Monday, August 21, 2017

Choice and Life: A Poem from Easing into the Mahabharata



Choice by choice
I have dropped enamel
on the tiles of my soul.
The world splashes on the rubbing alcohol
and oh!
delightful unexpected
brilliant oranges to muddy browns,
everything mixing into something
messy and alive.
Patterns I cannot always control
but I have always
brushed in with deliberation
at the edges.
That, my dear sons,

is life.

KN

Sunday, August 20, 2017

You ARE Joy: A Poem from Easing into the Mahabharata




Sunlight on a thousand shades
of yellow petals.
Scarlet maple leaf tapestry
on the shade-dabbed path.
Scent of an ancient birch,
its bark shedding the ground
like parchment inked with
aromatic secrets.
A perfect brown hen’s egg
and a side of fresh cherry tomatoes.
Yarn and paint and tree branches
weaving into art.
His eyes, crinkled with fifty- two years
of smiling
sets down his coffee and opens his arms wide.
Don’t you know?
You ARE joy.

KN

Saturday, August 19, 2017

How to Never Lose: A Poem



I rode hard-
posting without stirrups,
sweating in the 90-degree summer sun,
but my mare, feeling irritable
dragged her feet in the dust,
simply done for the day.
Twenty riders,
six collected ribbons but not me.
Still,
there was Sue with her gap-tooth grin,
and Darlene on her wild-eyed Arabian,
and I laughed out loud,
clapping as my Morgan
sank into her bones
and rested one foot in
the hot arena sand.
I learned early if the heart is big enough,
I never really lose.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Play: a poem from Easing into the Mahabharata




Play

I am the dishwasher,
wet bubbles popping on the silver faucet.
I am the farmer
clucking to the hens, laughing.
I am the weaver,
needling fiber and beads into beauty.
I am the lover of stones,
stacking, circling and painting.
I am the mother
sitting in the moonlight at midnight, praying.
I am the wife,
leaning into an embrace, shivering with delight.
I am the friend of the birch tree,
feeling her scar as my own.
I am the writer
riding thundering Kitaro
to allow spirit to flow through

the empty flutes of my fingertips.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Twig Weaving and Weaving in the Round

I've worked on large looms since 1998, including big four-harness rug looms and 7 foot triangle looms.  The hard part about the size of these monsters is finding a place in your home to set it up and what if you want to weave in a doctor's waiting room?

There are two really cheap and fun alternatives to the big standard looms that anyone can make and use.  The first is the twig loom.  Find three or four small branches in a finished size you like.  I've worked as big as 2.5 feet and as small as 4 inches. Here is a finished piece with three small twigs, great for Christmas ornaments or pieces of a mobile:


The weave was very simple, just two lines under and over.  But the frame could be warped and woven in a more traditional tapestry or common weave style.

Here is a stick frame warped and ready to weave on.  The sticks came from our beach and were sanded by the wind and water and snow--they are silky to the touch.  It helped to do a double-turn on each side of the "loom" to help keep the warp threads from slipping.  You can also gently score your loom with a pocket knife and allow the threads to drop into the score lines to help them stay put.


I bound the three interesting twigs together with hemp string, giving it a rustic look.

This is the weaving underway.  


And this is the finished product, ready to hang on a wall!  I created a rustic piece on purpose, and love the swoosh and energy, like a winter seascape.


If you want a more traditional loom, you simply lay two straight twigs parallel to each other, then bind on two cross pieces to make the square, warp it up and weave away!

You can also follow the natural junction of a twig or branch.  Here is a piece I am creating using "dreamcatcher" weaving and regular weaving as well as wrapping the piece with yarn. In this beginning stage, I wrapped the yarn, then warped from branch to branch, doubling up the top warp to create a firm line to weave to.

Here is the same project with the dreamcatcher weave added between branches:


It's really fun to create these projects and easy enough for upper elementary kids to each do a big branch then create a forest along one wall of the classroom.  

Finally, one of the easiest looms to make is the needle point frame loom.  Simply purchase a round needlepoint frame or look for them in places like garage sales and Goodwill.  I found several for $.50 at our local St. Vincent de Paul resale shop.  Separate the pieces of the frame, and warp the inner circle, wrapping thread away from you, keeping the tension, and giving the circle a little turn for the next pass.  When you are done, tie it off and gently slide the outer part of the frame over the inner circle. Tighten the screw to lock everything in place.  

Here is an example of weaving in the round with this type of frame.  What's great is you can then hang your piece from the tightening screw!  If you visit other sites on lines, there are some lovely pieces done with different widths of yarn, dyed fiber and even dried flowers and plants.  Have fun!




Sunday, August 6, 2017

Audio Version of Easing into the Tao te Ching is Now Available!




The latest addition to the Easing Into comparative religion program is out in audio!  Easing into the Tao te Ching features gifted narrator Collene Curran.  This short work allows listeners to gently enter the world of the Tao through ten "great ideas" found in the work.  Explanations of each idea, original poetry for contemplation or opening material for small groups and five probing questions to take you deeper into your inquiry all function to provide a wonderful introduction to this sometimes difficult text.

The Easing Into Collection is slowly growing to include titles from all the major world traditions.  In this time of discomfort with what is "other", I pray it will help people of all faiths understand what is important and beautiful in other traditions. Watch this fall for You Tube teachings from this series and be sure to tune into or download past programs of my radio show, Deep Communion, which are available on the ArtistFirst Radio network.

Here is the link to it's Amazon page.  Enjoy!

https://www.amazon.com/Easing-into-Lao-Tzus-Ching/dp/B074HCDRS6/ref=sr_1_1_twi_audd_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1502021861&sr=8-1&keywords=Easing+into+the+Tao+te+Ching

Monday, July 17, 2017

Dragonfly House Summer Update


The gardens are in full swing now--peas plants over seven feet tall, 18 5-foot tomato plants, raised beds full of kohlrabi, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, green and yellow beans, blueberries, raspberries, pumpkin, zucchini and more.  I seeded the small hill in my backyard with wildflowers, and every day something new surprises me. My "English Cottage gardens" in the front of the house are going wild with colors and textures. In the newly opened fields, poplar trees are sprouting up.  Mike seeded in oats, different kinds of clover and a plant unfortunately called "rape" that is part of the cabbage family that white tailed deer adore.

Art-wise, I've been creating woven pieces out of sticks and used yarn, hand painted paint stir sticks for garden markers, rehabbed some old furniture, made benches out of old chairs, and painted small white tiles to create a "wall quilt" for the living room. I'm also making "garden flowers" out of old china and glass pieces, attached to blue wine bottles and then placed in the ground around the garden for extra flair and color.  I'll be creating cement brick and landscape timber benches to place around the property. Mike and Ian put up a new screened porch this summer, and we'll be adding a lovely pond liner and fish just off the deck.
Mike is also starting to get the hunting blinds in order.  Our long-range goal is to create hunting blinds approximately 8'x8' that will have pallet-board paneling,  a fold down bed frame, small grill, small heater and small outdoor portapotty, chair and pull down writing surface arrangements that can be rented to Air B&B folks or used for small meditation hermitages in the off season. We'll have a bonfire each night up in the main garden.  Eventually we may add single-person screen in porches to each. I'm super excited to be able to lead contemplative retreats out here in the future.

Family Wild, our wonderful hunting, fishing and wildlife arts program will be launching in September.  The first tier of books are in the final editing stage, and our merchandise is nearly complete and ready to go. Mike will be hosting a new radio show to encourage folks to explore nature with their kids in a variety of ways.

Happy summertime to you!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Easing into the Bhagavad Gita in Audio!




My newest book in audio is currently available on Amazon and I-Tunes! This is a simple, Ten Great Ideas of the Gita, complete with verse reference numbers (in the book and Kindle formats) original poetry and group discussion questions.  My current work as a writer is to create a library of "easing into" texts--the ten great ideas of many facets of the world religions as well as more "fringe" groups like modern shamanism. Taken together, they create a simple quilt of the beauty of humankind's highest thoughts and ideals.

Blessings! Kim

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Repainting an Old Weaving Bench


Working with "throw away" items has become a passion of mine this summer.  I'm building benches from old wood chairs and Restore lumber, painting "flowers" on the bottoms of clear plastic bottles and stacking Goodwill glasses and plates to make some "vertical interest" in the garden.  This picture is the top of an old weaving bench.  I'm fascinated with aboriginal dot art and have combined a very simple form of it with dragonfly images.  We call our main house "Dragonfly House" and so it seems fitting.  I also hope the spirit of the dragonfly will drive away some of our mosquito hordes! HA!


Spring Birds of Northern Michigan


The arrival of the "spring birds" is almost as welcome as the flowers on our land.  I love this picture Mike (my husband) snagged.  We've seen the square holes of the Pileated Woodpecker all over the 50 acres, but this was the first sighting of the bird. 


I enjoy taking pictures of birds--especially when you catch them in a-typical poses.  Here, a Mourning Dove does her morning yoga.

The Baltimore Oriels have enjoyed half-slices of orange, as well as the Hummingbird feeders (yes, we've had hummers, too).  Even on the cloudy day, they add a dash of sunshine to life.

The Red-Headed Woodpecker awed us with his bold color.  He's been a lovely addition to the "nature TV" display at the feeder this Spring.


This is the most exciting bird of the spring--we had THREE of these lovely Indigo Bunting males at the feeder for a few days.  They may have moved on--haven't seen them in a few days, but wow!  what a treat when they were here.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Ironwood Cactus: a Poem

I have found a peace, working with my hands.
This brush-stroke, that bit of glue,
pushing back dirt for a plant or seed,
gathering eggs, patting a goat on her head.
I wish you could see inside my mind,
the not-enoughness, the not-lovable enough,
not-wealthy or healthy enough.
that has driven and broken me.
I’m gluing and painting myself back together.
And if sometime, I need you more than seems
Normal, 
well,
even ironwood cactus statues need
twine and goop and a gentle hand when
one arm or the other falls completely off,
giving into gravity after years and years

of shaking its fists at the sun.

KN

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cedar and Restore Art

I enjoy working with natural objects, creating art from them.  But I also like functional art--bird
feeders, benches, a trellis for the garden.  Here are some items I am working on!

 This is a walking stick I am making for myself, using    aboriginal dot art.  Each old bough scar becomes the center for an explosion of color, reminding me that "Every new beginning is the death of some old beginning."

 I have a fetish for clay pots, neat old wine glasses and mugs--so I decided to "indulge" the fascination at the local thrift stores and make my finds into vertical interest feeders and planters.  

 Here is the dot art again--this is a huge 20 lb stone for my front garden. I sealed it with a spray acrylic, high gloss.  It's beautiful in the sunshine.



 The colors didn't show, but you get the "picture".  I traced the wood borer lines in color of red and black and made this lovely hanging for the deck.  

 These bottles were all found in the dirt on the property.  I love the rust.  It makes a very gentle sound in the wind--not so "metallic" as most wind-chimes.

 This is a project I am really excited to begin--a $4 chair, a $5 chair and a $2 chair, used boards from the Restore in Alpena. It will all be painted one color, planters on each end and then painted cedar sticks rising behind, all rendered in blues and greens.  I'll post the finished picture.  :-)

So what is lying around your life that could become something new, giving "junk" a new beginning?





Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sample Chapter of Easing into the Dhammapada





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Great Idea #2

Hatred Cannot Overcome Hatred

I once read that some people can only see beauty when it is there in front of them, while others can take any situation and create beauty. It’s a different kind of awareness, a deeper seeing and presence, that often allows beauty to bloom from seemingly ugly experiences, spaces and individuals.  The saint makes holy where-ever they dwell because of the consciousness they embody. In a very real sense, they call on you to see what is possible and beautiful in yourself.
We live in a world of violence.  Even in our sports, we laud victory over another.  The Dhammapada points out, however, that the truest victory is always the one over yourself.  Once you no longer harm yourself, you are less likely to harm others.  Once you struggle with destructive habits, you are able to be compassionate with the habits of others.  Once you realize that much of violence arises from people who are seeking happiness just like yourself, you will open your heart.
The Dhammapada uses your own awareness and experiences as a fertile garden to grow compassion for others.  Gradually, as you awaken, you begin to understand that usually when you do not harm others, you will not be harmed. You feel deeply that everyone fears punishment and death like you, so why would you punish or kill? You begin to see that gentle speech really does “catch more butterflies than vinegar” and that when you hate people, you are really separating yourself from the real joy of living.
“Those who hold back anger are real charioteers, others merely hold the reins” (verse 222). The image is powerful, and for the false charioteers, nothing less than a wreck is waiting to happen.  The whole body is at your disposal to do good—this thing you call the physical self that can smile and hug and bend over and help; this speech that can edify and uplift or drag down and condemn; this mind that can be clear and kind or clouded, driven and aggressive; this breath that can flow without effort or be tight, choking, or rough; this intuitive self can be aware of the beauty as well as the garbage that is around you; and this lightness that is the joy, your birthright that knows even in the midst of conflict, evil and defeat, “all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well (Julian of Norwich)”.  In the end, peace really is your choice, one you make moment by moment.




Poetic Response:

A mob has been seeded into Facebook posts,
with words like
They and Them and Him and Her,
soundbite micro-realities mixing
with the rush of false intuitions,
illusions heated in little silver children’s spoons,
the flames media-fed and blue-screen hot,
 shot
mainline
and thundering
word by word by word
full color aura
into the pupils of millions of eyes.
Ignorance.
Addictive.
Multiplied.



Questions to Take You Deeper:

1.      Do you believe, way down deep, that if you do not harm, you will not be harmed?  Why or why not? What attributes do you need to refine to live a life of no harm?
2.      Can you recall a time when your compassion for another diffused a difficult situation in your life?  What concrete ways can you practice compassion? Choose one and “try it on” for a period of time.  What differences do you notice in your life?
3.      How does “mob mentality” show up in your life?  How does cultivating awareness help you keep your balance in charged situations?
4.      For one day, choose to practice gentle speech.  How do YOU feel at the end of the day?  What did you notice about how others responded to you?  Did you know that in some monastery and retreat settings, folks are asked to not talk about anyone unless they are physically present?  Try that practice for one day and jot in your journal or share with others what you learned about yourself.
5.      How does non-harming feel in your body, this sense that you are filled with awareness and goodwill to all?  Be concrete!  How does your body feel when you are afraid, angry or confused?  Again, be as concrete as you can. Do you think being able to recognize physical states can help support your desire to be compassionate?

Reference Verses
  1. 3, 4, 5, 6 (Hatred cannot overcome hatred)
  2. 98 (saints make holy wherever they dwell)
  3. 103-105 (victory over yourself, rather than others)
  4. 117-118 (awareness of evil habits)
  5. 124 (no harm comes to those who do no harm),
  6. 129 (everyone fears punishment and death like you do)
  7. 131-32 (do not strike at those seeking happiness and you will not be struck)
  8. 133-134 (gentle speech)
  9. 137-140 (the pain that comes from harming the innocent)
  10. 197 (live in joy, never hating those who hate)
  11. 222 (“those who hold back anger are real charioteers, others merely hold the reins.”)
  12. 231 (use your body, tongue, mind for doing good)



Sample Chapter of Easing into the Gospel of Thomas



Great Idea #7

You are created to Stand in the Middle of Relative and Ultimate Reality

The character for “man” in Chinese stands for the idea that humans connect heaven and earth. This same sort of placement of humans in the Gospel of Thomas occurs over and over again.  It’s an incredibly rich concept, and if we broke it down to more modern language, we could say that humans are also made to connect relative and ultimate levels of reality.

So, what do these terms mean, “relative” and “ultimate”? Jesus was essentially using the term Kingdom of Heaven (which is a feminine noun in Aramaic by the way) for ultimate reality, and your sleep-walking mind caught up in bills, time, calendars, work, family and all the many ways you divide or ignore reality is what Jesus calls the Kosmos and Eastern religions would name Samsara or “the wheel of conditional suffer” or other such terms. The two are superimposed upon each other in a way—both always present, both always “reality” and your job is to be able to switch from one way of moving through your life to the other “lens” effortlessly, eventually getting to the point where you can hold both at once. My husband has contacts like that—one can see objects at a distance, the other can focus on objects close up and his brain actually can “choose” what it needs to see.

These concepts are important because, like Mike’s contacts, functioning in relative reality means you get your bills paid, hug your kids, and don’t run red lights. Having access to ultimate reality means you always have a healing context for your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and the like—part of you is timeless, vast, unending and eternal.  It’s like having a fight with your friend, then walking outside and gazing up into a sky littered with stars and recalling the constellation chart saying “you are here” and our sun barely shows up on one little arm of our galaxy.  One doesn’t negate the other—the pain of the argument is reality and so is the idea that the argument is held in a giant bowl of infinity where you can imagine millions of other arguments and make ups going on just on this planet alone.  That moment of anger is also a possible moment when you can connect with all that ever was, is and will be.

Your senses can both help and hinder your development of holding both relative and ultimate reality—they can be your “evergreen” gates to the Kingdom of God or they can draw you ‘round with impressions and input that blur your ability to grasp the wider and deeper vision of life.  Your mind has to learn to take in the information of the senses and then be aware enough to “see” or “hear” both.  It’s why even in the Bible, Jesus kept insisting “those who ears, let them hear.”

Like the idea of the Eastern Guru, (a term that means “light bringer”) the Gospel of Thomas points out that you often begin to see glimpses of relative and ultimate reality in your spiritual teachers. They serve as your first models.  It makes a great deal of sense that early Christians would call Jesus “the son of God” because, like when the Buddha was asked if he were a god, his disciples and followers caught the scent of ultimate reality in him.  It was a rich metaphoric way to describe how it felt to be in his presence.  The Gospel of Thomas not only brings this to your attention, it tells you that all beings can be like Jesus.  We were all created to “stand” up into the world, holding both relative and ultimate reality—not just one person.

Poetic Response

I will never fully be family—
he and his children by another woman
draw lines in the sand,
and while I might toe the grains,
give salt to salt,
they are not mine and
I am not theirs.
Still,
I see him in them--
this gesture,
that laugh.
50% of all marriages end in divorce—
100% of all lives end in death.
And so, I bear such little tragedies
nestle them with a light-hearted
sigh
in a much larger
nest.


Questions to Take You Deeper

1.      Identify examples of relative and ultimate reality.  When, if ever, do you first recall looking at life this way?
2.      What other ramifications, “good” or “bad”, suggest themselves to you when you consider that reality has at least two levels?
3.      Why do you think Jesus taught so much in nature and used so many agricultural, celebratory and intimate family gatherings for his parables and teaching moments?  How do such environments help convey relative and ultimate reality?
4.      Do you think naming ultimate reality “the Kingdom of Heaven” or the “Kingdom of God” “weights” one kind of reality over another?  How do you get beyond this “either/or” language? In what way is a human teacher important in this work?
5.      What ramifications does the practical understanding of relative and ultimate reality have for the dying process we must all face?

Reference Verses
·         L 11 twoness and oneness—holding both
·         L 15 finding the source, unborn, the true Father
·         L 17 intuitive mind, getting beyond dualistic mind (as guarded by the senses)
·         L19 senses as the gateway (when used correctly, they are “evergreen”), living out of ultimate reality
·         L 30 the unity beneath the varied individuals…early Trinitarian language
·         L 43 holding relative and ultimate reality in our spiritual master, and later, in all of life
·         L 49 the Source named as feminine and the beginning and ending (timeless) for those unified. Kingdom is not a realm or physical place
·         L 50 The Kingdom is not what we expect to find.
·         L 56 seeing only relative reality is seeing a corpse
·         L 59 paying attention to the Source now means you can be conscious when you die. 
·         L 61 Salome and the bed—Yeshua bluntly tells her she alone must be filled with light—it cannot be given to her
·         L 69 there is no “you” to be persecuted
·         L 72 am I here to divide? Jesus asks
·         L 75 only the single one enters the place of union
·         L 77 split a piece of wood, I am there…
·         L 87 getting beyond the relative reality of the body and living from the soul
·         L 106 transform two into one, all things possible because you are all things

·         L 108 mutuality of teacher and student

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