Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New Year, New Garden, New Landscape, and a New Beginning

On January 3, 2019, I went to the Art Institute in Chicago, when attending a conference of the Polish American Historical Association. I flew in on a red-eye to make time for this visit and it was well worth the effort.

Meekness, fragment

No, I have not seen everything, not even close. But I found a new Van Gogh I never encountered before, some new Monet's and a friend, an Ascended Master from ancient India, smiling at me across the centuries.

Vincent Van Gogh, "The Poet's Garden," 1888.

On Being Green in Vincent's Garden

A white rose faints
on a cement sidewalk.
Crisp clear azure sky
encloses the city in a cupola.
Art vibrates on the walls
of the Art Institute guarded by
green-patinaed copper lions
in bright Christmas wreaths.

Van Gogh waits for me.
Frowning, uncertain.

Yes, I love your iridescent greens,
celadons, aquas, emeralds, jades.
The vibrant grass, uncut new meadow
and the explosion of bushes and trees
vibrating with the full force of life

Leaf opens after leaf - after leaf -
exploding with cosmic energy
alive - so alive - so  alive - so alive
so real, emerging from canvas
coming into becoming - stretching - 
growing - being - breathing -  alive -

Even the sky vibrates in hues of green -
and yellow, turquoise and aqua
Each plant, tree, bush marked with a thick
layer of paint, intense brushstrokes.

I understand now. Vincent was one
of us, the seeing ones. Awake.
He could not tell us any louder
than in this saturated greenest paint:

Open your eyes.
We are all here.
The world is ours
to see.

Before visiting this timeless art, I paid homage to the mysteriously alive lake, licking the shore with its waves, all made of the precious hues of jade.  Here I illustrate it with a painting of a sea...

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "Seascape," 1879.

A Treasure Hunt

The jade lake waits for me, I know it's there,
turning turquoise and lapis at the horizon.
Restless, it is confined by stone walls
of the harbor - but still remembers
the delight of our date in September,
its massive waves, wind-shorn breakers,
breathing in the ancient rhythm of wind
and earth.

I walk to the museum. Tiny green twigs
sprout between dead leaves to give me hope,
so much hope. Oh, there you are, my lovely,
my sweet - the secret of being, growing,
laughing in sunlight. A square of rich soil
surrounds sleeping trees; sighs heavily
imprisoned among cement sidewalks
and asphalt streets. I found life in Chicago
Who said, you could not?

On my last day in Chicago, after all was over, I left some time again for doing the "touristy" things. I went again to the lake, but it was too windy, only the lone kite danced on its long string. So I returned between the tall buildings, and went to the Wallis Towers to look down on the city, from above.  I thought of what I heard in my last tour, of the suffering and darkness of each metropolis, and of the light you can suddenly find in a friend's eyes.

As Above So Below

Up on the top of the world
103 floors above ground to be exact
I drew my strength from brown squares
of dead grass, from jade waves of the sleeping lake,
from clouded sky.

The city was so dense, its air filled with toxins,
my ears assaulted by the noise, day and night.
Once 800,000 heads of cattle crowded
Chicago stockyards - herded to die, to die, to die...

What a dark city. Shadows around it.
Rickety stairs in narrow workers' huts
with stained, blank windows. Bricks
almost touch train cars wheezing,
speeding by.  You'd think: "Hell on Earth."
You'd think: "Escape from darkness!
Run, now!"

Maybe, just maybe, you'd see
a tiny twig of hope, a green sprig
growing where the earth could not 
breathe or sigh, en-burdened with
its heavy toil. And then, a miracle of art. 

You walk upstairs and stop
in front of a thousand-year-old
carving. His eyes smile at  you
his hair, upswept ad knotted.
Here's your brother who tread this earth
before you. Here's Sanat Kumar.
He'll tell you how to live
in this dense, black darkness,
opaque like rivers of dry, icy blood,
brittle like burnt bone. How to turn
inward, make it all sparkling,
breathe in the power
from the waves, the air...

Interesting experience, looking into the eyes of thousands-years-old sculpture and feeling a recognition of the person portrayed within. Fascinating, really.

After coming home, I went to same old, same old, and feelings resurfaced I carefully suppressed and put away on a shelf of "do not touch, do not use." In vain. They come back if they want to. Maybe for the last time? Finally, I figured out what to do with them, how to transmute them in the alchemy of my soul.


A Poem with No Name

First you cross the Salt Plains of Rejection
into the Desert of Abandonment.
Mount Disappointment lies just beyond
The Valley of Regret. This is a huge country.
You lived there for decades. You explored
every nook and cranny; path, boulder, crevice.

Ever since your mother disappeared
for five months and a year. Ever since
you learned to write at six to send her
your desperate pleas: “Mommy, come back.
Mommy, I love you. Mommy, why don’t you
love me, any more?” You re-lived this story
time and time again. In every marriage,
romance. “I love you so much!
Why don’t you care for me at all?”

Now you know too well how it feels like.
Now you can open the enchanted book
and say the words of magic.

The transmutation has begun.

You pour out a river of molten light –
dazzling, white hot, yet cool to touch –
over the chaff of broken feelings, the dust
of memories you wish were not yours
to keep and gather for the ancient One.

The chaff burns.
The shadows flee.
You find a grain of gold
Under your feet.
Smooth, shiny, polished,
It is yours to keep.

Is it a grain? Look closer, a golden acorn
Rests in the palm of your hand. Plant it
in valleys. Plant it in deserts.
Plant on bare mountain slopes.
Plant on wind-swept plains.

It grows so fast. Soon, a magnificent oak tree
spreads out its gold leaves and boughs.
New life springs in your landscape
of desolation, more real than the chaff
of regrets and dust of sorrows.

Look through its branches.
Be mindful, attentive. What do you see?
Here: the fertile fields of bonding.
There: the rainbow meadows of connection.
Look carefully now. See the pristine
peaks of fulfillment, the rainbow garden
of gratitude? Filled with every kind
of fragrant blossoms, the heady perfume
of rose and jasmine, the delicate scent
of lavender and violets.

This is not a mirage.
This is your world.
To conjure up,

create and explore.

Give me your hand.


This is your gold grain.


Your journey has just begun.