh.

Today is the Indian festival of Guru Purnima, a celebration of  gratitude to teachers, both academic and spiritual. In sanskrit, gu means darkness or ignorance and ru means the remover of that darkness. Purnima means full moon and this day is observed  on the full moon of the Hindu month of Asadh. It is celebrated throughout the dharmic world.

On this day people pay respect to their teachers, living and dead. It is also the birthday of Vyassa, a great Hindu sage, who gathered the vedic texts and created the Mahabarata. It is said that on this day, Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath after becoming enlightened. Hindu legend says that Shiva became a guru on this date.

So in keeping with the spirit of this very auspicious moment, I remember and honor the following teachers in my life:

  • My father who taught me the joy of humor and the liberating experience of art making, as well as showering me with unconditional love.
  • My mother who has demonstrated that there is always the possibility for redemption.
  • Mrs. Hankins, my high school English teacher, who showed me that literature was not about academics and grades, but rather about life and relationship and communication. (She also introduced me to artichokes, for which I am eternally grateful.)
  • Mr. Foster, my middle school English teacher, who encouraged me to take risks and think creatively, and inspired and fortified my still raw and unrecognized (by me) gifts.

For all who mentor and nurture and teach, for all who do this with a generosity of spirit and an open heart, on this Guru Purnima, I give sincere and bountiful gratitude.

Namaste.

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“Housekeeping Observation” by Lydia Davis

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Sinking my teeth into t’ai chi

Freshly_cut_grass_by_Doxhoont

I was late to t’ai chi today, missing the warm-up. First I had misplaced my keys and spent some time searching for them. (They were underneath the magazine I was reading last night.) When I had driven practically the whole way to class, I discovered I had forgotten my “flipper” (a temporary false tooth while I await the completion of an implant). I drove all the way back home to put the false tooth in place (ah, vanity).

Then a half an hour into class, a workman riding a gas mower came barreling through. Loudly. We had to stop class for a few moments while he cut the grass where we were t’ai chi-ing. We watched his own practiced choreography around trees and benches in the clearing.

The fabulous news is that for the rest of the class, that “green” smell of freshly cut grass, almost heady, filled our senses and every move. The powerful herby scent was simultaneously invigorating and calming. It made me feel very centered. (There was a persistent soft smile on my lips, even on the ride back home.)

I was really able to sink my teeth into t’ai chi today.

Freshly_cut_grass_by_Doxhoont - Version 2

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“Variations on the Moment of Apprehending the Extent of One’s Responsibilities” by Craig Morgan Teicher

A businessman stands casually with his hand in his suit pocket.Variations on the Moment of Apprehending the Extent of One’s Responsibilities

1

that minute subdivision of time
during which the full consequence

flickers, just before the door clicks
shut but just after you could have

stopped it from shutting, when
you realize, your hand already

seizing your empty pocket, that
you have left your keys inside

2

that useless subdivision of time
in which what really happens

could never have been
prevented—it yawns so wide

though you can barely fit
a blink into it, like the moment

just before the door clicks shut
but just after you realize

3

you have left your keys inside.
So many things are unsatisfactory,

like the moment, like the baby
monitor, like your hand already

seizing your empty pocket,
useless. Consequence

flickers, what really happens
could fit behind a blink

4

that useless subdivision of time
in which what happens could fit,

flickers, could never have been
prevented, is so unsatisfactory

like the moment just before
the door clicks shut but just after

you could have stopped it from
closing with the back of your foot

5

your hand already seizing
your empty pocket, as if you could

go back, your keys inside,
and begin again, take your clothes

off, crawl back, deep into bed.
So many things are unsatisfactory—

that you have left your keys inside,
that this is when you realize

6

this could never have been
prevented, that what you realize

is not only useless but infinitely
painful, because minute,

irrevocable, like the baby
who flickers in the video monitor,

a blink in which the door clicks shut.
You could never have stopped it

7

till now, just after you realize
so many things are unsatisfactory,

just before, your hand already
seizing your empty pocket,

the full consequence flickers
behind a blink that is now

your measure of time, useless
because it already happened.

 

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July morning

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First Herbal Harvest

IMG_5627IMG_5628Here are the first harvest of herbs hanging to dry: fruity sage, silver thyme, french thyme, rosemary, greek oregano, golden delicious sage, mint, lavender, spicy oregano, volunteer thyme, and some epazote (to the left). When these herbs are dried and we share them with friends and family as well as use them in our cooking, we are actually sprinkling a bit of summer through the rest of the year.

I don’t think you can get more nourishing than that.

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Mary Delany’s Flowers

Mary Delany15

I just finished the book The Paper Garden by the Canadian poet Molly Peacock about an 18th century woman on the fringes of aristocracy in England, who, in the last decade of her life, invented the technique of collage, creating 985 collaged images of flowers. The story is fascinating though the book becomes a bit too self-indulgent, with the writer weaving her own story into the narrative. For me those personal stories, which might have enriched the narrative, were a distraction from the story of Mary Delany (1700-1788) who lived at the time of the American Revolution and at the end of her life had a graceful friendship with George III and his wife Charlotte, because of their admiration for her flower collages.

The secondary title of the book is An Artist Begins her Life’s Work at the Age of 72, which is what inspired me to look at the book in the first place. This is what is most amazing—that at 72 years old she found her passion and nearly was able to meet her goal of creating one thousand collaged flowers before she died.

The book itself is visually stunning with each chapter starting with an image of one of Delany’s collages. Peacock then stretches metaphor and symbology to its full extent (and beyond) to join the characteristics of the flower she has chosen to that period she is describing in Mary Delany’s life. A conceit that works better in the last few chapters, but seems a bit forced.

The book is filled with musings on creativity and relationship and gender roles, but ah, it is the collages of Mary Delany that take your breath away. She made her own colored papers using watercolor (colored papers were not commercially available) and sometimes glued some actual dried flower parts onto the collages themselves as well. And the pieces she cut out were often quite intricate, delicate, and small. She used flour and water to glue her collages together and it’s surprising the glue has lasted these 240 years. She would sometimes paint shadows with watercolors. All are on black backgrounds that she watercolored as well.

No waning of years for Mary Delany. Her old old age was when she truly blossomed.

Mary Delany2x8Mary Delany14Mary Delany12Mary Delany23x9x3Mary Delany16AN01164257_001_lThe British Museum has the collection of Mary Delany’s flowers and images can be accessed on their site.

 

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