Politics, Treachery and… a Rose – Part 1

[Current world events have conspired to remind me recently about a post that I wrote over three years ago. My experience to date, at that time, had demonstrated to me that I don’t have complete control over the processes that steer me through life. Nobody does, however much we would like to think we do. It is also apposite that the worrying and sinister developments in talks between the European Union and the USA about what is called the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) have rather vindicated the concerns that I expressed three years ago. It may also be appropriate to mention that the theme of this essay just happens to align, I think quite well, with Corina’s last piece – “Wilful Ignorance and Some Food for Thought” as well as Jamie’s “Earthlings, Making The Compassionate Connection” ].

Since my retirement, I’ve had more time not only to reflect but also review, research and interrogate life’s processes and relate them to what’s going on ‘out there’. I’ve woken up and opened my eyes. I admit, from time to time, that I’ve allowed my mind to become infected by pessimistic thoughts, which have conspired to worsen my mood, with a concomitant fear for the futures of my children and grandchildren in a world with an increasing population, increasing greed for its limited resources, self-interest, political and corporate corruption, treachery and tyranny!

In my less cynical moments, I like to call this ‘life’s rich tapestry’ and all the more interesting for it. So not all is bad; there is still hope.

Babbacombe and the Carey Arms from Oddicombe (© 2011 John Anstie)
Babbacombe and the Carey Arms from Oddicombe (© 2011 John Anstie)

We are all self-interested, to a greater or lesser degree; we are all selfish and greedy from time to time; and, given the opportunity, I dare say there are many of us, who would be tempted to take advantage of privilege and power, if we had it in sufficient measure! I hope that I would not be one of these, but how can I say so with certainty? It is only the truly arrogant, who are unable to see how fragile and vulnerable we all are! But it takes a certain type of personality to be capable of merciless and ruthless exploitation and treachery; to be bereft of conscience – I am reminded of the ‘Morlocks’ in H G Wells’ chilling vision of the world in “The Time Machine“, published late in the 19th Century.

These personalities display all the characteristics of damaged minds that can exploit beyond a simple local selfish motive; even beyond a desire to build and run a large, successful organisation – be it commercial, charitable or social one. I’m talking here of international, corporate power mongering; a desire to exploit and control whole populations, with the end game being investment solely in the interests of a minority elite. It has happened throughout the history of the human race. It continues today, but that doesn’t make it right.

In the face of all this, it is sometimes encouraging to know that there are still some very courageous, inspiring as well as philosophically and intellectually ennobled people in the world, people with huge integrity as well as faith, who are capable of giving us great strength as well as hope for the future of humanity. They come in all shapes and sizes and you find them in the most unexpected places, not least amongst some of the free spirits that are to be found here in ‘Blogosphere’. They can be anybody, from wealthy philanthropists like the social thinker and reformer, John Ruskin, on the one hand, to the totally charitable, nay saintly, who dedicate their lives to the cause of the underprivileged, to help the truly needy of the world, whose selfish human motive seems to have been subordinated and whose spiritual conscience transcends all that is material; here I think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The Captain's Table nearby poetic inspiration...
The Captain’s Table nearby poetic inspiration…

Whilst we each fight our own battles to survive and thrive, to overcome whatever obstacles there may be in our competition for the world’s resources, as well as our own sanity, I am constantly reminded that there is also a vast array, a rich vein of powerful and beautiful natural phenomena that have the unquenchable capacity to ennoble our own minds, to elevate our spirits. I am speaking of the natural world; the flora, fauna and insectoids, some of which existed long before homo sapiens marched onto the scene with our unique set of biological characteristics that have enabled us to rule, dominate and change all that we see. But – and I say this with some trepidation, because I know it is controversial in some quarters – we are still animals; animals with an extraordinary ability for creative and innovative endeavour, but animals nonetheless. Look what happens, as we turn on our television screens almost every day, when law and order breaks down or when people get hungry or angry [evidence the London Riots in 2011], and tell me human beings are only capable of civilised behaviour… the fact that we are, well, hopefully a vast majority of us, capable of civilised behaviour, listening to your conscience and, above all, giving air to our compassion, is a cause for optimism; a cause for us never, and I mean never to give up the fight to maintain democracy and intelligently to vanquish those who represent the worst side of human nature (ibid) and the greatest threat to our freedoms.

Although the natural world cannot help us directly in this quest, it is in this vein that I come to the crux. Something occurred to me that I would not normally have expected, not even given my ability for creative thought. This … happening … somehow focussed my attention and led me, in that moment, to become intensely mindful.

This experience will be revealed in Part 2:

https://thebezine.com/2014/09/30/politics-treachery-and-a-rose-part-2/.

Essay (© 2014) and photographs (© 2011) John Anstie

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This post is a part of our participation in 100,000 Poets – and Musicians, Artists and Activists –  for Change. Details HERE. Our theme is Peace and Justice.We invite you to participate in this global event by linking in your work with ours. We’ll be collecting all the links in a commemorative page shortly after we close this project on October 3. You may use Mister Linky below or include your link in the comments section. Thank you!

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

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51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

On perfection

146439I was gazing at a darn moth the other day, bumping its head against an old mattress, testing the resistance of the now worn-out and arguably colored satin to the heaviness of its evanescence, when it just hit me: we are just a bunch of pathetic liars. We pretend to be so preoccupied with achieving perfection, we lie to each other and to ourselves that this is what we want, that this is our ultimate aim and goal and that this should be the official target of any sane human being. We build our whole lives around the obsession of becoming “perfect”. But to claim this while being aware that we cannot achieve perfection because first of all we don’t even know what perfection is, is the biggest proof of hypocrisy of all. Because, in the end, what IS perfection?

To find perfection we would need to establish a set of rules that would define perfection, a set of rules that would be unanimously accepted by all the people living in this world, a set of rules that would leave no room for misinterpretation or anything else. But do you realize what an enormous task that would be? Because then you’d have to define perfection for each and every notion. Just imagine this: how should the perfect human being be like? How should the perfect piano sound like? How should the perfect tiramisu taste like? How concentrated should the perfect mint tea be? Gosh…my head is already spinning.

Of course, there will always be the branch of the religious ones, who will say that “we are not perfect, God is”. Aye, maybe. To those I will only say one thing – if God is perfect, and God created us “in his own image”, shouldn’t that make us perfect, at least from the image point of view? (And this makes me think – what a wide array would be covered just by the perfect image of a human being…)

But it’s easy to lay on (a) God’s head the burden of some ambiguous invention birthed by our fear that otherwise our presence here might actually be just an accident – a purposeless accident.

The reason why we pretend this is that this way our lives would appear to have a reason, that search for perfection would provide us with a necessary and sufficient reason for us to BE here, to LIVE. It would give us the excuse for the mistakes we are making, because that way we could always claim that those mistakes are merely the steps of the stair we climb towards our ultimate goal – “perfecting” ourselves. We invented the concept of “perfect” so that we may have an excuse for when we are not happy – “life is not perfect”. We invented the concept of “perfect” to justify our fear to simply live.

Perfection may exist, but too many of us are so obsessed with the abstract notion that they fail to truly open their eyes and see the world as it is. Because in this world, in this dimension, the real perfection is simply whatever brings you happiness and peace in the “now”. From my point of view, “perfection” is by no means related to “flawless”. And what we don’t see, is that “perfection” is also not related to “everlasting”. Perfection is relative, and it’s adjustable to all of us. We can stretch it and contract it to fit whatever we may need “now”. It’s not rigid. That’s the beauty of it. We don’t have to find perfection, or to achieve it – it is already here, within us, around us. We just have to WANT to touch it and feel it as it is. Wake up, people! Each of you already has a grain of perfection in your life – don’t be afraid to see it! It begins with “love”.

As for the “absolute perfection”…who needs absolutes in a world governed by relativity? 🙂

 

The photo used here was taken from http://www.morguefile.com. The essay belongs to Liliana Negoi.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  She is also the author of a novel, Solo-Chess, available for free reading HERE. Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

once upon a time we were

the things that were never said
still hibernate like some embryos
inside my voice.
the sounds that i never heard
are already perverted with ether
by the time they reach my hearing,
but everything can wait.
nine zero one.
the world doesn’t yet ask me to be alive,
the world doesn’t yet need my eyes searching,
raking through layers of light for the purpose of movement,
the world can still postpone the infusion of quotidian
which i can have,
acid,
next to the coffee cup.
the world is still far away,
at about the moment when it chose to be held in arms of sand,
not knowing other ways to protect its smallness –
and my words struggle between silence and burning,
hiding me yet from light,
protecting me yet from sand.
but too many things strive to enter my eyes all at once,
too many wasted lives flow their unlivingness
just a brick away,
and the wooden pillars of citadels feel their capillaries rotting.
“once upon a time we were”
but what if we weren’t?
what if the “once” is truer than what the story says?
once i believed that each of us
lives only in someone else’s dream,
and when that someone wakes up, we die,
and our life is suddenly cut by the blink of the eye of a random person –
and i wonder,
how many lives have i ended myself by waking up in the morning?
and how would it be to spend all our lives
searching for the one dreaming of us,
and then, in our last moments, to beg that one
to not wake up?
and why wouldn’t he wake up?
what dream so beautiful would we offer to him
so that he would sleep some more?
nine zero two.
the clock screams green at me
while at the tip of my foot the tango born in the evening
pulsates residually,
just like the dirty pearly taste of shadows
walked upon on the asphalt of a random street.
in tones of crème brulée
morning invades my senses, ignoring them,
and i open my eyes and end some more lives.

– Liliana Negoi
© 2014, All rights reserved

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  She is also the author of a novel, Solo-Chess, available for free reading HERE. Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

 

Honoring My Father

George William Heigho II — born July 10, 1933, died March 19, 2010.

Today I want to honor my dad and tell you about how I eventually gave him something in return for all he’d given me.

My dad was the most influential person in my life until I was married.  He was the obvious authority in the family, very strict and powerful.  His power was sometimes expressed in angry outbursts like a deep bellow, more often in calculated punishments encased in logical rationalizations.  I knew he was to be obeyed.  I also knew he could be playful.  He loved to build with wooden blocks or sand.  Elaborate structures would spread across the living room floor or the cottage beach front, and my dad would be lying on his side adding finishing touches long after I’d lost interest.  He taught me verse after verse of silly songs with the most scholarly look on his face.  He took photographs with his Leica and set up slide shows with a projector and tripod screen after dinner when I really begged him.  He often grew frustrated with the mechanics of those contraptions, but I would wait hopefully that the show would go on forever.  It was magic to see myself and my family from my dad’s perspective.  He was such a mystery to me.  I thought he was God for a long time.  He certainly seemed smart enough to be.  He was a very devout Episcopalian, Harvard-educated, a professor and a technical writer for IBM.  He was an introvert, and loved the outdoors.  When he retired, he would go off for long hikes in the California hills by himself.  He also loved fine dining, opera, ballet, and museums.  He took us to fabulously educational places — Jamaica, Cozumel, Hawaii, and the National Parks.  He kept the dining room bookcase stacked with reference works and told us that it was unnecessary to argue in conversation over facts.

Camping in Alaska the summer after his senior year in High School: 1951.

My father was not skilled in communicating about emotions.  He was a very private person.  Raising four daughters through their teenaged years must have driven him somewhat mad.  Tears, insecurities, enthusiasms and the fodder of our adolescent dreams seemed to mystify him.  He would help me with my Trigonometry homework instead.

Playing with my dad, 1971.

I married a man of whom my father absolutely approved.  He walked me down the aisle quite proudly.  He feted my family and our guests at 4 baptisms when his grandchildren were born.  I finally felt that I had succeeded in gaining his blessing and trust.  Gradually, I began to work through the  more difficult aspects of our relationship.  He scared my young children with his style of discipline.  I asked him to refrain and allow me to do it my way.   He disowned my older sister for her choice of religion.  For 20 years, that was a subject delicately opened and re-opened during my visits.  I realized that there was still so much about this central figure in my life that I did not understand at all.

Grandpa George

In 2001, after the World Trade Center towers fell, I felt a great urgency to know my father better.  I walked into a Christian bookstore and picked up a book called Always Daddy’s Girl: Understanding Your Father’s Impact on Who You Are by H. Norman Wright.  One of the chapters contained a Father Interview that listed dozens of questions aimed at bringing out the father’s life history and the meaning he assigned to those events.  I decided to ask my father if he would answer some of these questions for me, by e-mail (since he lived more than 2,000 miles away).   Being a writer, this was not a difficult proposition for him to accept.  He decided how to break up the questions into his own groupings and sometimes re-phrase them completely to be more specific and understandable and dove in, essentially writing his own memoirs.   I was amazed, fascinated, deeply touched and profoundly grateful at the correspondence I received.  I printed each one and kept them.  So did my mother.  When I called on the telephone, each time he mentioned how grateful he was for my suggestion.  He and my mother shared many hours reminiscing and putting together the connections of events and feelings of years and years of his life.   On the phone, his repeated thanks began to be a bit eerie.  Gradually, he developed more symptoms of dementia.  His final years were spent in that wordless country we later identified as Alzheimer’s disease.

I could never have known at the time that the e-mails we exchanged would be the last record of my dad’s memory.  To have it preserved is a gift that is priceless to the entire family.  I finally learned something about the many deep wounds of his childhood, the interior life of his character development, his perception of my sister’s death at the age of 20 and his responsibility in the lives of his children.   My father is no longer “perfect”, “smart”, “strict” or any other concept or adjective that I could assign him.  He is simply the man, my father.  I accept him completely and love and respect him more holistically than I did when I knew him as a child.  That is the gift I want to give everyone.

I will close with this photo, taken in the summer of 2008 when my youngest daughter and I visited my father at the nursing home.  I had been widowed 6 months, had not yet met Steve, and was anticipating my father’s imminent passing.  My frozen smile and averted eyes are fascinating to me.  That I feel I must face a camera and record an image is somehow rational and irrational at the same time.  To honor life honestly is a difficult assignment.  I press on.

© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

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004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey. Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Flower power

Photo0113This morning I took my coffee and went to drink it in front of my house, enjoying some minutes of peace and quiet before the day starting to unfold. Some weeks ago I took outside the house some geraniums, and put them on a shelf near my entrance, and today I was watching them, thinking that I might have to move them back inside, because most of them didn’t seem to enjoy the weather too much. And just when this thought crossed my mind, I suddenly noticed four tiny buds blooming at the tip of one of the flowers, which I could have easily ignored, due to their pale pink colour. And when I came closer to take a picture of them, I also saw that, beneath the layer of leaves slowly drying, a new layer of leaves was coming to light, as if the flowers, now exposed to the outside conditions, was shedding its “skin” of fragile limbs and is now putting on another one, stronger and eager to live.

I then realized that it was Wednesday, and that I hadn’t written something in a while, because I was simply caught up with loads of personal things and it took me some time to untangle them all. At some point I even felt that I was never going to get out of the multitude of threads and tasks that surrounded me – fortunately, time proved me that anything can find itself a solution, with a little bit of patience and open-mindedness.

Today, looking at those geraniums blooming against the heavy odds, I understood (for the umpteenth time) that even when circumstances seem to be the harshest, one can still adapt and keep on living. And the flower power concept (which, as a funny coincidence, was the dress code of an event which I attended on the past Sunday) suddenly attained a new valence. Nature has its silent but splendid ways of teaching us its lessons – but only if and when we’re ready to learn them :).

@ 2014 Liliana Negoi, essay and photo

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  She is also the author of a novel, Solo-Chess, available for free reading HERE. Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

The Invisible Spiral of Violence

What Christ Saw from the Cross
What Christ Saw from the Cross

Originally published June 20, 2013

I am away working with youth affected by incarceration this weekend. I recently read the below meditation and found it to be moving. I hope you will also find inspiration. Terri

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Center for Action and Contemplation

The Invisible Spiral of Violence

“If you cannot recognize evil on the level of what I call the world, then the flesh and the devil are inevitable consequences. They will soon be out of control, and everything is just trying to put out brush fires on already parched fields. The world or “the system” is the most hidden, the most disguised, and the most denied—but foundational—level of evil. It’s the way cultures, groups, institutions, and nations organize themselves to survive.

It is not “wrong” to survive, but for some reason group egocentricity is never seen as evil when you have only concentrated on individual egocentricity (“the flesh”). That is how our attention has been diverted from the whole spiral of violence. The “devil” then stands for all of the ways we legitimate, enforce, and justify our group egocentricity (most wars; idolization of wealth, power, and show; tyrannical governments; many penal systems; etc.), while not now calling it egocentricity, but necessity!

Once any social system exists, it has to maintain and assert itself at all cost. Things we do inside of that system are no longer seen as evil because “everyone is doing it.” That’s why North Koreans can march lockstep to a communist tyranny, and why American consumers can “shop till they drop” and make no moral connections whatsoever. You see now why most evil is hidden and denied, and why Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:34) We don’t.”

Shalom and Amen
Chaplain Terri

Illustration ~ photograph of opaque watercolor over graphite on gray-green woven paper circa 1886 by James Tissot (1836-1902) and released into the public domain.

RICHARD ROHR, OFM is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mystical and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation. MORE

The foundational elements of The Perennial Tradition are: 1.) There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things. 2.) There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality. 3.) The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality.

terriTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

On gardening tools

gardening toolsI was doing some spring gardening a few days ago.  At some point I saw my mother-in-law (who was visiting at the time) grabbing the scissors in order to remove some withered branches from a bush. I heard her murmuring “that’s it, you waste the roots for nothing anyway”. I knew why she was doing this, and I also know she was right to do it, it was a simple gesture but I couldn’t help thinking about it in the days to come.

You see, when we look at a plant or a tree and we see a dead leaf or branch still attached to the body, we cut it down, because “it pointlessly consumes energy”. And it’s a good thing to do that, because the plant or tree, thus freed of a dry limb, can grow a new one instead. What it’s more difficult to understand is, since we’ve learned to do this to plants, why can’t we do this to ourselves? What prevents us to cut the sterile, dry, energy consuming parts of our lives, and grow new ones? I think we do (or better said, don’t do) that because we’re afraid of the pain. We’re afraid that it hurts to do that self-trimming, and we’re scared to death of what we may discover if we do that.

It’s easier to linger in that perpetual state of presumed wildness, slowly turning into a messy bush, suffocating the flowers with the ever growing thorns and blocking the light from reaching to our core. I know that, because, as the saying goes, it takes one to know one. You don’t need much to garden yourself and arrange your inner landscape; it’s only a few tools. Honesty first of all – raw, painful, cutting honesty. You look at yourself and see exactly what’s the pointlessly energy consuming part. Then there’s the willingness to fix things. You will also need patience with yourself, because nothing happens over night (oh well, sometimes it does, but those are exceptions), and last, but not least, love. You cannot do anything without love. This list of “gardening” tools can always adapt to the each person’s circumstances, the point is not just having them, but also using them. Yes, it will hurt. You may even bleed. But you are allowed to ask for help, and you are allowed to cry. You’d be amazed what marvels can a little self-gardening do :). And for heaven’s sake, if, for some untold reasons, you decide however to be a wild bush, then be a burning one, like the one from the story of Moses ;).

© 2014, essay, Liliana Negoi, All rights reserved The image was taken from http://www.finegardening.com/item/31544/the-basic-gardening-tools-guide-pick-up-your-weapon IMG_7667

LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

prologue to nothing

“Have you ever known a place where God would feel at home?”

Umberto Eco, The Name Of The Rose

there was dirt under his nails –
those uncared-for nails,
bitten and with stains of blood,
having known the nervousness of his teeth –
and his eyes were cloudy,
sad
and gray,
perfect reflection
of the undecided sky above.
the bones of god’s word
would have fit perfectly in his palm,
if ever his palm had been free
of the memory of one house
on a nameless street
flooded with sunlight one summer morning.

white…
everything was outrageously white,
as if somehow heaven had spilled
its entire bright purity
over those limed walls…
the only things preventing an explosion of light
were some cracked wooden panes,
striving to carefully protect
the inside from the outside…

only the ghosts of those sunbeams
were able to make the clouds in his gaze
move aside,
and in those rare cases
one could see a pair of
incredibly sapphirine irises,
harboring like a living vault
the secrets of mankind glazed with sorrow…

some said
that was the hideout of Samael,
after trading his wings
for Lilith’s resurrection.
others said
it was the place where souls
were waiting to ascend after meeting Azrael.
but nobody knew for sure
what purpose did that place serve,
and to whom it actually belonged.

nobody, except for him…
somehow he remembered
nothing prior to opening his eyes
upon that door.
he was standing in front of it,
feeling under his soles
the sun-heated cubic stones paving that street.
for him,
that was the second his life had begun,
and also the second when it had ended…
he had no idea
how much time he had spent inside that house,
wandering from one room to another,
marveling at the way
everything seemed to be perfect…
in the blink of an eye,
he just knew what it meant,
although he had no idea
how he knew that …

guided by the typical fear,
mothers forbid their offspring to talk to him
when he had emerged from that house.
people kept whispering at corners
that his shoulder blades bore
the marks of the fallen,
yet nobody wanted to listen to him
when explaining why each small crack had its reasons
and why his voice had become a prism,
translating for them
the rainbow hidden within the white…

after a while
he stopped talking.
he sat, silent, in the corner of some stairs,
in the middle of an ignorant world,
aware that people didn’t care
for the reason why he just wouldn’t
go back inside that perfect white house
and be happily forgotten…
because he just loved too much
the rainbow of their souls …

“Prologue to nothing” is the closing poem of Liliana’s volume “The hidden well”. For the audio version feel free to click below:

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

On learning and remembering

I was installing something on my computer this morning and I smiled when I remembered that, prior to meeting my husband, computers were for me something that I barely touched, using the one in my house back then only to write some paper work for university from time to time (yeah, that was a different age, we used handwriting more often 😛 – I still use it probably more than half of you, dear readers, although I discovered also that Microsoft Office is quite a friendly application :).

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that after meeting my husband I “evolved” up to the point where I’m not only capable to use the current system, but I’m able to assemble one from pieces, install the software (starting with the OS) and whatever other programs I need, and do many other things with it. In other words, “I learned”. Which is something that we ALL do, all our lives, voluntarily or involuntarily – we learn in order to adapt to the circumstances presented to us by life. Some say that we are able to learn even prior to being born from our mothers’ wombs – I don’t know about that, but for sure we are able to learn starting with the moment when we are born, and we continue to learn until the day we die.

The reasons why we learn are obvious. The reasons why we don’t learn can also be obvious, but neither ones nor the others make my topic for today. Instead I am going to mention a discussion that I had with a friend only a couple of days ago, in which he (my friend), who, coincidentally, is going to be a professor, was telling me that if I’m not able to teach someone a certain thing, maybe it’s because of the method that I’m applying.

I was tempted to reject the idea, for many reasons (pride among them), but fortunately for me I was smart enough in that moment to simply shut up, to listen to what he was saying and to chew on his words later that night. And then I realized that he was pretty much telling me what I always stated – that prior to teach someone WHAT to learn, you have to teach them HOW to learn. Ignacio Estrada said that “If a child can’t learn the way WE teach, maybe we should teach the way THEY learn”. The final goal is not for our own teaching to impose itself unto the mind of a being, but for that being to learn something from our teaching.

What my friend may not have realized at that point was the lesson that I myself had to learn that evening – and that is that the hardest to learn is when you think you already know what you’re learning. But as John Cotton Dana said, “He who dares to teach must never cease to learn”. And I myself feel lucky to have remembered such a beautiful lesson of life – and above all, lucky to have friends to teach it to me again :). Namaste!

who-dares-to-teach-must-never-cease-to-learn-education-quote© 2014 Liliana Negoi

The image used was taken from http://quotespictures.com/who-dares-to-teach-must-never-cease-to-learn-education-quote/

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

What seas and bicycles and whiskey have in common

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

These words belong to Rabindranath Tagore, and they came to my mind while I was actually looking at an over-water bridge that is currently being consolidated in the area where I live. I looked at the bridge this early morning, seeing it for what it is – a connection between the two shores of the river, meant to ease people’s access from one side to the other. And then I realized that the important aspect of Tagore’s quote was not what was said in it, but what it implied: the idea of moving, of doing something. The idea of not waiting for things to come to you, but of trying to reach those things somehow, whether by building bridges towards them, or by getting around the obstructions.

Man learned to cross seas and mountains because of his need for exploring, for moving, for trying to obtain the “better”. Up until now, evolution was not done only by staying still and admiring the circumstances – although, if sitting still means learning and evaluating the pros and cons of an action, it is also called “moving”, in my opinion.

Einstein - movingSeas, waters, obstacles, are always in our paths. Sometimes we see them from a distance, thus having time to prepare for them, other times we wake up right in front of them, and we have to make a decision. And most of the time the decision implies moving – either towards our goal, or away from it. Sitting there and not doing anything about it, although a valid choice, is the worst, because you willingly confine yourself into a dead end. And life is not – or at least it should not be – about dead ends.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

The one who said that was Einstein – and the main word in that quote is the last one, because no matter what happens at a certain point in time, in a specific place, no matter how big the pain, the horror, the joy or whatever the experienced feeling, time, as we, humans, perceive it, continues to flow. Things change. Life goes on – with or without us.

And related to that, I’ll end my pondering with one of the shortest quotes that apply here – Johnny Walker’s “Keep walking”.

© 2014 Liliana Negoi

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

Monologue

file00034904762ahhhh, my dear reader…
today I shall talk to your soul about a lake…
they say that someone threw a stone in it,
breaking the mirror of the surface in circles…
and the parable follows
that even though the surface of the lake became still again after a while,
the lake itself has changed
and that it knows that deep down it is not the same lake as it was…
allow me to extrapolate from that, my dear reader:
the lake is not defined by a stone
thrown at anger by a silly child…
for first of all the lake is the valley in which that water holds place…
not perfect, with ups and downs,
paved maybe with sand or maybe with mud,
but eager to withhold in it the magic of life…
then, the lake is the water
cradled by the valley…
the clear, life-giving and life-hosting water…
and then the lake is also what lives inside the water…
life forms that sometimes we notice
when they catch our eye by beauty of by fierceness,
but other times we tend to ignore
because they are usually too small to catch our glance
or even our thought…
so there it is, after embracing that stone,
the same lake as before,
as the stone becomes now a part of it, a part of its own life…
just the same,
a human being is more than what you may see in front of you:
for we have the valley of our body,
sheer beauty in its entire imperfection,
then we have the water of our soul,
filling us with life and energy,
and then we have our life experiences,
sometimes big and sometimes small…
so you see, dear reader,
the real lesson here, in my opinion,
is not that of not throwing a stone,
for each stone rises a bit the level of the water…
but that of making sure of not throwing too many…
for sometimes lakes can also effuse…

From “Sands and shadows” © 2011 Liliana Negoi

The image used was taken from http://morguefile.com.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

The Challenge of Light–Advent Reflection

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.  Isaiah 9:2

Photo Credit: Mike Freisen
Photo Credit: Mike Freisen

The Challenge of Light

i.

advent is not about the coming

of a sweet baby.

it is not about sentimental,

trumped up emotion.

advent challenges us

to an adult acceptance

of the kingdom of god,

to social imperatives,

to self-forgetfulness,

to letting go,

to a deliberate emptiness.

ii.

we like to make the Christ

into a perpetual baby.

we can cuddle a baby,

a baby asks nothing of us.

the Christ is so much more demanding.

iii.

advent doesn’t just happen

the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

our lives our one huge advent.

our lives are about bringing light

into this dark world.

iv.

in advent and winter we wait for light.

do we forget it’s up to us

to be light in the darkness

of a world that is

confused

stumbling

blinded

afraid?

v.

it’s easy to get hung up

in religion,

in practice,

in institutional think.

it’s easy to feel complacent

because we go to church,

because we give money.

the litmus test

is giving of ourselves,

is embracing mystery.

advent is not just a passive waiting.

it allows that we are responsible

to be light-bearers.

– Victoria C. Slotto

© 2013, poem, Victoria Slotto, All rights reserved

Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x420VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

Editor’s note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.

On giving

DSC_0313My kids had a small festivity at kindergarten. They sang songs, and recited poems, and then Santa Claus came and gave gifts to all of them…overall it was nice. And obviously crowded, because for each of the kids in the festivity, there was at least one adult in the public in front of them, admiring them and cheering them and…doing whatever adults do when attending their children’s festivities.

After we left, when we got back home and the kids opened their presents and began to play, I couldn’t help thinking about the children of this world whose Christmas gift may not be big enough as to contain more than some fruit, let alone toys or other things. And that’s sad, because, above all, Christmas is a time of giving. Not because of Santa Claus, but because of its original meanings. Go beyond the birth of Christ, which was a gift in itself, given to the world (yes, I know that according to some new calculations Christ was actually born in spring, but it’s the symbol I’m talking about here), go back to those times of yore, when the only thing celebrated during this period of the year was the winter solstice – the joy that, after slowly shortening its gift of daily light for six months, the sun was beginning to turn the wheel around and days were starting to “grow” again. This was the gift people got back then – light. More light. Which, come to think about it, is such an awesome and priceless gift!

Anyway, the point of this pondering was that of reminding you all that, even if I don’t believe that giving should be the appanage of Christmas time alone but a way of life, I do believe that this is a good time to remember about all the gifts that we have ever been given, no matter by whom, and to try and imagine how our lives would have been had we not received those. Starting with the gift of life from our parents, and to the gift of blessings from our children.

And if you can, if you have the means, help those in need by filling their Christmas time with a little more light. You don’t have to give huge gifts – the simple fact that someone thought about them and gave them anything at all will be more than what they would expect. And their joy when receiving your present will be a priceless gift you give yourselves.

© 2013 Liliana Negoi

The photo attached was taken from http://morguefile.com.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

The Ultimate Grace of Gratitude

The heart of this little gem is the gift of the very dear Br. David Steindl-Rast. If you are familiar with Br. David’s philosophy, writing, and voice, you will have immediately recognized who wrote and delivered the narrative though for some strange reason he is not credited.

BROTHER DAVID STEINDL-RAST (b. 1926)

Viennese, Catholic Benedictine Monk

Br. David is notable for his work fostering dialogue among the faiths and for exploring the congruence between science and spirituality. Early in his career he was officially designated by his abbot to pursue Catholic-Buddhist dialogue. He studied with several well-known Zen masters. He is the author of feature articles, chapter contributions to collections, and books. Among the most notable are Belonging to the Universe (with Frijof Capra) and The Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day (with Sharon Lebell). Br. David is the co-founder of A Network for Grateful Living, dedicated to the life-transforming character of gratitude.

THE FILMMAKER

Louie Schwartzberg, the film-maker, is an American and well-known for his time-lapse photography. The short-film here is one of several – each with a different theme – which you can find on YouTube.

THE MUSIC

The mood music background is by composer Gary Malkin. “He is founder of Musaic and Wisdom of the World™, a media production company and web site. He is also the co-founder of Care for the Journey, a care-for-the-caregiver initiative for healthcare professionals.” MORE

Video uploaded to YouTube by 

Photo credit ~ Br. David Steindl-Rast, courtesy of Verena Kessler. She has released the photograph into the public domain.

On gifts

A couple of days ago I went with my husband to help an old lady friend prepare her apartment for renovating. After moving some furniture around the house and readying the space for the next step, we wanted to leave. The old lady, however, didn’t want to let us go away until she gifted me with some things of hers, including several flower pots, which, she said, were anyway deprived of care, since she doesn’t actually live in that apartment and only comes there once in a while. I took those flowers with gladness, not necessarily because they were gifts, but because they are pieces of life coming from a person whose life is hurrying towards its end.

The lady in question is about 65 years old and suffers from bone cancer in final stage, and despite that, and despite the even worse situation that her own son suffers from multiple sclerosis, she still finds within herself the power to not only smile, but to actually laugh and enjoy what is left of her life, and even make fun of the horrible sickness eating her alive.

While I was preparing those flower pots to take them home, I had a small conversation with her, and one thing that she said remained with me, like a second gift: “There is so little that we actually have in this world, no matter how much we possess!” In her eyes, when she said that, I thought I noticed a glint of pain, but in the next second it was gone, and she told me that she would give me all the rest of the flowers, if I wanted them, and I happily accepted. A strange tone of joy crossed her voice when talking again, as if she was suddenly relieved for the flowers’ fate, and so we established that next time we go to that apartment we would take the rest of the pots too. Then we left.

There are many gifts that we receive in this life. Many objects, many proofs of our evanescent nature. Most of them get lost along the way, and we forget about them, expecting others in exchange. There are, however, irreplaceable gifts, like, for instance, every single day that we live on this earth. Do not let that waste – because at nightfall, the day will have passed anyway – but it’s up to each of us to not let it go in vain.

IMG_9119The flowers that I took from her are now in my own house, making friends with my older vegetal tenants, and I don’t know which gift was more important – the plants, which she turned into a sudden piece of heritage for me, or the splinter of her own life and wisdom that she decided to share with me. I do know though that, even after she will be gone (no matter when that will happen) she will still be alive for me in each of those flowers.

© 2013 Liliana Negoi

Both text and photo belong to Liliana Negoi.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

panta rhei – sestina

IMG_7742

sometimes a river dances shining blue,
reflecting in its ripples wind’s soft chime,
allowing leaves to shiver in its true
embrace, like rosaries of dust and time –
when river whirls like that, enjoy the view,
‘tis then that all the strings around it rhyme.

and when the river, wind and sunlight rhyme
you’ll see that suddenly all shades of blue
will turn to playful sheens, and all the view
will twin the chink of angels’ voices chime –
when river whirls like that, it means it’s time
to clear your heart and hear it beating true.

you’ll be amazed how simple and how true
is the entire universe’s rhyme
when you ignore the bounds of space and time
and dip your mind in river’s hues of blue –
the bonds of nature’s dreams are just a chime
embroidered on world’s gossamery view.

just breathe – inhale the beauty of the view
and feel its fragrance, delicate and true,
imbibe yourself with river’s purling chime.
when river’s waves will be your breathing’s rhyme
you will have learned a drop of wisdom blue
to nurture you until the end of time.

you’ll see that there’s no past or future time –
‘tis only present guiding all the view.
the uselessness of human clocks’ true-blue
becomes overt when what they draw as true
within the river’s dancing doesn’t rhyme,
when it reflects the world within a chime.

the river whirls and whispers in its chime
of ancient lessons crossing over time
to match the future lessons’ ageless rhyme –
when river dances, bringing to your view
the timeless wisdom shining bright and true,
just listen to its ever-knowing blue –

within the rhyme of river’s whirling chime
the neverending blue dissolves the time –
raw view of nature’s essence streaming true.

– Liliana Negoi

© 2013, photographs and poem, Liliana Negoi, All rights reserved

The audio version of the above poem can be listened to on Soundcloud. More about the sestina form can be learned from here and about panta rhei here.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

On miracles

peach-pitMy younger son found a peach pit today, and in his innocence decided to plant it. So he dug a hole, put the pit inside it, covered it and then watered it. He said “I put as much water as it needed to grow. And it will grow. I think tomorrow it will grow.” I smiled at his confident statement and as he moved further I found myself ardently hoping that his tree would indeed grow, not necessarily in order for us to have a peach tree in the yard (though it would be nice – note to self, plant a peach tree a.s.a.p.) but because I want my children to find reasons to believe in miracles in about everything – especially when they help creating them.

The word “miracle” originates from the Late Latin miraculum, meaning “wonder”, “marvel”, from mirari – “to wonder at”. Apparently, as the Merriam-Webster dictionary explains to us, the word’s first known use was in the 12th century. However, miracles happened before that time for sure, even if they were named differently. People used this word or others to point towards “events not ascribable to human power or the laws of nature and consequently attributed to a supernatural, especially divine, agency”. If you come to think of it, miracles birthed and killed gods through the means of man’s limited power of understanding, because in certain people they touched their fear, while in others they touched their curiosity. That’s how religion and science were born.

The best thing about miracles though is that they make us grow. All of us. One way or another they push us higher, farther, and even if officially they stop being miracles in the second when we discover their explanation, they still remain miracles in our hearts, because due to them we expanded our knowledge.

Maybe there will be no peach tree growing from that pit. But I do know that in my child’s heart, the peach tree rooted already – and THAT is more important than anything else.

© 2013 Liliana Negoi

The image used was taken from http://www.photos-public-domain.com/2012/03/10/peach-pit/.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

HEADS-UP: Tomorrow is U.N. International Peace Day … join the Global Synchronized Meditation

800px-Peace_Tattoo_San_Diego_County_Fair_2009September 21, 2013 is the United Nation’s International Peace Day. The theme this year is Education for Peace, including fostering respect, inclusiveness, and peaceful societies.

Many organizations across this beautiful blue orb of ours are marking the day with events of one sort or another. One of special interest is Unify’s Global Synchronized Meditation

BE THE PEACE

“The purpose of meditation is to awaken in us the skylight nature of mind, and to introduce us to that which we really are, our unchanging pure awareness that underlies the whole of life and death.

“In the stillness and silence of meditation, we glimpse and return to that deep inner nature that we so long ago lost sight of amid the busyness and distraction of our minds.”  Sogyal Rinpoche, Glimpse After Glimpse: Reflections of Living and Dying

Thanks to Mick B. for the Sogyal Rinpoche quote.
Photo credit ~ Patty Mooney via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 unported license
Video uploaded to YouTube by UNIFYMEDIA2012

Mindfulness in the 1600s

the work of Paula Kuitenbrouwer, a reblog of one of Paula’s Sonnetagsfreude – or Sunday Happiness – posts, which are an initiative of Maria at Kreativeberg.  …Enjoy!

61onuaotpol-_sl500_

brother-lawrence

A Kid’s Herb Book by Lesley Tierra for my daughter, and for me The Practice of The Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

Sunday Happiness* is about finding time to read. Our society slows down; we all get some time for reflection.

My daughter explores the mysterious world of herbs with this magical, herbal workbook. It is about making your own healing potions, secret remedies, and magical salves.

My book is about mindful meditation.
Brother Lawrence, a monk in the 1600s, promised himself he would live day and night, in good and bad times, in God. He spent many years practising the presence of God in his life. His key to this practice was that he strove to be consciously aware of God’s presence at all times, which seems a perfect synonymy of (Christian) mindfulness.
.
To me it means that with everything I do, I ask myself if I’m acting in the best consciousness and ethical conscientiousness. With means, I need to be aware and practice self-discipline, carefulness, and thoroughness. It is very easy to wander away from awareness and thoroughness, like with any meditation. If this happens, I bring myself back into the presence of God. It is a wonderful meditation, but not an easy one. Having said that, the more you do this, the longer the stretches of time of being in God, or being mindful, do occur.
.
I started to read this tiny book months ago, and I do return to it often, because Brother Lawrence’s promise still inspires. To purposefully enjoy God’s presence, or mindfulness, in your life, is like opening up to small miracles. Pouring tea becomes a meditation and so does watering the flowers on the balcony. It is still a bit hard to feel the presence of God while paying bills (and all others worldly and bureaucratic chores ), but to stay mindful, to stay open for the presence of God non stop is what it is about. And when I succeed, I feel a happy appreciation for the smallest things in life.

masterpiecejunebig_1920259a

Rembrandt’s master work of his son, Titus van Rijn, in a monk’s habit

Is this book only for Christians? Not at all. I recommend it to all people who are interested in the spiritual life. It is about mindfulness in the 1600s.

Thich Nhat Hanh says, in one of his many books that I’ve read, that if you need the address of God, he will give it to you; it is Here and Now. Brother Lawrence would probably have said: God’s address is being in the presence of God.

Namaste,
Paula

© 2013, essay and photographs/artwork (below), Paula Kuitenbrouwer, All rights reserved

birdcardsPAULA KUITENBROUWER ~ is a regular contributor to Into the Bardo and a Dutch nature artist living in The Netherlands and sharing her work with us on her blog, Mindful Drawing and on her website.   In addition to art, Paula’s main interest is philosophy. She studied at the University of Utrecht and Amsterdam. She has lived in Eastern Europe and in Asia. Paula says that in Korea, “my family lived next to a Buddhist temple. In the early morning we would hear the monks chanting. During my hours of sauntering with my daughter through the beautiful temple gardens, I felt a blissful happiness that I try to capture in my drawings.” Paula sometimes teaches children’s art classes. She lives with her husband and daughter and close to her father. You can view her portfolio of mindful drawings HERE.

Bonsai

08-juniper-bonsai-blasco-pazI saw a bonsai tree earlier. Exquisitely arranged, perfect in its appearance. I admired it in awe, and then a thought crossed my mind and I couldn’t get rid of it: what exactly was it that I admired in a mutilated tree? The art of “educating” a plant to grow according to our own will? The way the small tree manages to “forget” about the cutting and the clumping and the trimming and the wiring and the all-together contortionism to which it is subjected, and simply grows?

What is the real beauty of a bonsai? Does it reside in the smallness? But smallness is relative – related to our own size. Do we create bonsais in order for them to make us feel bigger? An identical tree, though bigger than us, would be smaller than a mountain. But then again, an identical though bigger tree wouldn’t appear just as beautiful in different circumstances. We’d look at it with pity and say “poor tree, so twisted”, without realizing that the twisted one is our own view.

So, is it actually about the circumstances in which we look at it? Do we actually love the hidden wisdom of nature, letting us believe that we subdued it and forced it into shape, when in fact nature simply followed its course, surviving the circumstances? Is that what impresses? Or maybe the apparent resignation and submission of the tree under our touch?

Does the bonsai feel the awe in the eyes of his beholders? Does that comfort it in any way? Does our admiration in front of it MATTER? Or maybe what we actually do is subconsciously enjoy the tacit guilt spicing our admiration – a milder form of sadism under the pretext of art and beauty, excusing the cruelty. At this point at least half of you, dear readers, will protest and talk to me about the secular tradition of bonsai aesthetics and say that it’s not a proof of cruelty. Is it now? *smiling* Foot binding in China used to also be done under the pretext of beauty. How interestingly simple is actually the human essence…

But let me not divagate.

I liked the sight of that little bonsai. I sipped its beauty with all my strength and loved it and assumed the guilt for loving it – with awareness, with humility and shame. That bonsai bears the mark of human artistry – and maybe that is the “lesson” after all.

– Liliana Negoi

© 2013, essay, portrait below, and book cover art, Liliana Negoi, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ Juniper bonsai by Jose Luis Blasco Paz – the original one can be seen on http://www.bonsaiempire.com/blog/top10-bonsai.

IMG_7667the hidden well front coverLILIANA NEGOI (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) began to write poetry at eighteen – by accident – as she herself likes to remember, and has been exploring the depths of language ever since. Currently she is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English – which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.