My Injured Buddha

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I collect Buddha sculptures wherever I go. I have them displayed in my home and studios in a variety of materials and sizes. I do not discriminate. It matters not to me  whether Buddha is represented in bronze, stone, marble, solid silver, gold, terra cotta, jade or agate and if I see a plastic Buddha that stirs me I will buy it, because I am sure that the humble Buddha does not mind and I personally have no shame. In my collection I have Buddha likenesses from Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan,  Hawaii and various other locations around the world and in the mainland USA.

By far the most unusual geographic location in which I have ever purchased a Buddha was in a little shop specializing in Tibetan jewelry and other exotic treasures in Flagstaff, Arizona. My sister and I were wandering around aimlessly one morning following our fancy wherever it led us, having a great, leisurely escape when we stumbled upon the place – the place where I found the Buddha for whom I carry the most affection of any in my possession.

I was going through a hard time during that month, feeling a little wounded and beaten up by life. The event that caused those feelings actually escapes me now, years later, which is a good thing. Whatever it was, it was only temporary. Maybe my sister would remember. Vicki? Are you there?

I saw this remarkable Buddha in the glass case. I asked to see it, touch it and admire it closer. The face appeared to be gold leaf, but I doubted that preciousness coming from there, a tiny little shop in Flagstaff, AZ. and it truly did not matter to me whether it was genuine gold leaf or not. The lady removed it from the case and sat it on the counter. I sensed its weight with that gesture; she said it was heavy steel. I immediately noticed the deep crack that meandered from the golden forehead up into the head; it had been damaged somewhere and sometime in the very distant past. I found that both sad and intriguing. She assured us it was from Nepal.

She told us that she had another one, identical except for the crack, in perfect condition and asked if perhaps I’d like to see it. Of course!

It was perfect. I could not believe there were two. Obviously I chose the blemished Buddha, because upon that day, when I felt the pain, I decided to embrace it. I was sure I was meant to have the blemished Buddha, and I felt I had found a true, personalized relic meant as a treasure just for me…found randomly in a tiny shop in a very unlikely location a world away from its birthplace, and now mine. It seemed like Karma to me.

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Have You Found Your Place?

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Not to get all philosophical or anything heavy like that, but I would like to ask you one simple question.

Have you found your place? A place that fits you as securely and tightly and perfectly as that small round stone in the larger lava rock pictured above.

Not necessarily your place in life….you might call it your place in the universe; a place where you can go to feel whole. The place that feeds your soul, yes, with healthy soul food. The place that feeds your imagination, your sense of wonder, your artistic visions, your comfort, your need for adventure, your peaceful spiritual wanderings and your core beliefs about wanting what the good life here on Planet Earth has to offer.

If you have discovered the place or places that can do this for you then you are indeed fortunate to be blessed with a sanctuary. A priceless place of renewal and safety where you can go for spiritual reward. Hopefully you can visit it often – and maybe it is a place in your own backyard….I hope it is close enough so that you can be there as often as you might like. Perhaps you have a selection of places; a handful would be awesome.

Here are mine:

  • The Big Sur coastline of California, ending with a visit to NEPENTHE, perched at the top of the world, where you know. You just know things… For new awakenings.
  • The Big Island of Hawaii, on a selection of beaches along the Kona coast of my Specific Ocean. The vastness of it all. The sanctuary of the waves.
  • The Rocky Mountains, and a particular weekend retreat of renewal and refuge from the hectic life, located in the Conifer-Evergreen woods and canyons, elevation about 8300 ft. for the height and breadth and depth of it all.
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral in London for the enormous sense of time and faith it offers. Dust particles dancing in the sunlight, high up; having been there for centuries.
  • Santa Croce in Rome, housing the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and other remarkable men, for respect of those who knew so much about life.
  • Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia for its sense of wonder and mystery. How could it have been undiscovered for so long? What was life there like?
  • The Buddha Tooth Temple in Singapore because it is one of the most fascinating peaceful places I have ever been.

I love to talk to people who have found their places. They are usually people anchored in knowing. They see things differently; more deeply. They are not necessarily religious, but they are wise in the ways of the universe. They know their way around and they know how to find serenity when they need it.

I hope you are one of those who knows.

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The After Party Before the Next Party

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Well it’s all over now until it is New Years Eve…the aftermath of a lovely Christmas is to me a sigh of relief that all went well, a clean kitchen (finally) and a few days of delightfully normal food to stabilize, everyone safely home from their holiday travels and a ticket in my hand for Hawaii in February. Here in Denver it is currently 7 degrees with light snow falling, and we are losing ground – soon we will have no degrees left unless they are minus. Tomorrow night we are told to expect 15-20 below zero. I have enclosed a cell phone shot looking out of my upstairs studio window. Please excuse the quality but in this case it almost enhances the image….a sugar plum, sparkling blue and white 4 pm scene, when the snow is dry and powdery as stardust. You would almost think that everything is right with the world on a peaceful day like this.

As I sit in my studio, especially in this type of weather, writing my book and taking intermissions from it to paint, I feel fortunate to have both of those pursuits to choose from. It is a luxury to have the time, the warm and cozy space, the inspiration, dinner on the stove and a lot of friends and family who care enough to check in with me once in a while. I feel wealthy in these conditions with those blessings.

My New Year’s wish for all of you is much the same. As the Christmases pile up into nearly a full lifetime, the urgency of time settles in, and I hope you are as inspired as I am to make every moment count. Even if all you are doing is sitting quietly looking out the window at nothing in particular, if you are thankful and cognizant of your blessings, it counts as quality time in my book. In 2015 I plan to use my days wisely, spending them on worthy pursuits, great friends and family, and thankfulness.

Happy New Year!

Jo

“This Being Human is a Guest House” – Rumi

 

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Mixed media titled RedSeaMoon by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2014

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some monetary awareness comes, as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

RUMI, 13th Century Poet and Scholar

Sometimes I wonder how I would have managed to paint if the context of my life had been different…if things had been less to my liking in my life, would I somehow have struggled to rise above it and paint anyway? Would I still have been a painter, or maybe even been a better painter, if I had been forced to deal with more obstacles, dysfunction and disorder? Do I have the determination and drive to be a painter no matter what, or must I have all  conditions favorable in order to be my most creative self?

I have painted, actually, through many misfortunes, if I stop to think about it, but I saw them as temporary and surmountable. I consider myself fortunate indeed in that regard. Some would go so far as to say that my life has been hard, and have told me so, but I think it has merely been a life. Everyone has a story – I know of no one who gets off without being beaten down, scarred or broken.

I follow a blog on WordPress written by a lost and lonely fellow who cannot seem to work his way to the safety of dry land but continues to nearly drown in his pool of self pity. I feel very badly for him. I wonder when he will discover that he is the single one person on earth who can pull himself out of that situation and open up his future to a new path? We are all responsible for our own survival. No warriors of happiness are ever going to ride in on horseback and storm the walls to your city, to save the day and bestow happiness upon you. Don’t wait for that to happen. For god’s sake do something now for yourself. Rolling around in the muck, wallowing in it for an eternity is not working for you.

I do not happen to believe, either, that artists must be depressed and lonely, unfulfilled and angry to do profound work and be taken seriously. But I do think that, like actors, adversity can be used as a tool while acting or painting, adding depth to the performance or the composition. Consciously or not, it seems that certainly your particular adversity will work its way into whatever you are creating, whether that be art or music, poetry, pottery, novels, design – because it requires that you dig deeper. So do dig deeper if you are going to milk it for whatever it is worth. And in the digging experience you will find your way through the mess and come out on the other side. The larger problems in life must be dug through – you have to “go in” rather than around. Skirting around only makes the healing a longer and more difficult journey and often leaves you just lost with no destination at all. Learn about yourself in the process and OWN your part – your responsibility – in the adversity. The you will be a better person for it and on your way to a better place.

I believe the life context that has always surrounded me, while fluctuating wildly at times, was always still viewed by me as workable, and that is a big factor in my artistic progress through the decades of my life. My decades have ebbed and flowed with the good, the bad and the ugly – I have not always been gifted with smooth sailing. Some people ask, when shit happens, why me? I always wonder why they thought they were so special. Bad stuff does happen to good people, as the book of a similar title explained. Why would I or anyone else be exempt? But for me, at the base of it all is a bedrock of faith in a world that I have consistently found to be both astounding and bursting with positive potential. I see the glass as more than half full.

Why am I on this subject tonight? I have no idea – well yes I do – I see a lot of friends struggling and I wish I could help. But I will just say that when life brings you those “character building” experiences, then accept the challenge and prove that your character is in fact going to be made stronger from it all…..easier said than done, but workable.

 

 

 

 

 

The Zone and the Creativity Chakra

                                                 

Photo #1 courtesy of Julie Bleadow-Wilson on Pinterest.com,  Photo #2 courtesy of wonderhealing.net

Highly creative people are especially in tune and aware of the mind-body connection – we live and breathe so that we can create. What is happening to us is deeply and irreversibly connected to what we create. As artists we are expected to be a product of all of our experiences both internal and external. This is so obvious that it is often overlooked in the bigger picture of creativity. We are all products of our environment, but some more so than others.

Most likely you have all known people who are super sensitive – to sunsets, to sadness, to death, to birth, to chocolate chip cookies and everything in between ….they feel more deeply. They absorb the world around them, inhaling it deeply and storing it in their limitless mind-body experience storehouse where even the smallest event or the tiniest living being is worthy of remembrance and honor.  This is the art Buddha’s home, in my opinion; the Buddha whom I lovingly, reverently and affectionately reference frequently.  At the other extreme are people we have actually known and even perhaps loved (once) who are like the highest quality Teflon – everything seems to bead up and roll right off. They have the depth of a birdbath – they skim the surface of life. How they manage that is beyond my understanding, despite many years of trying. It is a form of denial perhaps, or maybe just fear in its simplest form.

Most of us live and thrive in the middle ground of those two extremes, happy to be there, but even then occasionally surprised at ourselves when we slip off the dead-center bubble position over some thing or another that takes us off guard with its power to shake us to the core. That is so human. Usually however, we are conscious and aware, balanced, normally functioning and just fine, thank you very much.

If you are an artist, writer, creator of any variety reading this, I am wondering where you place yourself? Are you super-aware or medium or just not all that aware of your own mind-body connection?

The six major types of consciousness are:

Auditory – Awareness of sounds

Gustatory – Awareness of tastes

Olfactory – Awareness of smells

Tactile – Awareness of touch and bodily sensations

Visual – Awareness of what we see as color, shapes, etc

These five types of awareness depend upon the totality of your mind and body  – your general health. If all of your senses are up and running then you have a lot of incoming data to work with – all systems are go – you are receiving information twenty-four hours a day – filtering in what to keep and discarding what you do not need. It’s a full time job. You have to be an air traffic controller on steroids. It is exhausting, especially if you are an artist – so many ideas, sights, smells, conversations, feelings and tastes. It all factors into your daily experience. But if one or more of these senses is a little OFF or under the weather, or totally gone in a major permanent way, that requires an enormous mind-body compensation.

However! There is also a sixth sense – an awareness that depends upon none of the above  – it is a state of mental consciousness  – and it is aware of all the other senses but not necessarily dependent upon them. It is also more powerful than the sum of all the others, but less well known. Some people do not acknowledge it – others swear by it and use it daily. It is a sort of super-human tuning in, or special consciousness, to everything your mind-body connection has to offer you for a rarified, limited space of time. You will recognize it when it arrives, and you will most certainly know when it has left. It comes and goes, and lucky be you if it visits you often, as Yoda might say.

If you are an artist, a writer, an athlete or any kind of creative creature and you have experienced the astonishing level of sensory awareness known as the zone, then you know that is where miraculous things can happen. Master paintings are done, the best music is written, literary classics are penned and athletic records are made and  broken – almost effortlessly. Many books have been written about this phenomenon – most notably the national bestseller titled FLOW, The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

The Chakras are zones of your body which are the seat of all the mind-body connections. That is an entirely fascinating and astonishing subject, worthy of many other blogs. But let me just say that the seat of creativity lies in the second Chakra – the area of your body that is the most sensual, the most sexual, and the headquarters of sensuality itself. Those of you who have experienced being in the zone, doing your best and most brilliant work, for hours on end almost at the exclusion of the outside world might agree with me that it is an extremely sensual and pleasurable place to be – akin to making love. In my blog archives is a post of many months ago which I titled “The Love of Making Art is Like the Art of Making Love”.

Are you, or have you ever been “in the zone” ? My wish for you is that you find that place and visit it often.

 

 

The Creative Epiphany – Back to the Classroom; Seeing Things Again for the First Time

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This afternoon at 1pm sharp I found myself in a bare-bones art classroom again, awaiting the arrival of my instructor for Advanced Contemporary Painting at the Denver Art Student’s League. I was excited to such a degree that I could not help remember all of my “first days” of school, from kindergarten through college at CU in Boulder, and the many art instructors I have enjoyed (one or two not so much) over a long and winding career in fine art. That I still have such a passion for painting speaks to how powerful the pull of creativity and the artistic process can be, should you choose to surrender yourself completely to it. I am an art slave, owned by and under the spell of art. The smell of the room, the years of dripped paint dried all over the floor, the organic nature of the spattered shirted people struggling through the door carrying all the magical paraphernalia required to nurture each artistic soul – that is what turns me on. It was like being in the legendary Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory only with paint. I was giddy with anticipation and nervous, hoping I was not assuming too much by choosing that class….

One particular relative of mine, although near and dear to my heart, keeps urging, almost demanding me to paint as I did 25 years ago when my subject matter was Colorado landscapes and they were selling like fine art hot cakes. But all of you who pick up brushes to express yourselves know that one must grow and evolve as an artist and that any self-respecting painter who does the same kind of theme all the live-long day through all the live-long years of his life is a boring person indeed. It is like reading and re-reading the same books, watching the same old movies you saw 25 years ago to the exclusion of all the new award-winning films, and it is certainly like living constantly in the past, resting on one’s past accomplishments until they get so raggedy that one is called an arrogant has-been in ridiculous denial of the NOW. Creative people, if nothing at all, must live in the NOW.

I have done that – I have kept current, tried much of the new wiz-bang stuff, produced a huge body of work, taught my skills to other people, showed in gallery situations and private shows and sold a good percentage of what I produced. But still, I need guidance from someone wiser than me – someone who sees my art in a different light. I want to do the best art of my life in this very decade of my life and be remembered for it. If there is ever a retrospective show in my honor, please let there be clearly visible, stunning evolution evident in that body of work.

I am again the student, and it feels so good. My first challenge, from Homare Ikeda my instructor, is to begin a painting and allow a full year to finish it. Obviously this is an exercise in patience, steady progress, resilience, determination and the evolution of working on a project with no pressure. Sounds easier than it will be, I am sure, but I cannot wait to get started. This painting would be done at home, using most class time for other paintings, so it will be picked up and continued at my own pace, then put down again for a rest until I am in the mood to pick it up again and add to it. Periodically I will take it into class for critiques and classroom work. What’s the purpose? To show change – to indicate progress – to evolve – to grow as an artist. To surprise myself! Exactly what I was hoping for.

I am going to keep track of this progress, take photos, and from time to time I will report here in this blog with a photo of my current incarnation of THE YEAR LONG PAINTING, so if you care enough to see what’s going on, please stay tuned. I will be as surprised as you are, I am sure.

The Creative Epiphany – I’m Back from the Big Island…reluctantly

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Thanks to those of you who hang with me even when I am missing in action, out to lunch, off the radar, in the witness protection program and out of communication! I appreciate that you sometimes read my archives during the void. I know who you are and I think it is incredible that you would take the time to do that.

I was away – really away – enjoying my third annual escape to Hawaii – the BIG ISLAND – and now the dye is cast. I am destined to be a chronic returnee. I have got it in my blood and it is written in the stars and my soul already longs to go back. I just got home late last night, and I am already missing it, so I’ve got it bad. Someone over there asked me if I was going to cry when I left and I said YES, of course. And I did. Apparently, the legend says, if you do not cry when you leave, you will not be back. So please do cry your heart out. If you do not “get” the island thing, you are not meant to return. The big island is funky, magical, mystical, spiritual, artsy, sensual, lazy, and more….everything stops for sunset…..people gather and watch….all the craziness of the mainland drifts away and seems irrelevant…..I turn golden and I sleep deeply….and the panorama of the Pacific Ocean, my specific ocean, keeps me constantly gazing west. I see it when I wake up, as I cook, as I paint, as I walk the garden. We describe it in paint tube colors; Prussian blue, cerulean, turquoise, teal, cobalt. Coke bottle green, silver-blue and pewter. Are we in heaven? A glimpse of heaven I am sure.

It snowed on the top of the two extinct volcano craters while I was there. That is not an unusual event since Mauna Loa at 13,796 ft. and Mauna Kea at 13,679 ft., are, yes indeedy, quite impressive mountains, with their own weather systems. Not just a dusting of snow – a day hiker got stranded up there in snow up over his knees and had to spend the night, barely making it out alive the next day. You realize, of course, that an active lava flow still exists on this island, hissing, squeaking and popping, devouring real estate as it pours and actually barrels along at times, falling into the sea in a thick molten pudding with grand pomp and circumstance accompanied by  a neon orange fireworks-like display. The prevailing breezes sometimes bring VOG to the heavily populated western and northern areas of the island, rolling dark from over the mountain tops like a thick fog that is sometimes laced with chemical volcanic aromas and also crop-dusting everything with a fine, black gritty residue. It is no big deal once you get used to it, just Mother Nature doing her thing, reminding you, lest you forget, that she is always and forever in charge. She is the orchestrator of this island’s multi-faceted personality. The big island is a lady of many moods – weather extremes and big waves. It is a study in contrasts with many climates in which to live.

We set out from Kona one day across the middle of the island on the new road traveling to the Hilo Harbor area on the east coast (the new road chops a lot of drive time off the old route of Saddle Road), then north of Hilo we visited the Botanical Gardens where I swear we found another  Garden of Eden. See photos included of that lovely isolated location on the edge of the Pacific. Farther on toward the Waimea and Hawi areas we saw the lush, green terrycloth-like hillsides of Hawaiian cattle country. Yes there are vast ranches and cowboys in Hawaii – the most prominent ranch being the legendary Parker Ranch. Waimea is also known for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival where the Japanese influence is strong and the crafts of the artisans are amazing. While in the quaint little town of Hawi, we stopped in to visit and deliver new art at the Living Arts Gallery on Main Street and chatted with Mary Sky Schoolcraft, the director. The art selection there is truly divine, varying from traditional land and seascape  to contemporary, and her enthusiasm for art is evident and enviable. Visit www.livingartsgallery.net In our drive heading south from there back to Kona, along the north western coast we watched the whale migration, heading north through the Maui Channel. I was overwhelmed with delight, able to see a whale’s tail or a breech every couple of minutes, babies sometimes discernible alongside their mothers. I am fortunate to stay with a dear friend on the island, and so I also experienced some day trips and excursions that are off the beaten path to most tourists.

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Living on the island is a unique experience, quirky, fun, at times challenging to find what you need just when you need it, and yet everyone is generous and more than willing to help. People there are busy building, adding on to their homes, trying to find nice furniture without having to pay shipping from the mainland. If you like estate sales and good deals, it is a mecca for that. Recycling is taken to the last possible degree. We eat fresh eggs from one neighbor, and we are brought cookies from some one else….we share earthly delights from the backyard with anyone who will help us eat them. We can’t eat fast enough to use them all ourselves – avocadoes as large as footballs dropping daily by the dozens like giant avocado bombs. You would not want to be under one when it decides to cut itself loose. Mangos, papayas, lemons, wild cherry tomato plants acting as if it is a ground cover, and of course all of the flowering bushes and trees from which to bring cuttings into the house for daily bouquets. The Plumeria tree was just blooming as I left – wafting a fragrance that is intoxicating.

I have only just begun to talk about the big island. I cannot say enough. I will dream about it and I will keep it in my heart until I go back. I invite you to come along with me and read more in the coming days. And do cry….