Thursday, August 22, 2013


Stone & shadow astride its empty place on Ha'Penny Rd. Peacham, Vt

Dearest Readers,
Fullness and emptiness are the yin and yang of essence. Like the stone and its missing place in the picture above, presence and absence are interconnected and inseparable from one another. Friend and blogger Ruth Schowalter of Coffee with Hallelujah has challenged fellow spiritually minded bloggers to explore the concept of fullness in honor of this week of seemingly endless full, fat August moons.

In the last year, my art has been focused on both form and non-form. 

The Hole after a year of rain and snow
I dug a deep hole a year ago at the Carving Studio andSculpture Center in West Rutland Vermont as part of Sculptfest 2012. I lined it in marble shards, and created a 14 foot aspen ladder from branches that I had gathered and lashed. It was intended to be an earthwork-meditation on my mother’s death, and on my own aging. It was that, but it has also turned out to be simply an aesthetically pleasing cylinder of emptiness. I visited the site in June, and was surprised to find the hole in perfect condition. There was rain water in the bottom from a deluge the previous night, but the director of the sculpture site said the hole always drains out quickly. How amazing!

Closeup of The Hole one year later, with rainwater draining out
While digging last summer, I began drawing images of surging and rising, energy in direct opposition to the notion of emptiness. I thought these pieces were wings, but the abstract swelling shapes seem to express a wellspring of spirit bubbling from inside.  The image below will be in the “More” show at Brenau University’s Sellars Gallery in Gainsville GA, September 17th-December 15th.
The Fullness of Being, acrylic on kraft paper 35" x 39", 2012

I’ve finished two paintings of similar whirlwinds of life since arriving here in Peacham VT, and am working on a third. 
Night Whirlwind-acrylic and pastel on canvas 42" x 36", 2013

Morning Whirlwind-acrylic and charcoal on canvas 44" x 40.5", 2013

Golden Dawn in progress-acrylic, pastel, charcoal and ink on canvas 39.5" x 42"
These paintings complement the drawings of holes I did in 2011, anticipating the digging of last year’s hole. Click here to see the hole drawings.

I leave you with three images of fullness and emptiness along Ha'penny Road, and a humorous poetic chapter from the Tao Te Ching.
A triangle of emptiness

Strange swollen galls on an evergreen trunk

Full moon from my studio window, Peacham VT 10pm

Thirty spokes
Meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn’t
Is where it’s useful.

Hollowed out,
Clay makes a pot.
Where the pot’s not
Is where it’s useful.

Cut doors and windows
To make a room.
Where the room isn’t,
There’s room for you.

So the profit in what is
Is in the use of what isn’t.
-Lao Tzu

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Roadside brook-Ha'Penny Rd. Peacham, Vermont

River submits to the lover’s allure.
She sways her glistening hips
Left and right,
Sliding around obstacles,
Slipping over stones–
Nice and easy.

Relentlessly flowing, 
Ruthlessly yielding,
She goes down and deep
Craving the pleasures of his secret cave.
  -Monday, August 12, 2013

Dearest Readers,
 I’m surrounded by forest streams, ponds, and wetlands here in Peacham. Indeed, most of Vermont is crisscrossed by rivers, and brooks plunging out of the mountains, or gently gurgling beside a road. It is a common sight and sound. Click on the caption under the picture above to hear 9 seconds of fresh, cold rivulet babble that chatters along one side of Ha’Penny Road where I live this summer.

The Tao Te Ching, written 2,500 years ago by the Chinese mystic Lao Tzu, speaks a number of times about water and the way. Water is easy. It yields and acquiesces in its persistent downward journey. This seems to be a metaphor for the voice of the soul, running clear and simple through our lives…not a mysterious source of enlightenment, but goodness that is always available if we listen.
True goodness
Is like water.
Water’s good for everything.
It doesn’t compete.

It goes right
To the low and loathsome places,
And so finds the way.

For a house,
The good thing is level ground.
In thinking,
Deep is good.
The good of giving is magnanimity;
Of speaking, honesty;
Of government, order.
The good of work is skill,
And of action, timing.

No competition,
So no blame.

A stream that flows through a rock wall and under a bridge along Ha'Penny Rd.
A brook that falls from the mountains and under a second bridge over Ha'Penny Rd.

Friday, August 9, 2013


Cecelia and Etta in front of The Dog Chapel art installation
 Dearest Readers,
This week my pastoral and spiritual journeys led me to The Dog Chapel, located within the art complex known appropriately as Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. 
 St. J, population about 7,000, is a half-hour drive from my place in Peacham. It’s where I buy groceries, get gas and visited a vet for Etta. Now I know it’s a place to celebrate doghood, pray for the repose of the souls of deceased pooches, train dogs, have dog parties and buy folk art-ish prints, sculptures and funny dog themed furniture. 
Etta & Cecelia at the altar with dog sculptures, dog window, notes & photos of deceased dogs pinned to the wall

Buttercup and Etta in church with two dog lovers seated on a pew
Dogs can roam free everywhere–in church, along dog trails and even in the dog gallery and gift shop. “ Dogma” is the only thing you leave at the door. There are exercise trails, assemblages for dog agility climbing, and a pond for retrievers.  
Retriever pond with dog sculpture on climbing apparatus on far right
Etta inside the Dog Gallery off-leash of course
Stephen Huneck near the Dog Chapel, St. Johnsbury, VT
  Stephen Huneck, 1948-2010, local artist, children’s book author, businessman and creator of Dog Mountain once said that the Chapel “…is the largest artwork of my life and the most personal”.  The place is both endearing and funny. The Chapel is kind of Christian with dog-themed Tibetan prayer flags hung outside.
Etta outside the Chapel near strings of doggie prayer flags
Dog Memorial Colonnade
 Dog Mtn. is both a song of praise to dogdom, and a childlike pretend game. There’s a framed declaration inside the chapel “Dogs Have Souls”, probably to contravene a teaching I remember in religion class, that they don’t. Huneck went to Catholic school as a kid. So did I. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Etta exploring the uncertain road with her nose

Dearest Readers,
Unmarked dirt roads make me nervous. Some part of me wants a way that has a sign, a minimum of blind bends, and a solid line on a map going clearly from A to B. Not knowing its length or destination disturbs me, so this week I set out to prick my fear of “the road less traveled” by taking three of them around Peacham Vermont. Mack's Mountain Road ended in seven miles at Route 2W, a winding paved road that connects the area to the capitol city, Montpelier, about an hour's drive.
I was rewarded on the way by bucolic isolated  farmsteads, a marsh with a flock of ducks descending upon it, and a farmer comforting a fallen cow lying beside the road.
#1.Mack's Mtn Rd heading north from Peacham VT to ?

Family cemetery and farm along Mack's Mtn. Road
Wetland marsh and pond on Mack's Mtn. Road

#2. Beginning of Lansboro Road heading toward?
Lansboro Road, leading to Foster Pond Road was soft, rough, and narrowed as I drove further into the woods. At one point a huge hole had been haphazardly filled in by hand with rocks, which I eased my little Scion across, squashing butterflies inside my stomach.
#3. Continuing on Foster Pond Road into the woods
I was rewarded again when the road abruptly turned down a short, steep hill that ended at secluded Foster's Pond, maintained according to the sign, by the Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.
Road ends at uninhabited Foster's Pond

To complement the physical journeys, I am reading Ursula Le Guin’s awesome translation of the Tao Te Ching (borrowed from friend Julie Puttgen). 2,500 years ago the Chinese mystic Lao Tzu wrote a book about the Way and the power of the Way. The Way is all about not-knowing, about doing by not-doing and letting go. His writings convey a subtle awareness of the ineffable nature of this Way that underpins the material and non-material universe. It flows easily, yielding like water around and under, within and down. It is empty and yet marked by a fullness of being and nothingness. It precedes us and continues after we are gone. This little book is a poetic guide to taking a first step out onto that highway and to helping me summon the courage to keep walking and driving the Vermont dirt versions of the unknown Way.

Chapter 1-Taoing
The way you can go 
isn't the real way.
The name you can say 
isn't the real name.

Heaven and earth
begin in the unnamed:
name's the mother
of the ten thousand things.

So the unwanting soul
sees what's hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul
sees only what it wants.

Two things, one origin,
but different in name,
whose identity is mystery.
Mystery of all mysteries!
The door to the hidden.
-Lao Tzu from Le Guin's translation of the Tao Te Ching