Monday, February 27, 2006

ya ma's turquoise soup dream

This watercolor sketch is for my flickr friend ya ma who blogged about her recent turquoise soup dream.

Friday, February 24, 2006

teapot no. 37 - purple pot

I made this purple pot for Claude Renault, one of the amazing artist/photographers I've met on

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

An impossible question means a journey

I was reminded this morning that I am on a journey. After heating up my breakfast cereal and making some coffee, I decided to open up some dharma. Dharma really isn't anything special; dharma simply means, wisdom you can use. And dharma can be anything that comes to us via our senses, not just books or words. So, I sat down with my breakfast and John Tarrant's Bring Me the Rhinoceros And Other Koans to Bring You Joy, and this is what I read: "An Impossible Question Means A Journey" (p. 11). In a matter of moments, I had my laptop open and began writing this entry.

In contrast, yesterday morning I sat here where I am now, at my little low table in front of a window, eating my breakfast in my pajamas as the sky lightened up. I was happily reading a book on situated language and learning, sticking little pink and yellow post it notes to pages here and there. Later, as I bicycled to school, I wondered if I am not getting nerdy, reading--and even enjoying--an educational linguistics book before 7 o’clock in the morning. Linguistics books, too, can qualify as dharma. The books I most want to read on my educational journey are ones that will help me help my students learn what it means to learn, not only to learn language, but also what it means to be alive in this world today.

What does it mean to be alive? My answer is: ehi passiko, Sinhalese for go see for yourself. We can read all we want in books, hear loads of lectures, get all kinds of information from the Internet, tv, and radio, but in the end, we have to see for ourselves what is true. Koans can guide us towards what's true; we use koans to move from our particular truths to something bigger, unfixed, open--and, back again.

A few words about koans (ko-ahns): the term koan, meaning a riddle or paradox, entered English from Japanese Zen Buddhism via Chinese Ch'an (Zen). Koan literally means public (ko 公) record (an 案); hundreds of the most famous records (or cases) were recorded in China and Japan. In certain Zen schools, these koans are studied and contemplated in a systematized program, which can guide the Zen student to enlightenment. Tarrant writes that koans "encourage you to make an ally of the unpredictability of the mind and to approach life more as a work of art. The surprise they offer is the one that art offers: inside unpredictability you will find not chaos, but beauty" (p. 11).

Koans show you that you can depend on creative moves.
Koans encourage doubt and curiosity.
Koans rely on uncertainty as a path to happiness.
Koans will undermine your reasons and explanations.
Koans lead you to see life as funny rather than tragic.
Koans will change your idea of who you are, and this will require courage.
Koans uncover a hidden kindness in life.

(pp. 12-13, Bring Me The Rhinoceros)

Replace koans with language and culture learning and it still fits. Learning other languages and cultures, like learning koans, requires living the questions, seeing and thinking "outside the box", an ability to open up further and further, to enjoy the process, and to imagine more than you think you can imagine.

What is the best way to learn languages? It might just be, as Jesus advises, to become as little children (actually, the common translation refers to getting into heaven--you won't get there unless you become as little children). Where is there? And, how do we become as little children? I say heaven (there) is here, now, when we are open (as little children are open), when we are not restricted by our personal stories, and when we can see and hear beyond our personal likes and dislikes. I'm rambling and it's time for me to go to school (school being another word for dharma).

Monday, February 20, 2006

teapot no. 35 - Pagoda pot

I had no idea what this teapot was going to be when I took out the construction paper and scissors last night. I just began to snip and paste and this pagoda pot is what came out. A good design for a house, too, I think. Here's the whole set so far.

Other teapot news: Andy Titcomb of Cornwall, England has a teapot blog where he's posted a few of my teapots.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Let's talk turtle - Contest #3

Time for contest #3.

I snipped the words below, Let's talk turtle, from a popular American catalogue. I thought they wanted to ask me something, so I called them up. What's up?, I asked, but they had no idea what I was talking about.
Here's the question: From which American catalogue company did I find those words (see photo below). The winner gets a hand-drawn turtle.

See first two contests here and here.

At Asilomar with Yuki

I took Yuki to Asilomar beach this morning. We walked on the sand watching the greenish-blue water. Actually, I don't know if Yuki watches the water or not, but I do. I think he's mostly interested in sniffing those huge mounds of tangled seaweed, just like every dog who runs on the beach. My eyes scan the horizon, watch clouds, catch silvery glints of sunlight on shells. I thought about how to paint the clouds: what I'd do, which colors I'd lay down first. And Yuki, he continues sniffing, fully absorbed; sniffing and trotting, using his selective hearing when I call him, then zooming past me in high gallop smiling, both of us smiling.
The waves were big and choppy, so not many surfers out. I confirmed the choppiness of the surf with a man laying on the beach in his wetsuit. He looked a bit like a beached seal sunning himself, covered with sand, and pudgy in his black and purple rubber wetsuit. Little baby birds with long, thin curved beaks scurried in the low tide trailing after their parents. The babies' feathers are primarily white and lighter shades of tan; the adults have more tan, brown, and grey feathers on their bodies and their beaks are longer and curvier. That was our walk at the ocean today.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Teapot no. 33 & 34

Teapot no. 33 is a Yuki pot with a Jesse cup:

Teapot no. 34 is Red thread pot:

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Celebration of Love

My Tucson friend, Bonnie, used to send poems to her friends and family on Valentine's Day to celebrate the many kinds of Love. I've posted a few from her selection. My friend Shirley added the Mary Oliver poem.

* * * * *


From The Essential Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks

Two friends meet every morning
on the riverbank.
They sit in the nook of the earth and talk.
Each morning,
the second they see each other,
they open easily,
telling stories and dreams,
Empty of any fears or suspicious holding back.

One starts laughing out a story
He hasn't thought of in five years,
And the telling might take five years!
There is no blocking the speech-flow
River-running-all-carrying momentum
that true friendship is.
Bitterness doesnπt have a chance
with those two.

* * * * *


Lalla, from Naked Song
translated by Coleman Barks

You've wandered so many places
trying to find your husband!
Now at last, inside the walls
of this body-house,
in the heart-shrine,
you discover where he lives

At the end of a crazy-moon night
the love of God rose.
I said, "It's me, Lalla."
The Beloved woke.
We became That,
And the lake is crystal clear.

* * * * *


The Red Kite by Saijo Yasa, translated from the Japanese by Kenneth

My dear, what have you done with our old red kite?
Let's fly it again this evening as high as we can,
Through the driving sleet towards the moon in the sky.

The shore is far away now where we were young together once.
The kite is torn and battered, but maybe it will still fly.

My dear, come, let's fly it wildly, as far out as we can
With all the cords of the heart through the falling sleet
Towards the moon in the sky.

* * * * *


The Plum Trees, Mary Oliver

Such richness flowing
through the branches of summer and into

the body, carried inward on the five
rivers! Disorder and astonishment

rattle your thoughts and your heart
cries for rest but don't

succumb, there's nothing
so sensible as sensual inundation. Joy.

is a taste before
it's anything else, and the body

can lounge for hours devouring
the important moments. Listen,

the only way
to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it

into the body first, like small
wild plums.

* * * * *


Ode to Cats, Pablo Neruda

Oh little
emperor without a sphere of influence
conqueror without a country,
smallest living-room tiger, nuptial
sultan of the sky,
of the erotic roof-tiles,
the wind of love
in the storm
you claim
when you pass
and place
four delicate feet
on the ground,
all that is terrestrial,
because everything
is too unclean
for the immaculate foot of the cat.

* * * * *


From e. e. cummings Complete Poems 1902-1964

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

* * * * *


by Hafiz

I am happy even before I have a reason.
I am full of Light even before the sky
Can greet the sun or the moon.
Dear companion
We have been in love with the Divine
For so very, very long.
What can we now do but Forever Dance!

** HapPy HEART day **

teapot no. 31 & 32

Teapot no. 31, Jade wave teapot was inspired by the jade colored waves I saw at Asilomar on the weekend. 68 more to paint.

Friday, February 10, 2006

teapot no. 30

Teapot no. 30, another left-hand painting except for the tea cannister (don't have that much motor control in my left hand yet). **Yuki-chan: this is the hojicha you gave me--very yummy!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ling's jacket

I have my friend Ling's bright red wool jacket from
Beijing hanging in my closet. On the chest area it has
an embroidered yellow and gold sunflower with some
brown and black threads in it. The sleeves and neck
are lined with a silky material patterned with a
design similar to the Buddhist endless knot. And, the
jacket is so warm! I am going to sew new sturdier button
loops on it for her--with red thread, of course.
I painted this picture of Ling's jacket last night before bed.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

teapot no. 29, ugly pot?

I made teapot no. 29 last night entirely with my left hand; not an easy thing to do. I don't have as much control with my left hand, which is precisely my objective in doing these left-hand experiments. Watercoloring with my left hand is much easier than holding and using colored pencils because: 1) the brush and water feel more flexible and fluid in my hand and 2) it takes more control to maneuver a pencil.... or, does it? It also takes me longer to draw left-handed than right-handed and sometimes I want to change hands because my mind thinks it could do better right-handed. I didn't like the result of the colored pencil in teapot 29, so I watercolored over it--still using my left hand--and thought, how can I post such an ugly teapot in my teapots series?" But, when I began the 100 teapots, I made a rule that I would use the teapot I set out to draw or paint no matter what I thought of it. Besides tricking my brain by doing some of these paintings left-handed and/or without wearing my glasses, I am adhering to my rule to help me become less discriminatory and critical about my own work. What usually happens is that I am surprised when others respond favorably and even like the artwork that I reject. It happened today on Flickr. Already, two fellow artists have responded favorably to a piece of my work that I did not want to post.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Morning helpers

I snapped photos this morning of my messy desks (one's a drafting table and one's a low table) and some of my helper items, gifts from Tucson friends.

Bocha II

I learned the correct way to write the word for Tibetan tea in Tibetan from one of my library co-workers who is Tibetan (from the Tibetan community in Dharamsala, India). She could read and understand my first attempt to write the word, but because I wrote it in phonetics, it was a little strange. She showed me how it is really written. So, this morning I made myself a big hot bowl of Bocha, painted a new left-handed watercolor, and wrote the correct Tibetan word for it (below).

Biscuit portfolios

Yesterday, while shelf reading at the institute library (part of my little student job), Burton Watson’s Cold Mountain fell into my hands. I opened up a page at random and this is what I got:


Here we languish, a bunch of poor scholars,
Battered by extremes of hunger and cold.
Out of work, our only joy is poetry:
Scribble, scribble, we wear out our brains.
Who will read the works of such men?
On that point you can save your sighs.
We could inscribe our poems on biscuits
And the homeless dogs wouldn’t deign to nibble.

Cold Mountain: 100 Poems by the T’ang Poet Han-shan, translated by Burton Watson.

* * * * * * * * *

Ha-ha-ha….pretty funny and synchronistic for me now while I am writing my portfolio. I'm having fun with my biscuit portfolio this time around, allowing other creative activities to help my process: drawing and painting, cycling, cooking and eating (is eating creative?, I think so….), taking long walks with Yuki, and lingering over little clay teapots of steaming tea. I know what needs to be done to finish and have my sight set on successful completion, while at the same time not attaching to the outcome.

Back at home, I opened my copy of The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain, Red Pine’s translation of Han Shan’s poetry, and searched for his rendering of the above poem (99 below).
Han-shan, aka Cold Mountain, is one of my favorite irreverent Taoist/Buddhist mountain hermit poets of the early or late 8th century (no one knows for sure). I like Burton Watson’s version (10) for the obvious humor in it, and Red Pine’s (99) for the subtle, yet equally humorous tone.

* * * * * *


Disappointed impoverished scholars
know the limits of hunger and cold
unemployed they like to write poems
scribbling away with the strength of their hearts
but who collects a nobody’s words
may as well save your sighs
write them down on rice-flour cakes
even mongrels won’t touch them

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

teapot no. 28, Priti Pot

Little green caterpillar was born atop the highest branch of a pine tree on Mt. Lemmon. In the caterpillar cosmos, the mountain was known as High Place above the Desert. Every evening, snug inside her pine cone home, little green caterpillar listened to the stars and watched the darkness. One night, while her neighbor crawled down to get a bite to eat from the nearby all-night aspen leaf taquería, little green caterpillar began to write a story. She wrote with pine sap ink in a pen she crafted herself from pine needles. To get herself going, she boiled up some of the pungent chapparal her cousin had carried up from the desert. She took a big whiff of it before placing it in the pot. This is the teapot she used--No. 28: chapparal pot, aka, greasewood and creosote--and this is the beginning of her story.

Dedicated to the memory of Priti, long-time desert dweller who lived among the chapparal.