Pandemic – by Lynn Ungar

At the event we held on Saturday, March 14, to celebrate my 70th birthday, a friend and fellow artist gave me a copy of this poem by Lynn Ungar, printed on paper she had made from Abaca Fiber. The poem seems appropriate for this season.

We too are now limiting our social contacts, but that won’t stop us from reaching out on social media. Stay safe and stay in touch.

Being Still

Clouds and Reflection on Tomales Bay

We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.

from Earth, Fire and Water W.B. Yeats

I found this quote on the back of a business card that an associate handed me last week. It seems appropriate for the season.

We the Untamed

Balanced rocks on Manchester Beach.
With only a little self-knowledge and a little sitting still and looking, the conventional perspective of wild and domestic will be reversed: we, the industrial consumers of the world, are the wild ones, unrestrained and out of control, self-excluded from the world’s natural homemaking and living at home. — Wendell Berry. From  Orion Magazine Summer 2018. Wild and Domestic

Tree Song

Trees and lake. Ireland
Trees at Muckross Lake. Killarney National Park. Ireland

I saw a tree by the riverside
One day as I walked along,
Straight as an arrow and pointing to the sky growing tall and strong
How do you grow so tall and strong I said to the riverside tree,
This is the song that my tree friend sang to me.

I’ve got roots growing down to the water,
I’ve got leaves growing up to the sunshine and the fruit that I bear is a sign of life in me,
I am shade from the hot summer sundown,
I am nest for the birds of the heaven,
I’m becoming what the Lord of trees has meant me to be. — Ken Medema

I heard this song during Sunday morning worship service. Sung by our children’s choir, the Cherub Choir. With the words and the young voices, I found this song particularly soothing amidst the tensions and conflict of our social discourse. It helped bring me back to my own spiritual roots.

Island in the Sky

Juniper and sky at Island in the Sky. Canyon Lands National Park.

I captured this image a couple of days ago, close to sunset at the Green River Overlook, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park.

“All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.”– T. K. Wipple, Study Out the Land

What can we learn from Leonardo?

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I just finished reading Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Isaacson paints a picture of a man that was truly a creative genius. His curiosity and his powers of observation were simply astounding. From observing the beating wings of a dragon fly to the finest brush strokes of the Mona Lisa, a painting which was still in his studio waiting for the master to provide the final brush strokes.  I’m not going to give you a book review. The book is worth the read if you have an interest in the workings of the creative mind. This is one book you’ll want to read in the hard copy version, given the many illustrations. Isaacson does provide a chapter with concluding remarks. Here are the things Issacson suggests are a requirement for living a creative life:
  • Be curious, relentlessly curious
  • Seek knowledge for its own sake
  • Retain a childlike sense of wonder
  • Observe
  • Start with the details
  • See things unseen
  • Go down rabbit holes
  • Get distracted
  • Respect facts
  • Procrastinate
  • Let the perfect be the enemy of the good
  • Think visually
  • Avoid silos
  • Let your reach exceed your grasp
  • Indulge fantasy
  • Create for yourself, not just for patrons
  • Collaborate
  • Make lists
  • Take notes, on paper
  • Be open to mystery

Any one of these could be a subject for future exploration.

The Messenger

Fields of coreposis on the Carrizo Plain

The Messenger
by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here, which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all, over and over, how it is that we live forever.

Earth Day and Ashes

On Saturday, April 22, Earth Day, we gathered as family in Santa Cruz to celebrate the life of my father, Philip W. Johnson who passed away on November 15, 2016. Scattering his ashes seemed to be the appropriate way to celebrate his life.  We formed a circle, and with a brief prayer, we passed the canister of ashes around with each person saying a few words before scattering ashes.  The canister made two rounds.  The first round was a bit somber, with the second round there was a bit more levity. Dad wouldn’t want us morning his passing too long. His remains are now fertilizer for wildflowers in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Following the ceremony we returned to Shiphouse, the big house we had rented for the weekend, had a festive BBQ, and went for a walk on the beach.

2017: Keep on Walking

Oak Trees on Mount Burdell

Walking, paddling, meditating. What is it you do to maintain a sense of grace and compassion? In the midst of a chaotic world that would have us succumb to fear and anger what do you do to maintain sanity? Nothing seems to renew my sense of grace more than walking. I’m not sure that it’s simply the fact that I’m moving forward, one foot after the other, or that while walking, the problems of the world seem more distant.

I was out walking the dog this morning when I stopped to talk to a neighbor. She expressed concerns about where 2017 might lead us, and I was reminded of a piece I wrote in September “Keep on Walking.”

As part of my “walk” through 2017, I’m going to offer my services one day a month, pro-bono to help support social or environmental causes. With the changes we face in Washington, it’s going to be up to use as individuals to make a difference in how we act as stewards of God’s creation. I’m looking forward to the new year, to the new people I’ll meet on the journey ahead, to new connections I’ll make in the global community and to new opportunities that will arise.

Blessings to all for 2017