Friday, 21 December 2012

Too Busy

Dunfermline Abbey and Palace Ruins

Most people know that on leaving school I started work as a butcher. Not something I made a concrete decision to do, rather something I drifted into. More a reaction against what my family had planned for me than my own decision. Where I lived most young boys sat the entrance examination to get a job, a trade, in the navel dockyard close by.

The last thing I had ever wanted was to work in a navel dockyard so I made sure I had a job ready to go to before I was ready to leave school. As the new start I got all the most terrible jobs to do, but I was aware that this was not personal, just the way things were.

Some of the jobs were just downright boring and tedious. One of the most boring of all was the knife sharpening day.  Once a week all the knives were taken to the back yard where there was a sharpening stone. It was my job to keep the wheel turning while the older butcher did the honing of the blade. Each blade took a fair amount of time to get right. At the end of the exercise my arms used to ache for all of the next day.

I suppose, looking back now, it was this that led me to realise that I could not go on like this for the rest of my working life. So the studying I had never got round to at school began in my spare time. I was determined to make something more of my life.

All seems so obvious now, but had not been when I was living the reality. Sometimes the obvious stares us in the face but we keep banging our heads against the wall trying to find the obvious.

Reminds me of the tale of the woodcutter.

Once upon a time a very strong woodcutter ask for a job in a timber merchant, and he got it. The paid was really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.
His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work.
The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees
"Congratulations," the boss said. "Go on that way!"
Very motivated for the boss’ words, the woodcutter try harder the next day, but he only could bring 15 trees. The third day he try even harder, but he only could bring 10 trees.Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.
"I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.
"When was the last time you sharpened your axe?" the boss asked.
"Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees..."

This blog is linked to my other. Dunfermline Abbey and Palace Ruins

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Silence Only Comes....

St Peter's Church Inverkeithing

When painting, I normally consider for days before painting the first stroke.  Once the painting is securely in my mind I lay out the paint and make the first mark on the canvas.

Then the fever commences and I work with hardly a break until what is in my head is on the canvas. It is intense but it could never be described as peaceful.

I read blogs of friends and some take days to paint a picture, others take weeks and some months.

I have been working on a pen and ink of Dunfermline Abbey and the ruins of the old palace. More of that when I share that particular painting. Today is the beginning of my second day working on this. The longest I think I have ever spent on one work. It has brought a different sense of passion and intensity. The big difference is that I am not doing it because I am hoping it sells. I am doing it because I think the subject deserves to be depicted. In the process it gives me time to remember my youth and the times spent around this building. Again more of that when I share the finished work.

Yesterday after my post, I received a mail that touched me deeply. Thank you to the person who sent it and wants to remain in the back with that.

The strangest lesson I have learned in this process, is one I have known for years but never fully understood.

Let me explain that with this very simple and very short story.

An easygoing disciple complained that he had never experienced the Silence that the Master frequently commended.
Said the Master, "Silence only comes to active people."

But active does not always mean furious activity. Strange that this has never occurred to me before.

This blog is linked to my other. St Peters Church

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

I Am Making Progress

Edinburgh Castle

I have been away from this blog for some time and for the very few that take time to read I apologise. It seemed pretty pointless taking the time to write when nobody was taking the time to read.

Then I thought again and here I am. Thanks to those if any who read this. Even greater thanks to those who take the time to comment.  I will read it as I write and I comment in my mind in the process, so I have realised that nothing is meaningless.

Life has been interesting in the time I have been away. I cracked two ribs after slipping on the ice while running. I was attacked and badly bitten by a dog, while running. Maybe it is not writing a blog I should stop, but that is another story.

I have been painting very different  from my normal artwork, one person said I was almost painting normal, but more of that on the other blog.

All in all I am making progress as age slowly but surely catches up on me. My head is buzzing with abstract art, which one day will find its way onto canvas, but yet I am at peace and enjoying the new found art. I am making progress!

Now this reminds me of a tale, one I maybe need to contemplate.

Yen Hui said, "I am making progress."
Confucius asked, "In what way?"
Yen Hui said, "I have given up doing good and being right."
Confucius said, "Very good, but that is not quite enough."
Another day, Yen Hui saw Confucius and said, "I am making progress."
Confucius asked, "In what way?"
Yen Hui said, "I have given up ceremony and music."
Confucius said, "Very good, but that is not quite enough."
Another day, Yen Hui saw Confucius again and said, "I am making progress." Confucius asked, "In what way?"
Yen Hui said, "I just sit and forget."
Confucius was startled and asked, "What do you mean by sitting and forgetting?"
Yen Hui said, "I am not attached to the body and I give up any idea of knowing. By freeing myself from the body and mind, I become one with the infinite. This is what I mean by sitting and forgetting."
Confucius said, "When there is oneness, there are no preferences. When there is change there is no constancy. If you have really attained this, then let me become your pupil."

Yes I think I am making progress, not because I am trying to but because I have stopped trying to.

This blog is linked to my other. Pen and Ink

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Leap of Faith

I have not been around this blog for some time, partly due to a recent illness that has drained me of much of my strength. I have been unable to run or go walking as I am in the habit of doing. The loss of both of those things in turn brings on a state of depression. Today I am feeling better and today life no longer looks all black. I really should have been aware that this was the case because things have still been moving in my world of art, though obviously very slowly.

The story I wish to share with you speaks about just matters, and I hope that the painting above adds to that. I explain the thoughts behind it on my other blog.

The Mokoko tribe lived on the wrong side of the island of two faces. The two sides, separated by a great cliff, were like night and day. The good side was watered by rivers and was filled with trees, flowers, birds and easy and abundant food, while on the wrong side there was hardly any water or plants, and wild beasts crowded together. The Mokoko had the misfortune of having always lived there, with no way to cross to the other side. Their life was hard and difficult: they hardly had food and drink for everyone and they lived in permanent terror of the beasts, who would regularly come and eat some tribe member.
Legend told that some of their ancestors had been able to cross with just the help of a small pole, but for many years not a single tree had grown that would be strong enough to make such a pole, so few Mokoko believed this was possible, and they had become accustomed and resigned to their difficult, resigned life, suffering hunger and dreaming of not ending up as some peckish beast's dinner.
But nature had it that, precisely along the edge of the cliff separating the two sides of the island, a skinny but strong tree grew, with which they could build two poles. The feeling of anticipation was enormous and there was no doubt among the tribe as to whom they would choose to use the poles: the great chief and the witch doctor.
But when the two of them were given their opportunity to make the jump, they felt so afraid that they didn't dared to: they thought that the pole could break, or it would not be long enough, or that something would go wrong during the jump ... and they put so much energy into these thoughts that the resulting fear caused them to give in. And when they saw that this could lead them to being teased and taunted, they decided to invent some old stories and legends about failed jumps to the other side. And they told so many of these tales and they spread so much that there was no Mokoko who did not know how reckless and foolish you would have to be to even attempt the jump. And there lay the poles, available to anyone wanting to use them, but abandoned by all, because taking up one of these poles had become, by dint of repetition, the most unbecoming thing a Mokoko could do. It was a betrayal of the values of suffering and resistance, which so distinguished the tribe.
But into that tribe were born Naru and Ariki, a pair of young hearts truly wanting a different life and, encouraged by the strength of their love, one day decided to take up the poles. Nobody stopped them, but everyone did try to discourage them, trying to convincing them of the dangers of jumping, using a thousand explanations.
-"And what if what they say is true?" wondered the young Naru.
-"Don’t' worry. Why do the talk so much about a leap they've never done? I too am a bit scared, but it doesn't look so difficult," replied Ariki, ever determined.
-"But if it goes wrong, it would be a terrible end," continued Naru, undecided.
-"Perhaps the jump will go badly, and perhaps not. But staying forever on this side of the island surely won't work out well either. Do you know of anyone whose death did not come from being either eaten by the wild beasts or from famine? That too is a terrible end, although it still seems far away to us."
-"You're right, Ariki. And if we wait much longer we won't have the strength to make the leap ... Let's do it tomorrow."
And on the next day, Naru and Ariki jumped to the good side of the island. When taking up the poles, taking their run up, while feeling their desire, the fear hardly allowed them to breathe. And while flying through the air, helpless and without support, they felt that something surely must have gone wrong and certain death awaited them. But when they landed on the other side of the island and happily hugged each other, they thought the jump really hadn't been so bad after all.
And as they ran away to discover their new life, behind them they could hear, like a whispering choir:
-"It was just luck."
-"Well… maybe tomorrow."
-"What a terrible jump! Had it not been for the pole ..."
And Naru and Ariki understood why so few people took the leap: because on the bad side of the island you only ever heard the resigned voices of people without dreams, people filled with fear and despair, people who would never jump ...
Life is indeed not all one thing or the other it is full of alternatives.
This blog is linked to my other. Life Does Not Always Turn in Black and White