Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Continued work

Since our visit to Ygrand last week here we learned about traditional ways of restoring walls of these old buildings using limewash. We have now done about a third of the room in two days. Its hard work and we've been experimenting with different consistencies of lime mix. Sometime thin seems to work best other times its more like painting with plaster. Mostly its a bit like painting clay slip onto pottery. Its grey when painted on, but white once dry - hence mottled effect on walls at present. Meanwhile, David is getting on with the window frame. Quite a challenge as the hole is not square!


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tile mosaic

My tile mosaic is progressing in shower
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New Window

After dinner we decided the ecurie could do with a bit more light! Having cleared it in order to put limewash on the walls we decided one good mess deserved another! An old brick arch which was once been a doorway has always cried out to be opened up as a window so despite some tepidation David took a chisel and hammer to it.
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Visit to Ygrande

Visited friends of Lama Wangmo and Cedric at Ygrand. Here are Marie-Nicle and Wangmo with Amelie (Wangmo's daughter) in Marie-Nicole's studio where they were running an art workshop.
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Tour de France

Spent this morning watching Tour de France at Ainay le Chateau. Without knowing who anyone was, the morning was sufficient to get a flavour and enjoy the spectacle of the crowd.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Ping Pong with Derek

A ping pong party with Derek in the middle of Troncais. We spent a good afternoon visitng our friend Derek Goldby and playing pingpong in his garden. Derek goes back to England this week, so it was nice o see hm. Also discussed ideas for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the grounds of a Chateau near Cerilly next summer. David and I to play Oberon and Tatania... it would be wonderful if it comes off!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

llama walking

Walking llamas with Robert yesterday. The white llama with a brown bottom being walked by Robert (in blue shirt) was my charge, Bowie. He didn't like flies and became very frisky every time we went into a lane with trees where flies tend to hide in the shade, dancing round me in circles. Hence Robert kept having to take over. A circling llama is a big animal! They're strong too - as we found out when they stopped in the middle of the main road in Bessais and refused to budge, stopping the traffic.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Trip to Auverne

Had a lovely trip down to Auverne where we had lunch with Cathy Savels and her partner Joe. They have a lovely place with a view of the volcans at the end of a long lane in tranquil country. After lunch we went to look at Cathy's exhibition in Giat. She does very interesting artwork based on natural forms - flowers, fruit, vegetable, wood, using different media. We originally met Cathy through a ning network so it was good to meet in person.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Personal retreats web page

After a bit of a glitch going to collect Madrakara from the station three days early (Bombu nature!) I've been working on web pages and have found a good way to create pictiorial pages faster by making one j-peg on Corel Draw first. In particular I've done one on personal retreats and one on Amida staff and another on the learning community. On which subject, do check out our France site too. --- Colder today, but we are promised better weather tomorrow for Bastille Day. Two visitors did arrive today, one from Israel and one from New Zealand, and our friend Robert came for brunch with Dudley the large dog. He is going to be helping out with celebrations at Etang de Goule tomorrow so we'll be calling down there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summer Days

The summer programme carries on. Today we are working on site. After the seminar, David and Anne spend much of the day cutting the path across the champ d'avoine, cutting back bramble and thorn among the young trees. Kaspa and Alena have gone to visit Robert, our neighbour to help with the lamas. I am working through my manuscript for the book on Guilt, a slow job as this is the last chance to find mistakes before publication. Nice to get out and walk across the fields to take "the workers" a drink.

Creativity, Death, Love & Truth

this essay is a response to Dharmavidya (part of the summer teachings at Amida France)
Looking in the mirror of art, we see reflected the world; a world. Do we see the world that is, the world the artist saw, or yet, perhaps, the world which lies beyond the mirage of the seen, a transcendent reality distilled in the created image. Does art bring depth of insight, or decorate the surface of appearance?
Art at its best is multi-layered. The general is manifested in the particular, the global in the detail, the abstract in the concrete. Lightly held, its metaphors are uninterpreted, drawing our mental process into relationship with the universal questions for which there are no answers and not even language. The simple object becomes the container for the divine, the sound of a frame of words encompasses the dance of time.
Both of the artist, and yet unowned, the hand of creativity is guided by unseen forces which we attempt to name at our peril. Personal yet universal, the artefact speaks with as many facets as a diamond, catching light reflected from a myriad directions. Its voice is heard according to our need as much as through the will of the creator. Unpredictable, its power must rest in the perceiver to be appreciated and much as in its author.
An act of faith, the interaction between artist and audience is mediated by grace. In the creation of art there is always an element of the uncontrollable, the other. We invite the muse but cannot force her to appear. Untamed, the flames of creativity are not our own. Mysterious as a misted peak, they hide within the clouds of the invisible, a presence which we may come to trust but not to possess.
Like the prophet and the oracle, the power of creativity is not in the artist’s sway, but from afar. Clinging too tightly to the script, the process dies. The artefact becomes a fossil, cast in stone. The measureless becomes a shrunken shell. Only by opening to the other does the artefact find birth.
In another sense, all that we see and hear and speak and create is in the circle – nothing new. The artist, gathering the colours of life’s fabric, simply redistributes threads already spun. Shapes and hues jostle and re-convene across the canvas. Phrases regroup, metamorphosing into new tunes, which yet are drawn from earlier notes. As the great web of life recycles cell on cell, molecule on wheeling molecule, star dust becomes creatures, plants become soil; the bug becomes the butterfly, the child becomes the crone. In such primeval turmoil is the artefact born, a new assemblage of the old, a juxtaposing of the familiar with a fresh interpretation.
Old elements in a stark configuration, stripped down by honesty and providence to the bones of experience. Nothing new, the image in the camera reflects the scene in raw precision. Nothing new, the novel parades its characters in gritty scenes of love and conflict, grief and confusion which we recognise immediately and personally for their human familiarity. Nothing new, our ears perceive the gentle fragility of a melody that follows the common scale, recoiling with its discords and enjoying its harmony.
So does the artist convey to us the world, sharpened, heightened, accented or perhaps simply conveyed in its unadulterated truth. Presented in shades which are borrowed from the common stock, the revelation is powerful for lacking our contaminating interpretation. Prised from our habitual stance, we are offered loan of the artist’s different view. We are shown a new vision, which, being new, has the capacity to break through our preconceptions.
For mostly we languish in the bubble of our thoughts, our view conditioned by the furrow long since made. We circle samsara, seeking confirmation in our identity and world view. We cling desperately to our constructed reality, though it is but projected perceptions. We hide from discomforting truths in our familiar dream. Only occasionally a point breaks through. Only rarely is our air-tight membrane pierced. Then usually it is the knowledge of impermanence which breaks the seal of our delusion, that cracks open our false assumption of continuation. Death is of this kind.
That which we fend off offers the greatest hope: dukkha, affliction, in its many forms. Death and its many imitations force our hand, shaking our grandiose defences, and showing us that we are not self-sufficient. Each rend an opening, these moments proffer opportunity. Engage or retreat, we may choose to grasp life or deny it, to live or kill, to love or to reject. Only such unadulterated otherness, beyond our capacity to manipulate or control, reveals the truth.
But only when the seal is broken can we love. Only the force of otherness, whether the inevitability of death or the stirring magnificence of a symphony, the poignancy of a personal story or the stark representation of a squalid truth, can wake us from our self-obsessive loop. In this the role of death or art or love becomes the same, the power of intervention which is strong enough to bring awakening. We see, we meet, we are changed.
And in the art transaction, artist, world and audience crystallise positions around the artefact. Each is a stranger to the other, engaging in silent dialogue. Each plays its part in an ever changing drama of perception. This drama is on the one hand conditioned by all three elements, and on the other unbounded, arbitrary and expansive, a dance in which participants draw closer, finding new interpretations of one another. Participating, do we learn to love?How much derives from straight reflection, channelled directly? What is expression of the artist’s soul, the deeper, darker reaches of human mind? How much interpretation? All play their part, and all are present in varying degrees. Sometime the channel, other times the origin, the artist is gatekeeper to experience.
And so, the artist offers succour to our curiosity. Sometimes baring his own process to the world, other times a neutral commentator, orchestrating communication between ourselves and the world. Importantly, art is communication, a dialogue in which we are invited to participate with the artist in a shared regard.
Our place already marked by open space, a platform created for the viewer of the image, hearer of the words, prescribed in its direction of view if not its interpretation. The artist may be communicant, but more often the interpreter, the medium, the embroiderer or the lens. Thus we have choice and yet do not have choice, are free and yet directed.
In entering the dance perhaps we learn to love the artist and to love his objects of love, to appreciate the beauty in the ugly and the fascination in the plain. Certainly we learn to engage, to meet the others in the dance, to know the artist and to know his world. Can one have such engagement without love?Art, that is art, lives in its technicolour capacity to break us out of our complacency. It shouts to us across the divide of our pre-conceptions and tears down the barriers of our mental filters. It transcends our habitual interpretations.Good art, like death, shocks us. It breaks us out of dormancy by its uncompromising otherness.
Poor art mimics our nature, creating bland wallpaper for our lives; the pastel image that matches the colour co-ordinated room, the muzac which lulls us into extravagant indulgence in the supermarket: these are designed to soothe the cravings of self and support our slumbering nature. They throw a blanket across our mental activity, and cocoon us in familiarity. They do not disrupt.
The artist, trickster, calls to question our life scripts and our expectations; blasts through the niceties of social convention with a fresh wind of perception. The alchemist of the modern age, the soothsayer, the seer, bringing to us the messages of the gods, the artist straddles worlds and offers through the gift of second sight, perspectives beyond convention. He cracks the social mirror.Good art, like death, intrudes. It upsets our illusions of permanence and predictability. It shows us we are not in charge and that experience is not amenable to our dictation. Whether through beauty or through horrific imagery, its raw reality throws out a lifeline across the straights of Mara. It melts our defensive assumptions with emotion and invites us to relate. Is this love?
Art draws us into encounter. Such meeting is crucible of spiritual discovery. Only in truly meeting can we discover love. In truly meeting can we avoid its pull? To know another is to deeply understand; to understand without the hesitancy of self-interest is to embrace. From such encounter wisdom and compassion rise, shaping the flow of response but not confining it and by this means the meeting may be consummated.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sunshine and Showers

Days continue to unfold under an ever changing sky. This morning bright, then as we eat breakfast out of doors, black clouds rolling in. Soon rain is falling, substantial drops, each wetting us as we stand, taking photos in front of the house. This is departure time. We have had two Dutch families visiting, Ardi who came last year and some friends of hers. They camped in our newly cut field. It was fun having four youngsters running about the place, playing ball or badminton.

Last night we sat around the camp fire in the woods - a new clearing David had made by felling a large erable (field maple) which was competing with a walnut. We toasted marshmallows and sang old songs to Kaspa's Ukelele. Walking back, a crescent moon ascending over the yard heralded a new cycle of teaching starting this week.

This morning the Dutch families depart and we will once more be a small community. The flow of people come and go, the energy changes like dappling shadows on the surface of water. The place, its continuing spiritual ground unchanging as the bed of a river across which the stream of life flows.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Arrived in France

Now back in Amida France. It never ceases to amaze me how this place affects me. The pace of life, the quality of impressions - the wonderful constant presence of the natural world draw me immediately into relationship with dimensions of life which are usually buried beneath the details of everyday tasks. Last night we sat in the woods around a small fire, clearing the remains of the thorn bushes and bramble which had been cleared from the paths across the champs d'avoine. Earlier we had swum in the lake under blue skies. This morning our meditation was accompanied by the soft patter of rain on the roof of our open meditation space as through the open doorway we glimpsed the green folliage of the garden and beyond soaking up the welcome water. Birds sang from the roof tiles, insistently caling to one another despite the damp. And on the pond outside the water lilly has put up more flowers than ever before.