Thursday, August 15, 2013

Arts, crafts, and life

     I spent a day with Widya Harsana in Ubud, Bali learning the ancient art of batik tulis.  Batik waxed by hand with a chanting tool is known as batik tulis.  It’s the oldest, most traditional form of batik.  A pattern is drawn in hot wax onto a piece of cotton or silk cloth.  When the cloth is dipped into dye, those parts which have been treated with wax will not take up the color of the dye -  leaving white lines and space where the wax had been.
   Struggling to carefully apply hot wax with the small chanting tool, I frequently dripped wax in the wrong place onto the design I had carefully pencilled onto the fabric.  “Ugh.  I made a mistake.”  I said with frustration as I dropped another blob of wax onto my fabric.  “No,” my teacher said gently.   “In batik, there are no mistakes.  You just draw this wax into the design.”  And he showed me how to turn my unwanted blobs of wax into soft shading for the flowers in the design.   It turned out beautifully.  
     Too often we try to cover up our mistakes, hide them, or erase them quickly before anyone notices. That was my first impulse - to try to scrape the wax out of the fabric.  But my teacher showed me that that would just make it worse - creating an even larger area of unwanted wax.  
    What if all our mistakes simply become part of the art that we call life?    In batik, there are no mistakes.  What about our life? 


I am making you a scarf
in your school colors,
my hands stained by blueberries
like the ones growing near your porch.
Eating them now I remember
how you called my name, 
excited to discover the first fruits,
how you inspected each berry, 
picked the sweetest ones
and gave them all to me.

What am I doing?
Do I imagine there is some magic
in recalling the sweetness
that will make you remember too,
some power in my hook and yarn
and blue-specked fingertips
that can stitch us back together
before cold weather comes?
I want to believe it.
Silly me.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Finding Hope

All the best stories begin this way,
not enough light to see hope.
Along their difficult path,

our heroes find themselves

in peril, heartbroken, penniless, 

nearly swallowed by despair,

bloodied and broken 

and just this side of death.
And then
somehow the faintest glimmer,

the tiniest spark, just a pinprick 

in the fabric of darkness,

appears, and it is enough.

Our heroes begin to believe 

that hope creates its own light

and suddenly they see their way clearly.
And now
the choices are mine, trapped though I feel.

Whether to play the hero or some bit part,

whether this story is mine,

and whether, like all the best stories,

it is part of 
the story 
we never tire of hearing or telling, 

because it is true.

Healing Waters

River Guide Dave on the Colorado River

     “They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.” 
Herman Hess, Siddhartha

   It’s the one-year anniversary of my divorce and of my trip to the Grand Canyon that I thought at the time would be a journey of self discovery - of the shedding a skin. What I found was scorching hot temperatures in a surreal terrain where scorpions and wood rats roamed the grounds. I was kicking myself for not doing a spa trip. Here I am a year out, though, and I can still smell the ozone-richness of the rapids of the Colorado and see the shifting  shadows of moonlight on the canyon walls. 
  It’s odd what sticks from a trip.
  Often it’s not the expected. Take River Guide Dave, for example. School teacher by the fall, winter and spring. Wild river guide in the summer. I had the fortune to get a spot in his paddle boat one day, a coveted position. With cowboy hat perched high, quoting from the likes of The Wind in the Willows and Siddhartha, he regaled us with tales.
  I learned valuable river lessons that day, and as it turns out, life lessons as well. One was point to the positive. If you fall out of the boat, people point to the direction to which to go - not the dangerous areas. It makes sense really. Focus on the positive you want in life, not the negative you hope to avoid. Where we focus our attentions is often where we end up arriving.
  The other key piece of advice I got: Paddle from the edge of the raft. Not used to the scale of the rapids in the Colorado and having heard “death” stories of former people who had braved the river, I was cautiously paddling. A fellow rafter took pity on me and started giving me direction. “Move to the edge of the raft, lean out and dig in. It will give you more control.” I did, and she was right. 
  That advice has come back to me in some of my darkest moments this past year  learning how to be a single mom with three precious kids. I so want them to dig into the precious parts of life. I want to teach them to be courageous, to lean into life even when it’s scary. And, yes, we may fall in. But if we’re lucky, we have friends pointing to the positive.