Last weekend, I drove south to Mt. Madonna, a retreat center located on top of a mountain populated by redwoods and wildflowers. I’d come to take down my exhibit, “Pieced Reflections,” and to help my friend, Stacey Vetter, install hers.
When I hung my art, I knew that Jon Kabat-Zinn, the great teacher of mindfulness meditation, would be teaching a workshop beginning that evening. I enjoyed imagining him walking by my work and taking it in. A special bonus was selling work to two of his students from Texas and Colorado.
A variety of teachers come to Mt. Madonna from all over the country. A workshop scheduled while Stacey’s exhibit is up is, “The Second Half of Life,” led by Angeles Arrien, cultural anthropologist and author of the Four Fold Way. Intrigued by the title I picked up a postcard about it and read these words:
“In every culture, in every age, there is a turning point in life. At this threshold begins the greatest adventure; the second half of life. When you find courage to change at midlife, a miracle happens and you are opened, softened, strengthened, and deepened; prepared to create your legacy-an imprint of your dream for our world that can only come true in the second half of life.”
I was inspired by the words: “create your legacy-your dream for the world.” In this youth obsessed culture, it is positively counter-cultural to believe that our greatest adventure still lays ahead.
I’ve set off on my first adventure with the ‘year of watercolor’ project. My challenge to create a watercolor each day for a year has become a practice similar to meditation; a time when bits of undigested feelings and thought rise to the surface.
I’ve stared down the demons of comparison, attachment and judgment with what I hope is a corresponding firm but loving kindness.
Painting every day allows me to see how thoroughly events of the previous day influence the way I take hold of the brush, the amount of paint on the bristles, the control, or lack there of, with which color streams onto paper. I’ve determined that I will return to paint each day, even if the watercolor from the day before looks like a smeary mess. I don’t need to share them, but they remind me that a lotus can only grow out of the mud.