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Category Archives: artists

sunday poem

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Feeling deeply appreciated and nourished by the comments to my previous post, I dip into The poetry of Zen* —

Whatever it is,
I cannot understand it,
although gratitude
stubbornly overcomes me
until I’m reduced to tears.

* by Saigyō Hōshi (西行 法師, 1118–1190) in Hamill, S., & Seaton, J. P. (2007). (trans.). Boston: Shambhala, p. 112. image: “Old Man Weeping” after Van Gogh by Gordon Christie when he was still a teenager.


sunday poem

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Hope is with you when you believe
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
That sight, touch, and hearing do not lie,
That all things you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.

You cannot enter. But you’re sure it’s there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange flower and an unnamed star.

Some people say we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
These are the ones who have no hope.
They think that the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist,
As if snatched up by the hands of thieves.

Czeslaw Milosz. (2006). Selected poems 1931-2004. HarperCollins, p. 26. photo: played all day with my god-daughters Orla and Amelie who’re visiting from Scotland.

sunny morning in victoria, british columbia

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cherry blossoms fall –once again–
gutters filled with pink snow.
apple blossoms open.

from Steve who lives down the road

at last

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During a visit with a young friend last night, our conversation touched on plans for career, schooling, family, life in general. Everything’s brightly ahead for her, even as disappointments exert their toll: dashed hopes, quirky twists of fate, and myriad injustices. As we listened more deeply, a quiet settled over us. There we were, at opposite ends of developmental stages, at ease with just being. Tears rolled, laughter erupted. If we’d been near a lake, we’d have heard a loon call her chicks.

This morning I reached for Wang Wei (c.699-761), a ch’an (zen) practitioner, poet, painter, and calligrapher who lived in China during the T’ang dynasty.

Late in life, all I want is peace.
The million pursuits aren’t my concern.
Looking myself over — no future plans.
I just know: go back to the ancient forest.
A breeze in the pines, loosening my belt.
I pick my lute under the mountain moon.
What’s the logic, you ask, of success and failure?

source: Foster, N., & Shoemaker J. (1996) (eds.). The roaring steam: a new Zen reader. Hopewell, NJ: The Ecco Press, p. 33. image:

neither happy nor sad

Ikkyu Sojun (1394-1481) was a controversial Japanese Zen monk.

one christmas tree, empty

Tate Britain, home of British art, has unveiled a bare tree for Christmas this year. The Norwegian Spruce, designed by Giorgio Sadotti, is naked apart from a coiled bullwhip and a circle of silver postcards around its base. The whip will be used during a ceremony on Twelfth Night when the spirit of Christmas will be driven out of the London gallery.

In previous years, trees have been decorated with such ornaments as beeswax candles, tights, and model planes. Sadotti is known for an art practice that “celebrates the power of the nothing”. In not decorating the tree, the artist said he wanted people to recognise its “natural elegance” and think about the potential of the objects – of the tree held in time until its potential is fulfilled and of the whip waiting to be used.

“For me the challenge was to present a tree that was naturally effortless. A tree that managed to maintain its dignity and timeless grace. A tree that remained sublime. A tree that was familiar but strange, like all trees but no other. A tree that had potential to become another. A tree that talked. A tree as a tree as art.”

story & image:,

hand-carved Jizo statues ~ the perfect gift

Jizo is a Buddhist bodhisattva much revered in South East Asia. Depicted as a monk, he serves as protector of all beings in transition —  particularly children who have died as well as women, monks, and firefighters. He represents the qualities of unflagging optimism, fearlessness, and gentleness.

Of the many styles available in the West, I have long been drawn to these charming statues carved in Bali. After bringing a few back from my home monastery, I wrote to Victoria, an American expat who helps bring the carvers’ work to market. The statues measure ca. 7½” in height and 5″ across the bottom and are made from dense wood native to Bali. If you like to have a look at the ones I have for sale, kindly contact me at

I sell the statues at cost (without mark-up) to cover materials and wages for the Bali carvers plus  air freight. Your cost in Victoria, BC is C$78. If you live in the USA, kindly contact ZenWorks in Oregon.

* Victoria writes: “So glad you have them! The carver is a man named Ketut I met maybe 12 years ago. I had heard he was carving nice Buddha statues and went looking for him. I wove my way down a number of small lanes in a village to find him, carving in his family compound (place where family has lived for many generations. Has a family temple where the ancestors are honoured on a regular basis and all the generations live there together. The sons stay with their wives and build another kitchen and the daughters go to their husbands compounds. The old generally die in the center of family activity.

“[At first Ketut] was shy and uneasy … Many years later his quality has improved over the years and he has become confident and happy and has a wonderful wife and son. Generally more than one person works on a piece. Someone roughs it in, someone does finish detail. Someone else may do faces because they are better at faces that other people. Someone else sands and waxes. Ketut always does the faces for these Jizos as he is the only one who can capture that particular wonderful feeling. Namaste.”