“. . . the imaginative doorway that says I know you and see you and this is how I give thanks for you . . .”
— David Whyte, from Consolations:  The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words

"Non-Sign II" metal sculpture by the Lead Pencil Collective at Peace Park at the I-5 Canadian border Crossing

“Non-Sign II” metal sculpture by the Lead Pencil Collective at Peace Park at the I-5 Canadian border crossing

I loved reading David Whyte’s new book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.  It is a collection of short essays about words, and I was constantly surprised by Whyte’s unusual twists on interpreting or finding meaning in what I normally think of as “negative” words like denial, despair, disappointment, etc.   Whyte seems to greet all emotions as friends or guests whose arrival signals an opportunity for growth and transformation.

For example, here is what Whyte says about denial:  “Denial is the crossroads between perception and readiness, to deny denial is to invite powers into our lives we have not yet readied ourselves to meet. . . . Denial is an ever present and even splendid thing when seen in the light of its merciful and elemental powers to cradle and hold an identity until it is ready to move on.”

And here is one of Whyte’s insights about despair:  “Despair is a . . . psychological winter when our previous forms of participation in the world take a rest; it is a loss of horizon, it is the place we go when we do not want to be found in the same way anymore.”

Or consider his thoughts on disappointment:  “What we call disappointment may be just the first stage of our emancipation into the next great pattern of existence. . . . Disappointment is a friend to transformation, a call to both accuracy and generosity in the assessment of our self and others, a test of sincerity and a catalyst of resilience.  Disappointment is just the initial meeting with the frontier of an evolving life, an invitation to reality, which we expected to be one particular way and turns out to be another, often something more difficult, more overwhelming and strangely, in the end, more rewarding.”

I love Whyte’s take on shyness:  “Without shyness it is not possible to apprehend the new.  Total confidence at the beginning of a new phase of life means we are misinformed, that we are deeply mistaken, that we think we know what is about to occur and who we are about to become.”

Consolations includes Whyte’s meditations on positive attributes as well, like friendship, honesty, gratitude.  These essays are equally thought-provoking.  About friendship, Whyte says:  ” . . . to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.”  He continues, “. . . the ultimate touchstone of friendship . . . is witness, the privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”


I did find solace and nourishment in Whyte’s book.  It is aptly titled.








Painting with Pollen

April 24, 2012

"Pollen from Hazelnut" by Wolfgang Laib (1995-96)

You wouldn’t think that a patch of yellow would be so mesmerizing.

Wolfgang Laib’s “Pollen from Hazelnut” is currently installed at the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington.  This unusual piece of art is a square “field” of pollen collected from the area around Laib’s home in Germany.  It is part of the collection of the Henry Art Gallery, and the pollen is stored in a glass jar when it is not on exhibit on the floor for patrons to view from a doorway.

It reminded me of Rothko’s abstract “Red” paintings, only done in brilliant yellow.  Your thinking mind has to constantly remind itself that it is looking at pollen, not paint.  You just aren’t accustomed to seeing pollen applied as an art medium.

If you are intrigued, you can read more about this installation in a recent Seattle Times review at this link.

Soft edges

Pollen viewed from across the hall

"Pollen from Hazelnut" at the Henry Art Gallery

(Special thanks to my friend, Carol, for telling me about this exhibit and urging me to see it.)

Blue Iris as Doorway

April 29, 2010

One of the first iris blooms of the season

A doorway into thanks . . .

by Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

The Martha Stewart in Me

March 25, 2010

New treatment over the dining room door

Garland of paper beads and buttons, dyed egg, and paper bunnies

Bunny ornament, silver balls, and garland of paper beads and buttons

I don’t do as much seasonal decorating as I did when my daughter was small.  But this year I created a little point of interest above our dining room door.  I simply tacked up a horizontal branch, and then decorated it with a few handmade things:  some blown-out eggs that were then dyed, some paper bunnies, and a garland strung with paper beads, buttons, and silver balls.  Simple, but festive.