Friday, November 30, 2007

teapot no. 5

Drawn with red fountain pen ink in my handmade cha book. [click on photo for enlarged view of drawing].

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Practicing Right & Mindful Speech

I've been listening to this talk by Roshi Joan Halifax. It's a big topic. What are the implications of Right and Mindful Speech for oneself, in a family system/community, and for social justice?

Roshi gives the four Gatekeepers of Speech:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it beneficial?
Is it necessary?
and she adds, Is it the right time?

What is our intention? Our motivation?

Good questions that I ask myself these days.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The first dude?

If Hillary wins, will Bill be called "the First Gentleman"? I just checked Wikipedia to see what a counterpart term might be to "First Lady." According to Wikipedia, it's "First Gentleman" or "First Consort." I like "First Dude," myself. And though they are not running, I could see a co-presidency consisting of all the present and past members of the group "Sweet Honey in the Rock" plus Alice Walker.

Monday, November 26, 2007

teapot no.4 & a taiko drawing

Teapot no. 4 (my 204th teapot) I drew with Crayola Crayons and a Kaimei sumi brush pen inside my handmade cha book (茶の本).

I drew the taiko drums (the writing of which is one of those redundancies, like saying let's vamos, since taiko actually means drum or drums) at taiko practice on Saturday. Drawing taiko, observing more skillful taiko players playing, and just being around the taiko will surely seep into me, as Basho suggests.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday morning

Drinking puerh tea from little yixing cups in the cool air of morning, wrapped in my red woolen Nepalese shawl. I'm wrapped, not the tea, not the morning. Snug and cozy I am, watching steam rise from the cup. Jesse sits beside me on her woolen shawl which is really one of mine that I folded into a nest for her as I eat my breakfast. I feel the warmth of her furry silky body. Yuki's fur has a slight golden hue to it from the sunlight that filters in through the open blinds where he lays. He patiently waits for me to take him walking--and I will--after I finish my breakfast and do my stretches.

For the past few mornings after I wake up and eat, I've been doing a set of ten mindfulness movement exercises taught by Thich Nhat Hanh and his monks & nuns. I drew pictures (below) of each exercise and tacked them to my wall as a guide until they become "second nature" again. Hmmm, I wonder what first nature would be? Not doing exercises, probably...

In Monterey/Pacific Grove when I was acting as the faciltator for a weekly mindfulness meditation group, I was in charge of leading the exercises at the end of our meditation session. I had to count out loud and say, "breathing in, breathing out" during the appropriate stretches so that we'd all be moving and breathing in unison, more or less. My body remembers the movements. And I have memories of the friends with whom I meditated, breathed, smiled, stretched, and hugged. We always did hugging meditation after completing the mindfulness movements. In hugging meditation, the aim is to be fully present as we hug each other. We breathe mindfully in and out as we enjoy deep and simple touch.

P.S. the yummy breakfast you see above was my version of kayu, Japanese/Chinese rice "gruel." This time, the kayu consisted of brown rice, cabbage, kabocha squash, yellow onion, wakame, carrot, a few sesame seeds, shiitake, tofu, shoyu, miso, a few drops of sesame oil, and green onions.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pan galactic, interstellar, fibrous wonder that paper is day.

If you click on these images to enlarge them, you can almost feel the texture in the visible fibers of this handmade Sri Lankan paper. Touch with your eyes, see with your fingers, taste with your ears... Reminds me of what we did when I practiced the art of kodo in Japan (kodo 香道 is "the way of incense," or "incense ceremony"). In kodo, we "listen" to the incense rather than "smelling" it.

Similarly, the Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie listens and makes music in a non ordinary way.

Friday, November 23, 2007

third set of 100 teapots

Here's no. 1, no. 2. and no. 3 from inside my handmade "cha book" (茶の本). Three teapots have come out through this body, through my arm-heart-hand, through pen and ink, colored pencil, and brush with color, so it looks like I've embarked on my third set of 100 teapots. These teapots have lives of their own; I just draw them.

teapot no. 3, watercolor and sumi brush pen.

teapot no. 2, made with red ink and colored pencils.

teapot no. 1, made with a red ink fountain pen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

book transformation

Here's a handmade book that originated with the "post & bind" project at the UA Poetry Center's housewarming event in October. I added a few cut-out pictures from an old book with Chinese beautiful objects that was recently given to me, which I glued atop marigold color tissue paper. Voilà, a book that has been touched and transformed by many hands.

The sewn pages of the book are printed with random lines from poems and pieces of writings from the Poetry Center's post & bind project. At the event, we picked twelve pages which the binders inserted between plain, uncovered davy board. They drilled holes into the pages, folded them into signatures and then sewed them together before gluing them into the davy board covers and binding with linen tape. I intend to use the book as a sketch book, taking it into a further transformation.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New reading

A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park, a story about an orphan boy in 12th century Korea who apprentices with a potter in the seaside pottery village of Ch'ulp'o.


The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

As a pottery lover with a deep interest in East Asian history, art, and village life, I am finding Park's book very enjoyable.

The Dalai Lama's book is of interest for the subject matter and because I admire and resonate with His Holiness' curiosity and eagerness to learn.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Morning musings

The air smells like rain this morning. I open the door to let Yuki out and see the cloud dappled sky. Jesse rubs her face along the vertical line of the door and I boil water for tea. Jesse and Yuki are eating their morning meals as I begin preparing my breakfast. I paddle rice into a bowl, place an umeboshi on top, make a paste of miso in boiled water, add more hot water, then drop in a few small pieces of wakame and sliced green onions, a drop of sesame oil, and stir. I place steamed kale leaves into a shallow bowl, sprinkle a few sesame seeds over them, then grate carrots and beets into another little bowl, adding sunflower sprouts, some garlic, olive oil and apple cider vinegar. I grate daikon into a watery mound over silken tofu and drizzle both with shoyu. The boiled water I pour over tea leaves pushes a steamy spiral out the spout and gently disperses before my eyes. I pour my first cup of tea, cupping my hands around the warm glass of golden liquid.

I don't know what this day will bring, but I am going to walk into it with an open heart, an open mind. It's always my choice--in any moment, in any circumstance--to turn the corners of my mouth up slightly into a pleasant feeling smile that has the effect of loosening up my entire body/mind. Smiling in this way, I breathe mindfully in and out and enjoy being fully in the moment and fully present with whatever I am doing. Alternatively, I can turn my mouth corners down, thinking thoughts that unsettle and that tighten or constrict the body/mind and breath. This way takes me out of the present moment and mires me in thoughts of past or future and wanting to be somewhere else. (Planning for the future and thoughts of the past can be considered mindfully from the present moment).

Today, in this moment, I choose to smile and feel good. Breathing mindfully in and out while relaxing the body is a practice that can be done anywhere (even while working and performing daily actions), and can be practiced in any circumstance, even in the midst of pain, suffering, and chaos. In my experience, when I am mindfully breathing in and out and enjoying pleasant thoughts, I am choosing what to feel and how to feel. And in times of chaos or difficulty, mindfulness practice (breathing, calming, acknowledging and embracing the painful feelings, smiling, feeling good, and so on) can transform my so-called negative thoughts, perceptions, and reactions, which allows me to take the next step in peace.

After a while, when I acknowledge and embrace my pains, sufferings, and negative thoughts, they cease, much as a baby who is crying stops crying when held lovingly by a parent. Seen in this light, Thich Nhat Hanh's saying, "there is no way to peace, peace is the way" makes so much sense. Likewise, Gandhi's saying, "We must become the change we want to see." I have fun substituting "peace" for whatever it is that I am practicing or want to do, be, or become. For example, "there is no way to taiko, taiko is the way."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cha book - 茶の本

Last night I made a cha book. I used handmade Sri Lankan papers sewn in four signatures on the inside. For the outside covers, I glued the wrapper from a Yunnan tuocha round of tea, some marigold color tissue paper, and pieces of Japanese printed paper over a cut manila folder.

Not sure what possessed me to make this one other than that I had been looking through some of my old handmade books. Like so many of my creative endeavors, the process begins this way: some spark of an idea has me searching through cupboards for materials and then I am on the floor with my open art box creating. And I'm always amazed that something emerges out of what might have become garbage (i.e., the tea wrapper and other bits of paper and cardboard).

Here, I am "reading" the book. The blank pages are telling me stories already... Stories, and songs, and poems, and drops of ink.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Love Story

Once upon a time there was a little being made of salt. One day while walking in a meadow, the little salt being climbed a hill. At the top of the hill she came to a rocky cliff overlooking a sparkling body of water. Looking at the water, she felt a stirring deep within. Curious as to what that stirring was and why the water attracted her so, the little salt being decided to find out. So she climbed carefully down the steep cliff and made her way to the water's edge. On her first meeting with the Ocean she simply took it all in: the sparkling water, the stillness, the movement. She recognized her Self and saw her Self reflected in the ocean's vast waters. Her little salt body danced with glee. On her next visit, she slowly approached the water, heart beating with excitement. She bent over a small wave and brought her face near the surface, lightly touching the water with her lips. She found it tasted like her own body. The deep stirring she felt became more pronounced. She felt a warmth radiating out from her little salt heart toward the Ocean, even as she turned to go home. She knew she loved the Sea. The next morning, the little salt being awoke with a feeling of peacefulness and anticipation. She wanted to visit the Sea again. On her next visit, she dipped her toe into the water. Mmmm...such a pleasant feeling...the water felt just like her body. The water was--was it?--the same as her body. The desire to be near the sea grew stronger. Each time she'd visit, she'd dip just her toe in, swish a finger on the surface of the water, or allow a gentle wave to caress her cheek and graze her lips. With each exploration she felt the most wonderful tingly warm sensation. Everyday her visits became longer and longer and she began to dip her limbs further and further into the water; the warm feeling in her body grew fuller. One day, she allowed the sea water to fully surround her. She allowed herself to completely dissolve into the water. She felt happiness and ecstatic pleasure. The little salt being had become one with her lover, the sea. The little salt being had discovered her true Self in the Ocean of Love.

* * * * * * *

This is my retelling of a story that I heard about five or six years ago at a Zen center. After hearing it, I wrote it into one of my little handmade journals (as seen in the above photos).

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Not one to be pinned down

Looking for me?

I'm here--posting to my other blog on Zaadz and on flickr.

Check out the photos I took at the All Souls Procession (in slide show format) here.

The All Souls Procession in Tucson, Arizona is "a large, public, non-motorized, multicultural parade celebrating the living and the dead. An opportunity to experience grieving, reverence, release, opening, joy, and closure with thousands of other participants in a safe environment, at the level you wish to participate" (excerpted from the above *clickable* website).