Welcome to my post on the WeekWord simplicity for Friday January 7, 2011! Click this link to see more thoughts and images on simplicity or to participate. Everyone is welcome!
It might have been in 1968. I joined an organization called the Traveler's Directory. In my description of myself, I included the phrase "I love simplicity--and complexity." I had been studying Zen Buddhism, meditating, trying to simplify my life. "Chop wood, carry water." That came along later, but it was what I thought I wanted. My natural tendency, however, was to complicate everything.
For years, I have been photographing simple "Zen-like" scenes: a single shell embedded in sand, a single feather floating on the water, a single blossom of a flower. But look closely at the photo above, and you can see how I failed. The surface of the sand is riddled with raindrops, old and new, that have given the sand an intricate pattern. The zebra mussel shell has interesting concentric lines and worn corners and the shell contains air, sand and something unknown, where once it contained life.
What could be simpler than a Zen brush painting? One brush, one color, only a few strokes. Right. What no one tells you is how many times you have to do it over and over to get one to come out right. Practice practice practice. This painting is new. I did it tonight. I did not follow a prescribed pattern, I studied instead the insect itself. Or--rather--some photographs of crickets. I have had no training. I just want to achieve simplicity on some level. I did, however, use a real bamboo brush, a large one--which is very challenging (for me).
My life is more like this in its complexity, only even more chaotic, of course. This is another new painting--I did last night and worked on some more tonight. It is gouache on colored paper. It s for a children's book I am illustrating, written by my daughter for my grandson.
Families are never simple, nor are they simple to paint. This painting was difficult for me. Maybe the hardest one I've ever done.
My imaginary life of simplicity would look something like this picture of my husband with our new grandson:
Of course, were I to Zoom out, the scene would look more like the complex painting above!
I also write poetry and my poetry is rarely an expression of simplicity. I have, however, just received a book with one of my haiku in it, and in celebration of that and the weekword, I wrote this poem (just now)(A Haiku):
Sweeps of Blue
Like simple brushstrokes,
snowflakes whisper over drifts,
pile in arching curves.
There is a genre of one-word poems, but I am not going to attempt one of those at the moment. I wrote another poem today, which, like the painting above, is probably the antithesis of simplicity.
Most flowers are also not simple. Any botanist can tell you about the complexity of an orchid or a dandelion. But here's one that at least looks simple. All the images expand when clicked on.