Friday, February 28, 2014

The beauty that surrounds us

Take time. 
Make time: to breathe, and to look.
Upon closer examination,
the intricate texture of these wings,
the graceful pattern of the grasses
and the widgeon's steady gaze --
each reveals the splendor
and the glory of creation
placed here to feed the hungry soul.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

When things are hard

"When things are hard and I feel stretched to the breaking point, I will do my best to remember to have faith, to accept and surrender to the Wisdom that brought whatever is at hand to me for healing; to remember that there is purpose and Good in the hard stuff, too, and that the seemingly unwelcome gift that pushes me to my edge is part of the path."

-- An intention set by my dear friend Teresa Molitor Luttrell when she refurbished her home to become Enliven Bed & Breakfast for the chemically sensitive.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Just being human

Some days just being human is such a challenge. 
That God could continue to love and welcome us 
when we keep tripping up on our own imperfections 
is such an overwhelming mystery, 
and yet that invitation's always there...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Your waves of love keep pounding
at the shores of my heart
but I dare not lower the gates for fear
all this ground that is my self 
might be washed away...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Celestial light

"There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,   
    the earth, and every common sight 

to me did seem 
apparell'd in celestial light,   
the glory and the freshness of a dream."

 -- Wordsworth

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Still air. Still water. Still You, 
glowing in the fog, shepherding all of us --
guiding, pulling, pushing, protecting...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The color of your ocean

"The presence of the Perfect one
reaches a seed planted in you...
and no matter what you do,
the sacred will begin to glow in you.
The color of your ocean will change
when that drop of holy water, the needed dye
touches your forehead."

-- from Hafiz

Friday, February 21, 2014

Invincible Summer

"In the midst of winter, 
I finally learned that there was in me 
an invincible summer." 

Albert Camus

Thursday, February 20, 2014

In preparation for Lent

There are some things we possess,
and others that possess us.
The gift of Lenten practice -- whether taking on or giving up --
 has always been that it helps us to understand 
how the ways in which we spend our time, our money, hearts, and energy
can become a cage instead of setting us free.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Touched by the light

What makes this image beautiful?
Surely it is the light, lending color to the clouds
and highlighting the simple shapes that clutter my neighbor's yard.

We, too, are not so much beautiful in ourselves,
but rather in how the light touches us
and moves through us into the world...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

These candles, our bodies

"These candles,
our bodies --
see how they burn.
How many hours will they last --
days, months, years?
Look at the warmth and comfort 
we can give to each other
or to anything that comes close.

One of the components of lasting art
is a spirit flame within the created
that can ignite inspiration and hope,
and survive time's ways."

-- Hafiz

Monday, February 17, 2014


I came here this morning with every intention of writing about how frustrated I've been with my painting lately. I've hated the last 5 or six paintings I've done, so I keep painting over them and starting new ones in hopes of getting "back in the groove."

So I went up to my studio and photographed this one, yesterday's failed attempt, intending to use it as an example. You need to remember that I'm new to this, so I'm still trying to expand my repertoire of colors, brush strokes and styles; it feels like my own collection of painting tricks is too narrow a cage. But when I attempt to expand it feels very "not-me" and I get discouraged. This painting, I thought -- though I liked elements of it -- was a perfect example of that.

But when I pulled it up on my computer after photographing it I confess I was utterly astonished at how clearly it spoke to me -- both about the time I've been immersed in the Gospel of Thomas lately, preparing for my speech yesterday, and about the reading I've been doing in Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism and Cynthia Bourgeault's latest book on the Trinity. And let me assure you -- I was thinking of NONE of those things when I was struggling with it yesterday. I really thought I'd wake up this morning and start painting over it. Again.

Surprisingly enough, I actually like it now.  It's rather like a reassuring friend, and SO vividly depicts the struggles of the week that I won't even bother to interpret it to you: I suspect that to explain would be a bit like dissecting a poem, and would feel like overkill.  Suffice it to say -- it's okay.  I'm not going to add a thing.  But it's also a great illustration of this quote I was given once in a pastel class:

"The drive to explore, search and grow has to be greater than the pain of failure or fear of others' judgment." (from Dan McCaw's A Proven Strategy for Creating Great Art).

I'm so glad I kept going.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Listen through the trees

"They can speak, trees.
They can say the sweetest things, and even tell a joke,
but it takes special ears to hear them:
ears that have listened to people ... with great care."

-- Hafiz

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Golden treasure

What wealth you will unearth
when you take the time to cultivate
this long-neglected field
you call your heart!

Dig deep, my love:
uproot those old assumptions.
Who knew this fallow ground
would yield such golden treasure?

(Reflection on the Gospel of Thomas, Logion 109
from my book, Illuminating the Mystery )

Friday, February 14, 2014

Raise your glass with me

I have provided so much light for you to drink.
Why are you not sipping from this radiance?
Have you not learned that the color and flavor are richest
when the shadows are longest?

It’s time: time to gather these last rays of light
and carry them into the darkness.
Raise your glass with me, and I will fill it with stars.

(Reflection on the Gospel of Thomas, Logion 73
from my book, Illuminating the Mystery )

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Spiritual Alchemy

The light this morning is delicious, streaming in our windows and igniting everything from dust motes to dog hair with a sort of transcendent luminescence. There's an alchemical quality to morning sunlight, especially after a long winter, that turns everything it touches to gold while at the same time intensifying all colors; it brings to mind this lovely passage from Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism:

"The proper art of the Spiritual Alchemist... is the production of the spiritual and only valid tincture or Philosopher's Stone; the mystic seed of transcendental life which should invade, tinge, and wholly transmute the imperfect self into spiritual gold... the Concealed Stone of Many Colours, which is born and brought forth in one colour; know this and conceal it... it leads from darkness into light, from this desert wilderness to a secure habitation, and from poverty and straits to a free and ample fortune."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Where is the door?

"Where is the door to God?
In the sound of a barking dog,
in the ring of a hammer, in a drop of rain,
in the face of everyone I see.

Where is the door to the divine tavern?
Yes, in all that we behold."

-- Hafiz

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Imprisoned spirit

Whenever I return to painting after a long hiatus 
my work gets dominated by these strong verticals and horizontals. 
It's as if the passion underneath, the urge to paint, 
has to show me how imprisoned it has been.

So must the spirit feel, when we devote too much of our lives
to the simple daily business of living...

Monday, February 10, 2014

You can't get there from here

Back in the days when we lived in Vermont, there were lots of jokes about taciturn Vermonters interacting with that most dreaded of species, the New Yorker.  And the punch line for one particularly amusing one I remember, uttered by an old Vermont farmer in that lovely accent they put on for strangers, was "you can't get theah from heah."

... which was what I heard when I looked at this photo: I mean, the gateway and path issue a lovely invitation, and there's a pretty cottage off in the distance, but the truth is -- you can't get there from here. There's actually a very deep body of water between here and there, not to mention a field thick with dune grass and a broken-down boardwalk through a marsh.

... which reminds me a bit of the spiritual journey: there have been, in my lifetime, any number of appealing and inviting paths I've pursued, only to find myself blocked at some unexpected point -- and frequently having to retrace my steps.

... which is, perhaps, the universe's way of reminding me -- as it says in Logion 3 of the Gospel of Thomas -- that the goal, the end point of this journey is not somewhere else: it's really right here. "Divine Reality exists inside and all around you," says Yeshua. "Only when you have come to know your true Self will you be fully known-- realizing at last that you are a child of the Living One."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Clear and still

"There is a path from me to you
that I am constantly looking for,
so I try to keep clear and still
as water does with the moon."

-- Rumi

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bringing you peace

For all who struggle today
with fear, or loss; pain or disappointment --
may this image bring you a moment of peace.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Freedom to embrace imperfection

This is the painting I put on the postcard I sent out to announce tonight's opening of my new exhibit, in the lobby of our local performing arts center. 

Tonight's also the official opening for our annual One-Act Festival, but there's always a pay-what-you-can preview on the Thursday before, so, since I have several friends in the production, I decided to attend last night -- which meant I got a sneak preview of reactions to my paintings as well.

It was pretty amusing, actually... there was a young girl there, one I've acted with in several plays, who loved the paintings and was quite effusive about them.  "They look like they're something, only they're not!" she said, "I LOVE that!"

Several adults in the room were somewhat less enthusiastic; it was a bit awkward watching them struggle for something nice to say.  I wanted to say, "It's okay if you don't like my paintings -- I totally get that this style is not for everyone!" and that I wouldn't take the rejection personally.  My favorite compromise statement was that it looked like I'd had fun throwing paint at the canvas. "Are there actually any brush strokes here?" said another.  And then there were the folks who couldn't quite look me in the eye, and I found myself wondering, "Do I look too hopeful?"

How can I communicate this -- that I feel so differently about this exhibit than I have about showing my photos in the past; that I don't need people to love the paintings, I just wanted to share the exuberant spirit that flows through them?  When I confessed to the little girl that I'd only been painting for a year, I could see her eyes light up: the thought that paintings don't have to look like something was clearly every bit as freeing for her as it has been for me.  So maybe that's the point of the exhibit: maybe it will help free others to play, to explore, and to embrace imperfection...

Thursday, February 6, 2014


"All of the great wisdom traditions want to awaken us to the fact that we co-create the reality in which we live. And all of them ask two questions intended to help keep us awake:

"What are we sending from within ourselves out into the world, and what impact is it having 'out there'?

"What is the world sending back at us, and what impact is it having 'in here'?

"We are continually engaged in the co-creation of self and world -- and we have the power to choose, moment by moment, between that which gives life and that which deals death."

-- Parker Palmer

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


What we perceive as a locked door
may simply be an invitation
to step off the page...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


"Liberty is not built on the doctrine that a few nobles have the right to inherit the earth. No. NO! It stands on this principle: that the meanest, and the lowest of people ARE, by the unalterable and indefeasible laws of God and nature as well entitled to the benefit of air to breathe, light to see, food to eat, and clothes to wear as the nobles or the king! THAT is LIBERTY. And Liberty will reign in America!”

-- John Adams

 Words still as true, and as revolutionary, today as when they were first uttered...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

This morning, in Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism, I read that she considers mysticism and magic to be at opposite ends of the religious spectrum.  Mysticism, she says, is driven by love, an all-encompassing desire for union with the Divine, while magic, on the other hand, is driven by the intellect, and is seeking some benefit for the self.

I found that discouraging, I confess: my daily meditations are certainly driven more by the understanding that I don't actually function all that well without them, and by the certainty that what creativity I have is surely fueled by that quiet time.

But the truth is -- I find it extremely difficult to love that which I fear.  And while on those rare and brief occasions when I have been touched by the Divine I have found that touch to be inexpressibly tender; a love more filling and complete than anything I have experienced at a human level, the fact remains that I was raised to fear God (a) and (b) I sometimes feel I have only begun to find myself, the true being at my core, and a large part of me does not wish to lose that sense of self in Divine Union.

It's a bit like the ocean: I know how lovely it can be to float in the water, how supported I feel by it.  And it's beautiful -- which is why I choose to live at sea level: the sight of it is endlessly satisfying.  But overall I am terrified of its elemental power, and on mornings like this one, when the tide is high and the wind out of the north sends the waves crashing to the beach just beyond my window, there is a tension between enjoyment of the beauty of it and a deep-rooted fear of that power.

So I was reassured to read on and find that the Artist can actually reside on the mystical end of that spectrum; that her job is to tap into the Divine and then to carry that back into expression.  It's not purely self-serving, but driven by a tension between the longing for the divine and the desire to communicate its glory back to humanity.

That said -- the very fact that I worry about whether I fall on the magical or mystical end probably indicates that there's some truth here; that my shadow self is probably feeling a bit exposed...  Always good to be aware of that...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Blessings in the stillness

"Blessed art thou therefore 
if thou canst stand still from self thinking and self willing, 
and canst stop the wheel of thy imagination and senses." 

Jacob Boehme

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Drop the knife

Once a young woman said to me,
"Hafiz, what is the sign
of someone who knows God?"

I became very quiet,
looked deep into her eyes,
and then replied,

"My dear, they have dropped the knife.
Someone who knows God
has dropped the cruel knife
that most so often use
upon their tender self and others."

  -- Hafiz