Sunday, April 26, 2015


One of many depictions of the Buddha in Thangka Painting

Dearest Readers,

Yesterday I was treated by my dear friend Julie Puttgen to a full day class in Thangka painting at the Milarepa Center in Barnet Vermont, about a twenty minute drive from Peacham. Thangka painting is a centuries old art form of Tibetan Buddhism. It is considered sacred art for representing different aspects of the fully enlightened Buddha. The class was awesome and exacting. 
Me drawing the Buddha head according to the carefully measured grid

My normal drawing style is to “let it rip” and see what happens, but perfectness is the imperative in Thangka painting.  This technique was hard for me at first.

We were a group of 11 students from Vermont, Massachussets and New Hampshire–college age to retired.

Teacher Jane Seidlitz demonstrating drawing a grid and two Buddha hand  gestures

Our teacher, Jane Seidlitz, studied under the Tibetan master painter Kelsang Lodoe Oshoe, one of the most revered Tibetan artists alive today. The entire morning was spent drawing grids, and two typical Buddha hand gestures. We learned the basics of how a thangka is begun, we prepared the grid into which the drawing was made, and after a sumptuous vegetarian lunch, we focused on drawing the face of the Buddha for the rest of the day. We never got to painting, but we learned about brushes and inks. Traditionally, thangka students spend the first year drawing flowers, trees, and clouds, and only then would graduate to beginning to draw the Buddha. We jumped ahead. 
My finished Buddha Head
In the afternoon I experienced a shift in perception when we drew grids for a Buddha head (that took all afternoon). I slowed down and really "noticed" where the facial parts landed on the grid. The purpose of the thangka is to get closer to the Buddha. We sure did. 

Reference material was available such as these sketch sample pages of hand gestures and eyes from Tibetan Thangka Painting by David and Janice Jackson

 The Milarepa Center is an old farmhouse on many acres of land. There’s a garden (ready for planting) forested areas and retreat cottages.

Milarepa Center, Barnet Vermont

Devin-our cook

Inside is a huge kitchen---the place for the food artistry of Miss Devin. 

The Large Shrine Room
Up the stairs are three shrine spaces, a woman’s sleeping dormitory and private guest bedrooms.

Buddhas in small shrine room

Offerings of flowers and jars of Trappist jams

Extravagant abundance is the word for the color, glitz and offerings on the shrines. The statuary of the Buddhas seemed straight out of Tibet–not the plump Buddha style that is perhaps Chinese.
Corner Buddha with Thangka painting on wall

Women's sleeping dormitory

This day was a wonderful treat into a new adventure…a chance to meet a group of friendly students and staff, and to try my hand at creating art with new eyes and slow hands

Sunday, April 19, 2015


I am surrounded by the white stripes of birch,
The grayish brown of beech and maple.

We are the bones of my forest. 

Back field forest_Haypenny Road_Peacham VT_April 19, 2015

Dearest Readers,

I live on Hapenny Road, a half-mile of dirt that cuts through family forests along Mack’s Mountain in Peacham Vermont. Like the trees, I am a gnarly pole that has weathered a deep winter. While life percolates beneath the receding snow, the woodlands stand exposed. Leaves are not yet unfurled. The forest floor is wet and brown, lacking the ferns, flowers, greenery and bushes still to come. It is a vertical landscape.

I've named this tree The Black Tongue because an absolutely black woody tongue-shape resides inside the lower cavity.

On my walks, I see that Nature has repurposed the dead and dying trees as critter homes or a food source for mammals, bugs and birds. Pockmarked and potholed, the trunks display their times of trauma. Many are still alive. Often in summer I will see only one leafy branch bravely hoisted aloft. 
This ancient maple is fully green in summer despite the deep slit  that I'm  leaning into.
The dead ones are left to slowly crumble, and eventually fall as food for the life forms in the soil. The town does not remove them. I suppose they are not enough of a danger. At this time of year traffic means a car every half hour or so.  More travelers will arrive in the summer.

Here are a few of these poked and twisted beauties, photographed two weeks ago when the snow was more plentiful.

Cecelia and the Monster Maple spreading our arms