Friday, November 14, 2008

Lessons in the bark

I first found this reclining buddha in a storefront on Capri. I thought she was enchanting, but the photo I took really didn't do her justice. She was lying on a black background, behind a glass window, quite low to the ground, so the photo included reflections of my feet (in green crocs) and my husband's feet as well (in flip-flops); very distracting.

This morning, as I began my photo-browse in search of today's post, I knew I wanted a statue of some sort, so I went to the file of photos I had taken in Naples. But what I found there was a photo of the colorful bark of a sycamore tree; I had taken several shots of this one tree while waiting for a bus on a busy street corner.

I loved the color and texture of the bark, so I settled on that, rotated it to make it more stable, and then realized that the swirling movement of it reminded me of the buddha from Capri. OOH! a possible way to use her! So I went back to the Capri file and realized that, despite the foot reflections, the background was so dark that I could use the select tool to separate out the figure from the rest of the picture.

I then added her to the sycamore tree and softened her edges, fading her a bit and shifting her colors to make her blend better with the bark. Once they became an inseparable unit, I realized that together they would look better standing than lying down, so I flipped the bark back into its original vertical position.

To complete the image, I found a bright red blackberry leaf from an excursion to Poulsbo's Fish Park and stretched it to cover a distractingly sensual scar in the bark, then softened the leaf color to bring out the blues in the bark, and Voila!

I don't quite know (though obviously I can trace my steps) how or why these images seem to want to compile themselves. Nor am I certain that this is the final evolution of this particular compilation. But here are some lessons I learned from this work:

1. You don't always have to keep the bathwater just to get the baby. And what I mean by that is this: Life is like an image: we are exposed (like film!) to new ideas and new thinking all the time -- in books, in articles, in images, in meetings, in churches, in study groups -- but we don't have to take it all in total. Sometimes I have to give myself permission to just hold on to what is meaningful for me, to remind myself that it's okay, even good, to pick and choose bits of what we hear and see. We can select out what is buddha, for us, and toss the feet and shoes.

Which is why I can continue reading The Cloud of Unknowing even though I object to some of its underlying theology. The author has a great deal to say, some of it very pertinent, and I have to trust that I will "hear" whatever I am meant to hear, and it is okay, for now, to discard the other.

2. You don't have to remain upright all the time; sometimes it's good to lie down. The sycamore tree grows up -- that is its job. But it wasn't until I let it rest on its side that I could see the Buddha in it. It feels to me like this is a reminder that we need to rest, we need to stop doing once in a while and just be -- and sometimes that choice will bring us new insights we might not have had otherwise.

3. By letting go, relaxing, and softening the boundaries between what is me and what is other, I can form a bond that is stronger than each of us -- and the resulting energy from that connection allows me to resume the tasks I am born to do. The tree had to lie down to connect with the Buddha, but once united they needed to stand -- and the Buddha was actually lifted out of her lethargy by that.

So what about the leaf, you ask, why the leaf? I think it's there for the same reason Adam and Eve grabbed the fig leaves in the Garden of Eden. Because once we are no longer innocent, sex can get really distracting from the task at hand! And you'll just have to trust me, the scar looked exactly like a vagina. Since clearly the Buddha is covering that part of herself, I have echoed and honored that impulse by doing the same for the sycamore tree. The subtlety of the resulting image, I think, is far more sensual than either the buddha alone in the window or the scar alone in the tree. Perhaps there's a lesson in that as well!


Jan Neal said...

Diane, I love, love, love this image and the thoughts on combining images. Very nice.

Diane Walker said...


Gberger said...

She is beautiful.