Category Archives: Contemplation

End of Summer Retreat Day Part II

EndofSummerRetreatDay

“End of Summer Retreat Day” DS Phone Photo

 

Having observed

The sea

Nature in feathers

Human nature vibrant

It felt urgent that I move on

To the gallery

 

I looked in the closed windows

I meandered the long garden row

I had my quotes in tow

To read on the pier

 

I chose a place on the side rocks

I dozed

I placed some found shells

Three in all beside a

Pilfered recycled

Community garden Sunflower head

 

Proof of my day

I photographed

I read and enjoyed anew my quotes

My perch was comfortable

In the sunny sun and the windy sea

From the side rocks so new to me

 

I looked back at the land

At the place that had once held my art

At the place I had walked rain or shine

To another time

Of celebration

Contemplation came easy now

Of God of times bad and good

Of times misunderstood

Of love and loss

Of times filled with

Life and

New plans came

 

I came off the pier and noticed

So many flowers near pink as I like

I skirted the bike on the lane

To take a picture again

And hiked the 6 blocks back to my car

More at peace than before

And ready to work

 

The studio beckoned but

Exhausted I reckoned a

Rest on the bed instead

And anxiety returned

And the retreat day returned

And the contemplative events

Returned me to

Peace in place of plans

As I survived

A day unworked

A creative day

An interrupted day

A day of play

Of gratitude

To face my class

Homework undone.

 

 

Spiritual Practices:

Silence

Contemplative Walking

Spiritual Reading

Attention to Nature

Prayerful Play

Re-Membering Faith Stories

Practice of Rest

Gratitude

 

Creative Practices:

Collage

Photography

DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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End of Summer Retreat Day Part I

Hand Painted Collages

“Hand-Painted Collages” by DS Phone Photo

I awoke with an unexpected empty day ahead.  I still hoped for the call or text that would bring my complex plans to fruition before 8:00am.

It was a day of nothing

It was a day of disappointment

It was a day of getting used to a new normal, of not seeing a loved one daily going forward. And a day of waiting for another’s decision.

At 6:30pm I had a class but it was 10 hours away.

 

I felt unsettled, down, post-anger.

It was a day after the rain

It was a day of sun of still summer

It was a day to fill

But I could do no work.  Hopes had been dashed.

 

A new plan came to me

I would practice what I preach

I compiled a personal retreat day

Consisting of

An intention

A drive

A snack

Observation of nature

A walk

Some favourite quotes to read

Something new to do

A rest

And no time limit

Although the parking sign said

Two hours max

 

Energy returned so I did some chores before I left.  Actually truth be told I felt a surge of creativity come over me.

 

I started some collage art cards

Finished one for a friend in recovery

Left the chores for later

Inspiration takes priority today

 

The retreat started with a detour

A visit to a site neglected in my daily round

A place unvisited was photographed

And considered for future thoughts

 

The retreat took a walking turn

A turn toward Ambleside Beach

Rerouted West

Another detour to Crema

Food for the soul could wait

 

The retreat continued at the community garden

Competition for my muffin

A stare from a seagull offering

Unwanted accompaniment

He was big

He was white and grey

He had a yellow and red eye

He was persistent in his

Observation

 

A flashback of Hitchcock’s “Birds” came

My mind reasoned

As I looked at

His hooked

Yellow

Strong beak I felt

Peace as I remembered his

Scavenger character disciplined

In his gaze

I put my muffin away

 

The sun on the sea

Felt new

Felt stolen

Felt gifted

Shifted me to

Another bench

 

A bulldog came catching

A ball next door

I checked that he could not reach me

Not quite

Another danger averted

Subverted my focus

And fears subsided.

 

A couple walked down the lawn

I said Hi rather than

Appear withdrawn

I stretched my face to

A smile she gladly returned and

Reported that she had hidden a chair in a bush

That she would drink her beer and then go to work

At 11:30 am.

Conflict and Confrontation

Knitted Tent Belkin Gallery

“Knitted Tent, ‘Material Obsessions’, Roth and Morton, Belkin Gallery, UBC”

Photo DS

Sometimes life can only be expressed in a nonet:

It was a week of conflict

A week of speaking my mind

A week of correcting paperwork

A week of calling people out

A week of phoning to say no

A week of advocating

A week of maneuvering a plan

A week of staying quiet

While I can

 

This summer week intended to be

A creative studio week

A week of picnicking with friends

A week of rest at the beach

A week of seeing what I need

A week of laughing with children

A week of sightseeing

And meal making

Together

 

Next week I will attend a festival

I will make the best of all

I will get back on the treadmill

And on the seawall

I will read Barbara Brown Taylor

I will paint the portraits that call me

The collages that long for me

The geranium baths eluding me

I will breathe and pray

This again is the only way

To sustain me other than

The gallery.

 

Nonet:

A group of nine people or things, especially musicians.

A musical composition for nine voices or instruments.

A poem with nine lines

Studio Rhythms

Stephanart Studio Rhodos

“Stephanart Studio Rhodos” Phone Photo DS

Proposals, jurying, framing, carrying, selling, or not

Sketching, canvas prep, composition, colour, painting

Artist statements, bios, CVs, photographing, website posting

Contemplation, creativity and rest: these are the rhythms of my practice.  The ancient monasteries called it “Ora et Labora”:

“In Christian mysticism, the phrase pray and work refers to the monastic practice of working and praying, generally associated with its use in the Rule of St. Benedict.” Wikipedia

The vertical blinds flutter as I unlock the studio.  Sunlight shines across the white colour spotted floor.  I drop some supplies in, take in the fir-treed mountain view from here and mostly just notice the mess:

Cuttings from garden and fashion magazines

Dried paint skins on plastic take out lids

Brushes in red Folgers coffee cans

Glass beads, Play Doh, and wooden rulers

A painting on this easel and the other

Time stands still here.  I like that. Ideas formed and partially executed, a yellow pad with tiny sketches of what is to come, and the temptation of the paint itself wait.

It is about the paint – the way colours juxtapose, drip, run – even onto the floor. This is freedom.  It is the space to make a mess, to leave it there and to long for this antidote to the structured life I lead outside of these walls.

 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Book of Ecclesiastes

 

 

Kingdom of God

IMG_1127

“Chafer Beetles and Moss” DS

A sky-full of pink flowers came up on my inbox this week.  I sat mesmerized by the hijacked blue space above blackish tree trunks with picnickers below.  I noticed that the branches were not symmetrical, nor were they asymmetrical.  They grew in a misplaced tangle of branches.  The master gardeners at VanDusen could have stopped this mess.  Surely they could have pruned saplings into a pleasing pattern of limbs.

http://www.vcbf.ca/shop/petal-mats

I felt the same way when I first moved to B.C.  “Couldn’t some one clean up the dead tree trunks in the forest?” I thought. I came from a city of manicured lawns, of new plantings, of clean tidy suburbs.

Only gradually have I come to realize the great cost of having arborists prune every tree here.  Stanley Park would be like a hothouse for trees.  Was it not enough to see all of the chain saws after the blow-downs of the 2006 windstorm and re-plantings?  It is the wildness, immensity and density of the growth in the park that make its beauty.

https://globalnews.ca/news/3123909/watch-10-years-since-major-windstorm-hit-stanley-park/

“So could it be this way with humans too?” I ponder.  We look at the tangle of behaviours, that annoy and confuse us, especially our own, and wonder how a perfect God could love us.  An ad on TV pleads with us to “bring back our children’s ‘wildhoods.’”  What!

https://gorving.ca/bringbackwildhood/

I admit that wildness can be ugly as seen on the blackened wet sidewalks of the Downtown East Side of Vancouver.  Yet the sense of community there can be strong.  I think of the saying that God lets the tares grow with the wheat until a future time to burn them (Book of Matthew).  The question comes to me: “Do weeds have beauty, have necessity, have purpose?”

Out my front window I see a lawn that is the worst mess ever.  Lime-coloured winter moss has crept over it.  The gardener came with his rolling drum cutter and took regular round plugs of soil out of the earth “so that the lawn can breathe”, he said. The chafer beetle had already done that, but I guess the gardener needs his earnings.  The scene is an ugly mess that cannot be called a lawn.  “It would have to be replaced.  But it would just come back again,” I mused.  I don’t know: “Can I live with this collage of green and brown?”

Questions with solutions arise: “Would more plantings of colour this summer take the eye away from the chaos?  Could I sow wildflowers in the remaining grass?”  Perhaps my yard will become a mini Stanley Park with the wildness/wilderness barely controlled.  “Is this the way to handle family get-togethers too?” comes the thought.

Spring chafered lawns and canopies of pink flowers co-exist.  Can this be perfection – at least for now?

Restoration

 

Skunk Tracks to the Studio

“Skunk Tracks to the Studio” Phone Photo DS

I was like Martha today, concerns filled my mind (MarthaMartha, you are worried and distracted by many things… Book of Luke). Snow was piled deep on the stairs. I did not go out on this Sunday, as is my habit. I knitted, listened to a podcast from Loyola Press and had a long bath perfumed with Emozione.

I dressed in my white paint-soiled fleece and jeans although I would not venture over to the studio. Skunk paw prints tracked over the melting patio snow disappearing under the building. We had called a truce for now.

I prayed. I breathed. I wanted to work but was tired on this Sabbath day. Run-off gurgled in the drainpipes. I could see the wind blowing the tops of the fir trees.

As I thought about sitting in the sunny window in the moss green chair from Germany, I picked up a forgotten copy of “The House by the Sea”, May Sarton’s journal. This is her entry for January 19th, 1976:

“It’s been a hard week, bitterly cold again. Yesterday was ten below zero, today, eight below, and even the brilliant sunshine feels cold as it shines off ice underfoot and across the frozen snow on the field. I do not feel very well, although the fever has gone. However, not being able to push very hard – even writing a letter a day has seemed an enormous effort – I enjoy this house, the space and light, the plant window full of flowers, cyclamen, begonias, the browallia I brought in from the garden still a marvelous deep purplish blue. The little orange tree is covered with round oranges, and, amazing to say, the lavender star-of-Bethlehem still falls in showers of little flowers. A final bowl of paper white narcissus takes my breath away with its intoxicating sweetness as I go past, for such perfume really does seem like a miracle with the frozen earth outdoors.”

I notice movement in my mood. I feel hopeful. I have been touched by beauty and have been refreshed. The Spirit keeps the Sabbath.


“He restores my inner person. He guides me in right paths for the sake of his own name.” Book of Psalms

Grocery Shopping with Seagulls

Treetops

“Treetops” Phone Photo DS

A seagull’s cry delighted me as I exited the grocery store. Perhaps it had found some food too. I felt a surge of gratitude that prefixed a breath of the wet winter soft air. It set me on a reverie of other shopping times from years past: as a mother with crying children, as a worker with a broken foot, as a painter prepping for an art show reception.

I had been feeling down, tired, overwhelmed with thoughts about:

A health blip

A new normal in my relationship

A family conflict

An empty gas tank

A paper-stacked dining table

What little things can change our moods. Just an hour ago, praying with friends, I was looking forward to my next workshop, my upcoming art show.

I can leave getting gas until tomorrow, I thought, caring for self as advised. I was hungry, had bags to carry, food to put away and an afternoon ahead of paperwork. In front of the Rav IV windshield sharp pinecones dropped on the debris messed road from windy trees high above.

Home again a newspaper was retrieved with a climb. My face was enlivened by the mild air. I stopped and breathed again. I remembered who I was and the collaged life I had been given. Suddenly the half empty glass of my soul was filling up again. I have always loved seagulls since my childhood summers spent in a caravan at the Scottish seaside.