Zen & the Arts - Field Notes

Everything flickers now in my life – no lamp is steady. My flow of creative expression, my joy in making and discovering things, is stalled.  All that is usual and anchoring now swirls with debris, mud flows, refugees from war and famine, tsunamis, world chaos. Extreme weather and extreme humans, all flickering like an old movie, or a candle guttering in the wind. Two dear friends, lovers of beauty and connectedness in the world, are now suddenly gone. Vanished from this world forever, just months apart. There is grief in my drafty room. I can still find them, when I meditate or dream, but their humor, warmth, and wisdom, the sound of their laughter, is irreplaceable. The careless chaos of the world catches and spins me.

In the swirl, when I’ve almost forgotten that there is always light, and how rich the dark is, a tiny pin-prick in the wall of my crypt beams out at me like a searchlight. “This too is it. Just this.” This little beacon snaps me to attention, and focuses me on a serious alchemical request:

A solutio, please! Come! Dissolve me!

Water never disappoints and its bellwether is a wave of emotion that hits with force. Why was I waiting? What was I saving that up for? But my heart is beating steadily again. I begin to paint.

Stitch, stitch, stitch

Blue, black, and golden works begin to sail me tentatively out past my usual barriers, my need for meaning and continuity. They tow me along with them into a wider channel, one by one, in succession.

Boats, leaves, alembics, amoebas, oceans, orbs, oases.

The tiny, stiff-limbed, walking pedestrian symbol we see in Google is definitely not me. I drift in from other viewpoints — like satellite, and topographic, and infrared – watching myself dipping brushes in water and color from a great height, like a car in miniature seen from the window of a jetliner, barely moving on its luminous thread of freeway.

Revelation: each painted piece does not need to contain everything. They emerge along a continuum I can’t see, but that I’m beginning to trust is there. I am tapping my brush, like a cane, along that invisible path. Each step breathes into being a pristine “bare field.” I am a blind map-maker, geomantically sensing the territory. Markers, shapes, and arrangements of patterns appear, drop in, change, gently float into view, like colored tiles in a watery kaleidoscope.

I’m tracing something that’s always there, and whole.

My body is loosening, forgetting the tightness of the small stone-walled room. A spacious ease infuses me, helping me find familiar, fluid exchanges with color, line, water, brushes, ink. This soothing warmth opens and fans out, washing over, and over again, with each new field.

Suddenly something brazenly new arrives on the scene — it’s unexpected and even slightly unwelcome. It rocks my painterly comfort zone with small waves of recognition. It grabs my attention, appearing as a bright focal point slightly out of frame, definitely not watery. It is offering another kind of reflection, not passive or glassy, or lake-like. This is stirring. It is playing me and I contemplate whether or not to move on, whether to engage it. I might miss it, whatever it might be or offer. I have done so in the past. I look directly at it, take in its light, and smell smoke. It isn’t going anywhere, and neither am I. It’s real. It burns.

Comets, lanterns, flares, globes, stars, seeds, flare into view.

Forget dissolving, forget sad flickering. I am volcanic, newly disassembled rock, a flare, like those on the sun’s molten surface, a magma flow of new ideas and perspectives. There is tectonic subducting going on. I can still feel the plates beneath, grinding against one another as one set of patterns is subsumed slowly, but relentlessly, the way cooling magma flows. Consuming, melding, and reconfiguring everything: method, purpose, stance, and time in fierce, fiery play. Restraint, fear and hesitation now burn away into energy and excitement.

Each stitch spews flames!  

Water rushes now, fire crackles, as I pin my paintings to the wall.

I knew this: that opposites are friendly. Call on one, get the other.

I was swimming, happily dissolving. And undetected there, beneath drifting and disassembling, was desire and fire.  Now extracted from the collaborative trance out of fatigue, or maybe terror, or just a need to locate myself, I look at these surfaces differently

Oh, so this is me too? And this fiery bit? Who knew?

This is a tender place. I might never gain quite the same momentum again. But here are the paintings, traces of the exchange. And that marvelous bright influence, the undiscovered radiance of that vast, accessible landscape, still simmers.

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The Solutio Series 2018

Mixed media on paper 18″x24″. Click each image for a larger view:

Solutio – First Branch

Solutio – Eye of the World

Solutio – Alembic

Solutio – Boat

Solutio – Lantern

Solutio – Dawning

Solutio – Golden Field

Solutio – Sprouting

Solutio – The Gate

Solutio – Comet

Solutio – Arrows

Solutio – Orbs

Solutio – Entry Point

Solutio – Genomic

Solutio – Germination

Solutio – New Peak

Solutio – Seeds

Solutio – Reflection

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