Summer Textures

Summertime lake.
The endless blue of the sky.

Approaching the island across the lake, I think of the book I’ve been reading: The Zen of Creativity : Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori.
He has a series of exercises on “Direct Experience” or “Experiencing without Identifying” – exercises closely related to the practice of mindful meditation, with the intention of quieting the mind and seeking to simply feel or experience things before the thoughts come in.

Most of us – seasoned meditators included – will find that it is very difficult simply to listen. We hear sounds and immediately name them, or we associate them with something else, we compare them, analyze them, or try to find their source. It soon gets boring just to listen and our minds wander. It’s not easy to let things simply be and let go of our running commentary.

As we approached the island I practiced with these trees –

Trying to just feel the trees without thinking about what KIND of trees, or about their size or colour or all the things one could think about trees.
Even so, even as I sensed them as a group, as a collective presence, an alive beingness in front of us, I found myself searching for the words to describe the sensations.

And again, trying to just allow the experience of the pebbles… much subtler, so small and ubiquitous, almost imperceptible yet hinting at eternity…
And from this place one might take a photograph.

One way that our spiritual power begins to manifest is through the emergence of the intuitive aspect of our consciousness. This is one of the reasons why Zen and creativity are so intimately linked. Creativity is also an expression of our intuitive aspect. Getting in touch with our intuition helps us to enter the flow of life, of a universe that is in a constant state of becoming. When we tap into our intuition, whether in our art or simply in the day-to-day activities of our lives, we feel a part of this creative continuum.

How can any of us gain entry into this unique way of perceiving the universe, where every breath is the first breath, every sight and sound is fresh penetrating the universe, reaching everywhere? 

At one time or another, each of us has experienced this way of perceiving. It comes upon us unexpectedly. Suddenly the music moves into our being and our body responds. There is no thought, judgment, or conscious effort. The music freely passes through us. We pick up a brush and the painting flows from its tip. the poem creates itself, almost without effort

A photo here and there, I also pick up strange things from the ground and bring them inside.
I’m teaching myself to draw on the iPad – it does not yet feel very Zen at all, it is still a lot about thinking through how the mechanics work, but there is a certain amount of non-thinking possible in the presence of strange things, just looking at them and trying to sense and feel the way into a drawing rather than think.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Texture

Heat in the city

Waking up my son this morning and looking out the window into the little activities in the back yard – squirrels crossing on the squirrel highway of telephone wires, various birds here and there gathering food and such – the peaceful putterings are suddenly interrupted by the massive swoop of a hawk diving into the back yard beyond where the strange white dog lives.

A moment later the hawk is up, perched on the fence between the properties, lingering a moment, huge, and then he flies off, giant wings carrying him out of the yard, a small brown shape clutched in his talons.  A mouse?  A bird?  Looks too small for a mouse, so perhaps a robin as they are plentiful in these yards.

Last summer I remember O, the (ex)husband, saying he’d seen a hawk swoop into the back yard and catch a pigeon one day when he was home – so it seems they do go in for birds.  And perhaps it is the same hawk.

The presence of a hawk wouldn’t be surprising of course if we lived out in the burbs, near fields or a marsh, but we are right downtown.  Just 2 weeks ago there was a shooting at the gelateria around the corner – the memorial flowers are still wilting outside the cafe where the man died.

Talking with my boy after the fact we figure this must be a good yard for hungry birds and animals in the city.   There’s so many trees the woodpeckers like the range of insect sources, the squirrels and birds have been feasting on the saskatoon-berry tree for weeks.  Someone a couple of yards down seems to have a crabapple tree cause the squirrels drop half-eaten little apples as they pass by on squirrel highway.   All this fecundity, the well-fed life must be appealing for the larger birds of prey as well.

It is the beginning of a hot day here – hot for us Canadian types at least.  34 degrees now in the early afternoon and rising, but with the humidity feels like 40-something.

In the hammock with the camera, seeking out birds in the trees I realize they are hot too, their beaks open, panting.

The sprinkler seems like a good idea for everyone – for the plants, all a little parched and shrivelled from so many days without rain, for the birds if they dare come near the sprinkler….

And they do, having a veritable sprinkler party, flying and darting through the water, catching the lower streams in their beaks and drinking, splashing around in the puddles forming in the dips and valleys in the earth.

Early summer in the city

laundry

Early summer in the city and I start my days in the paradise of our back yard. There is a soft coo of turtle doves in the air, the high chirps of sparrows and robins.  The mornings are cool and fresh, pungent with lilacs – May has given us a series of purple and white blooms.

bush

lilacs

sprinkles

purple toystory star

Heading down to work on my bike, the sun has risen a little higher into bright towering blue sky days.

Passing through the cool of Allan Gardens park, the homeless guys are still on their benches, emerging from sleeping bags and newspaper blankets, starting their daily routines.

Out onto Sherbourne St, the summer emerges in full force – the streets are starting to exude that heat, the concrete gathering up the suns rays and radiating back a thick smelly weight of warmth.

corner

red building

broom

Taxis cruise by, lazily looking for fares, windows down, music wafting with nostalgia for Pakistan or Jamaica or Senegal or Colombia – mini-worlds on wheels.

A woman – a face perhaps from Yemen, shy and distrustful – holds her head scarf at her throat as she crosses the street.

Groups of men sit outside the soup kitchen, arguing loudly, passing the time, waiting for the next meal to be served.

If it is this warm in May, people say, what will it be like in July and August?

sherbourne st

mother and child

bus stop