Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I used to love the process of tie-dye.  I even went to the library and checked out books on African and Asian tie-dye patterns and techniques. It was a great medium because it combined planned design with interesting accident, or chaos, if you will.  This was the source of its fascination as far as I was concerned. I would dye layer one, sew and tie a pattern and then repeat this process several times layering many patterns and colors.  The part that made it so much fun was the unexpected and usually gorgeous outcome.  Although I planned the design and very carefully separated the various colors the final result was always a surprise and in my opinion an act of nature as much as it was a personal creation.  In that sense it reminded me of both a kaleidoscope and fractal geometry.  That is the visual result of a marriage of planned design and unforeseen consequences. But I find that it’s a good metaphor for my usual approach to life.

It seems to me that this is how life and creation really do unfold within the dimension of time.  Behind all of our plans there is an overriding fractal law that at first seems chaotic but is actually the matrix of all patterns and rhythms.  Lately I came to the realization that this special gift of surprise is what moves me artistically and in life.  Although both my life and art are inspired by the vision of a particular form there is always something beyond my own imagination that imposes a variation on the original theme. Frequently several variations come to mind and through my fingers before I sense that the design is complete for a particular project.  But I’m always aware of several other options that could have been. 

It’s true that we often impose our little intentions on something that is beyond our understanding such as dividing the heavenly bodies into constellations.  But might it also be that the greater patterning function of the universe works within us even if we are the small fry’s within the cosmic ocean.  True, it’s backwards, the small trying to design the great, but it’s also within the nature of all that is.

Perhaps we have a hard-wired desire to complete each design pattern and that each pattern in life is much like a phrase of music that will only be finished when a certain note is struck. The completion of a composition must end with a particular rhythm and tone that defines and fulfills its existence. Meaning itself seems to depend on certain sequences within time.  Even our life cycle has a pattern and rhythm.  For this reason I don’t believe that immortality could ever succeed.  That would destroy the very nature of life’s essence.  Without an end note, a frame, or the edge of the fabric there could be nothing that we define as life.  The beginning is defined by the ending.  Probably the universe itself and the Creator also have endings and beginnings and we as products, or more appropriately as holographic cells within the Big Body and its song and dance are one of those remote tips of an ongoing fractal phrase. Endings and beginnings are as much an aspect of creation as the endless universe that supports them.  What an amazing dance between something and nothing and it all depends on pattern and design. And pattern and design depend on nothing. Nothing at all! This is why I believe both the Theists and the Atheists are right.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


PQ and I have been in Cottonwood, Arizona one month now. Finally the monsoon has arrived though late, and those huge cumulous clouds typical of the desert Southwest fill the sky. It started with a down pouring hail that knocked leaves off of trees, trimmed the flowers back and filled the patio with water but it was welcome nevertheless. Now it has settled into a shower each afternoon. I have a break from watering the garden and keeping the shades drawn against the sun. And nature is a much better gardener than I am.

PQ on Fay Canyon Trail
We sit each morning on the patio and watch the hummingbirds fight over the feeders, their sentry's perched on the top branch of a mesquite waiting to dive bomb rivals while lizards do pushups on the wall. Now and then we see one of the tiny striped snakes that live under the rocks. A falcon flew by very low and almost touched us with its wings. The Mourning Doves are shy. I watch them waiting in the neighbor’s yard for us to go inside so that they can drink from the birdbath. It’s all very simple, quiet and healing. I watch a drama unfolding. Two large black beetles collide in mid air. One falls to the ground and a lizard zooms in to attack it. They tumble around for awhile but the beetle is too big and finally limps away, but it is probably fatally wounded. Meanwhile a group of ants are struggling to get a crumb of toast torn into manageable sizes and then carry it across the rocky ground. It’s a formidable task but they never give up. Is this any less important than the workers across the street who have been downing a large pine this week, and loading it into their truck piece by piece? The world is very busy and it all seems like a fugue of motion, all sizes and species of beings playing their own part of the earth song and dance.

 In Beauty before me I walk

In Beauty behind me I walk,

In Beauty below me I walk,

In Beauty above me I walk,

In Beauty all around me I walk,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in beauty.

 Dine Beauty Way Chant

If I were to categorize this period of time I would say that it is a time of learning to live. I am separating myself from dis-empowering and alienating attitudes and beliefs. Its not about saying affirmations and thinking positive thoughts but instead its about seeing through false beliefs to a degree that I’ve never experienced before. This life is becoming a balanced circle in my perception and I am a part of it standing in the middle of my personal world. Whether I have high or low self-esteem doesn’t matter anymore. This doesn’t trouble the ants. Balance is comfortable like a dance where the dancer and the music are completely in synch. The world isn’t any better, in fact it may be getting worse but the futility and narcissism of fear, worry and despair has been exposed.

Things aren’t perfect. That’s not the point. Maybe there is no perfect. I don’t know how I’ll pay all the bills much longer; PQ has a potentially fatal disease and I haven’t had a decent place to paint for over a year but the moment seems perfect and that is all there is. And this may be spiritual dessert and when its gone bitter medicine may replace it but it’s a taste that becomes stronger and sweeter over time and now I know this sweet taste and use it as a guide. Perhaps this is the key to meaning and to co-creation in the universe. It’s not about struggle and duty but about harmonizing with the life force within and without. The rest must inevitably click into place.

I was brought up to believe that everything of value should be a struggle and that pain was purifying. The world was tainted by Adam's and Eve's fall from grace and we had to put up with it until God destroyed this evil world and took us away to a better one. Although I tried very hard to believe this it never took for me. I won’t go into it here but I now have a completely different way of interpreting the very teachings that were used to make life on earth so ugly.

I’m not fixing my life anymore, nor anyone else’s, for that matter, and I certainly don’t have the power to fix the world. I dance as I go, just as I duck under branches and climb over rocks on a hike. The body and mind adapt to the trail in a fluid and practical way. It’s good to work at the rhythm of season and environment, taking responsibility for what is mine to work with and leaving the rest to God and other beings better suited. Yes, I still have hopes and dreams but they are go-by patterns and I can alter them to fit a sharper view or a more complete understanding without feeling failure. I don’t know what the goal is anyway. It keeps changing and evolving and I like that.

I’ve come to believe that our real work is participation in the magic of incarnation. Creation is happening all around us and we are in the midst of its process. Pain is a sign that something isn’t in synch, and sometimes that our attention needs to be altered, refocused or a wrong turn is asking to be corrected.

. . You never find happiness until you stop looking for it. My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness: and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course... If you ask "what ought to be done" and "what ought not to be done" on earth in order to produce happiness, I answer that these questions do not have an answer. There is no way of determining such things. Yet at the same time, if I cease striving for happiness, the "right' and the "wrong" at once become apparent all by themselves. Contentment and well-being at once become possible the moment you cease to act with them in view, and if you practice non-doing (wu wei), you will have both happiness and well-being.
Chuang Tzu (c.360 BC - c. 275 BC)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Travelling Through Life: The Alchemy of Time

Since arriving back in Arizona, after a short visit to our home in Taos, I’ve noticed changes in my stance toward life and the future. Perhaps a change in location encourages a different perspective. When I’m at home in Taos I am whom I am used to being. Habit saves energy and time but it has some serious drawbacks. One of these drawbacks is that we become habituated to using the same mental and spiritual tools for every personal discomfort even when they obviously don’t work. I suppose it has to do with the secure feeling of familiarity. It is powerful medicine to step outside one’s accustomed identity. Too often we forget that we are part of the environment of our existence and have much to do with making it what it is. On the personal level we really do create our own reality even though this phrase has been seriously compromised in the New Age market.

I’ve noticed recently that even casual encounters with old enemies no longer carry the punch they used to carry. By old enemies I’m thinking of those pressures to conform to some external ideal. Also, I recently had a birthday and even though I don’t consciously think about it, getting older is bringing new perspectives just as a road trip moves one through a constantly changing landscape. Appeals to vanity are losing their, well, appeal. When I see an add for a new miraculous product or technique for reversing age, removing wrinkles, flattening the tummy or losing pounds I notice that it no longer stimulates curiosity. Much to my surprise I’m now OK with the way I am and not particularly interested in meeting standards of perfection set by the fashion and marketing folks. In other words I now see these manipulations for what they are, ploys to make money for someone at the expense of my self-esteem. Perfection is an empty word because nobody really knows what it is. This vagueness leaves the word wide open for manipulation.

We are organic beings that go through many stages during our journey through life. To become fixated on one stage of this journey is unnatural and it is done to meet the standards of someone, even possibly an imaginary someone who has convinced you that they have the power to pass judgement on you for failing to defy nature.

It’s not that I don’t want to change anything about myself however. It’s that the reasons are different and are beginning to fit like a well made shoe. We are part of the entire universe and what we do and especially who we are is either in sync or out of sync with the whole. Or less cosmically put, to my surprise and delight I'm acquiring the ability to feel the natural rhythm. Instead of an uncomfortable dissonance the inside and outside are in communication even if not yet in perfect harmony and its easier to correct a bad note.

I tend to be a background person. Astrologically with four heavenly bodies including Sun and Moon in the 12th house I started out way back in the shadows. Much of my life has been a fight to get out of the shadows and into the light of recognition. Now I’m facing the fact that this may never happen and it’s not entirely a bad thing. After all the shadow turned out to be merely a perception. After years of envying people who expressed themselves easily and charged out into the world to accomplish their dreams, I’m learning that much of this is secondary in value to awareness and self-knowledge. I’m referring here to Self with a capital S not the ego self we generally believe we own, although it is an amalgam of pieces acquired here and there since birth. The upper case Self is the part that is connected to the process of creation and leads us beyond expectations, hopes, dreams and whatever we can’t yet imagine.

The distance between inside and outside, near and far is gradually closing as I recognize that it is all about perception and how that perception is applied.