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May 2012

May 2012



Sitting and drawing; wondering what will converge.

Describing Australopithecus in answer to a four year old girl's questions about who the 'first people's' parents were.

It's deep spring and the Shagbark Hickory trees are the last kids on the block to get their leaves. Pale yellow buds sit at the ends of bare branches for weeks and then, in one afternoon, usually following a good rain, a whole sixty foot majesty is dressed resplendently in green.

During the freak 14" snowfall that landed on us last Oct 30th, a large branch of the hickory tree that grows just outside my studio cracked and swung downward. It hung across the path to the door and also partially blocked the road. I was pulling and swinging it around to try and twist it loose when I heard the branch speaking to me. It wanted to know if it was dead. I replied honestly that I didn't know. Was I planning on breaking it off of the tree? I hadn't decided. Our talk went on like that for a little while and the upshot was that I agreed to leave the branch in place until we saw if it was alive enough to produce leaves.

Today I am reporting that the low hanging hickory branch, the one I spoke with, the one who's fate was to be determined, is now bursting full of leaves.

The beauty of this experience, you see, as I am realizing in these last few days, is that, well, you should know first, that the hickory trees around the studio are all mature, they have very high crowns, and this one branch that bent in the storm hangs so low that I can actually see the buds and leaves up close, at eye level. So, now I know things about this tree that I would never have known; things like, for instance, that when the hickory bud bursts, two things are in there, the leaves, of course, and some rough, stringy things that must produce pollen. They are both wrapped up in the bud together. Things like that. So I'm happy that the branch is blooming and doesn't have to be cut down. No doubt. But I've had experiences with this tree that would never have happened unless they were literally put in my path, brought down to my level, and in my face. And besides inspiring my sketches and writing, I'm wondering where my proximity to this branch will lead me.

This story about the talking wounded hickory tree branch is making a zig-zag up into the meta-sphere, becoming a story about boundaries.

I work near a tree. There was a snow storm. A branch bent. I made a decision based on my imagination. I asked myself, "Leave the branch or cut it down?" Such a choice exposes a worldview. 'Normally' we remove downed branches. There are plenty of logical and rationally justifiable assertions to support that decision. Unarguable assertions. Undeniable assertions. Such as: "it is much safer to cut down the damn branch" or "responsible tree maintenance says you should take it down to prevent infestation" or even "it doesn't look right."

I guess what I have is a 'special needs' branch. When I chose to keep it, I became its defender. My logic is turned against me when they say to me, "Don't you think that branch really needs to come down?" Or "What are you going to do with that branch?" It's mine now to protect.

How did I become attached to this branch? How am I so quickly entangled? How can I get so connected to a tree that there is physical discomfort when it changes? Does my accepting something as my responsibility somehow join me together with that thing; and I mean joined in ways other than words? Is it becoming part of me? And what parts exactly are we saying get joined? Some subtle body extension? Some phantom limb? I keep asking, does the self really end at the skin?

Flow through a window. I locate the outside world by touching something, seeing how far away it is, and adding it to my map.

Can I train my brain to respond to input from a tree branch like it does from my arm? The atrophied appendage needs exercise.





When I am way past empty, having spent time away from focused drawing, long past the end of a project, opening to new ideas, or generally struggling to reach a flow state, in that crazy bardo just after the hungry ghosts, on a return trip still not quite in sight of home, while pressing through the "if it weren't for doodles I'd be making no marks at all" stage, looking for a lift in those first arisings, in the first stirrings from stillness, it is precisely in this moment-containing-all-moments that the cycles appear, the circles close, and the loops head back to their beginnings.

Okay, if you have seen the images and text posted here from the last few years then you have heard all this endless cycle schtick before. So why am I starting to talk about it again?

Back to the beginning. The source is a strange attractor. It has a power over me, breeds a fascination, and always enchants. Watching a whirlpool that keeps the same undulating spiral, hour after hour, while holding in my mind how many gallons of water move through this emergent form; I see creative ideas, colors, and stories peel away, novels and novelties, joy in the gut, and a shape made by all that, and more, they freeze together, when I focus my attention, into a feeling that becomes the present moment.

The system chosen to analyze flow dominates the picture.

The is no arising without something to arise into; but imposing a grid on flow seems to be what f**ks things up. Otherwise we might sustain indefinitely.


Diagram of a tree as an energy converter.



An explosion of meaning. I constantly puzzle over the symbols that appear in the drawings; interpreting what the different parts of my mind are trying to express, and lately I feel like the relationship is curling inward, toward an obvious truth.

You know the loop; a creation becomes aware of a creator and then discovers that creator is itself.

A multiplicity of meanings. If something seems too true, it isn't. I can take any moment and tell you a true story about it that suits my purpose, or a true story that suits your purpose, or a story that's true but can never be proven by the facts of the moment.

Forms of meaning.

Intersecting meanings. Arbitrary divisions. Temporary foci.

Uncurling the shell. No wonder there is so much resistance to expansion. What survives fully open?

Sierpinski's living room.

Portrait of Sierpinski.

Colorful Mr. Goethe meets elaborate Mr. Sierpinski.

Mr. Klee has a few things to say about triangles.

The presence that doesn't fade out, even though you know very well that no one is nearby...that presence.


The three jewels of being here today:
the sun, the earth, and the life they share.