Sweet Zen Emptiness

October 4, 2012

Dried Queen Anne’s lace at the Union Bay Natural Area in Seattle

I’ve just now discovered the poetry of David Budbill who for more than 40 years has lived a quiet life in the mountains of Vermont.  His poems are deceptively simple, spare, but pointed.  I have read three books of his poetry from our library, and I plan to learn more about his work by reading some of his essays, poems, and blog posts on his website (you can link to it here).

Some of his sensibilities are Thoreau-like, and you know how much I admire Thoreau!

Here’s one of Budbill’s poems for early fall:

After Labor Day
by David Budbill, from During the Warbler’s Spring Migration, While Feeling Sorry for Myself for Being Stuck Here, the Dooryard Birds Save Me from My Melancholy

Summer people gone.
Kids back in school.

Fall coming fast.
Leaves turning.

Birds going south.
World getting quiet.

Chinese melancholy.
Sweet Zen emptiness.

Here again this year.

Pen-and-ink sketch of Queen Anne’s Lace in my Moleskin journal

“This was a big theme, and one I could confidently do:  the infinite variety of nature. . . . Van Gogh was aware of that, when he said that he had lost the faith of his fathers, but somehow found another in the infinity of nature.  It’s endless.  You see more and more.  When we were first here, the hedgerows seemed a jumble to me.  But then I began to draw them in a little Japanese sketchbook that opened out like a concertina.  J-P was driving, and I’d say ‘Stop!’, and then draw different kinds of grass.  I filled the sketchbook in an hour and a half.  After that, I saw it all more clearly.  After I’d drawn the grasses, I started seeing them.”
— David Hockney, from A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford

Walking amidst a prairie of Queen Anne’s Lace at the Union Bay Natural Area in Seattle

When I was walking the loop trail of the Union Bay Natural Area amidst the Queen Anne’s Lace, I remembered an image of David Hockney’s drawings of hedgerow weeds that I had seen in A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford.  So I checked the book out from the library again to refresh my memory.

Pen and ink sketch of Queen Anne’s Lace inspired by David Hockney’s drawings of hedgerow weeds

Now that my watercolor exhibit is up, I plan to go back to sketching and painting in my Moleskin journals, and my first project was capturing the lacy beauty of the Queen Anne’s Lace I saw on my walk.  The variety was amazing.  When I looked more closely, I saw that the little dark spot on the top of the white florets was not an insect, but was one miniature purple flower.  I’d never noticed that before. (Thanks, Wil, for pointing that out!)

One purple floret atop the Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s lace pierced by a tall grass

The infinite variety of nature

A trail through the Union Bay Natural Area

The wet prairie of the Union Bay Natural Area is studded with Queen Anne’s lace.

The Union Bay Natural Area is a calming oasis in the heart of urban Seattle.  It’s adjacent to the Center for Urban Horticulture and the Elisabeth C. Miller Library.  The looped trail takes you past a wet prairie studded with Queen Anne’s lace and cornflower-blue chicory.  There’s a pond, the shoreline of Lake Washington, lily pads and cattails.

Meadow with Queen Anne’s lace

Looks like a trap for insects!

A fork in the trail

Looking up — a lacy silhouette

Cornflower-blue chicory lining the trail

A place for a peaceful ramble

Great blue heron on the pond










Union Bay Natural Area, Seattle

I took a short ramble through the Union Bay Natural Area on Lake Washington south of University Village.  There is a puddly loop trail through a wetland area.  It was pretty quiet on this winter afternoon.

These dried seed heads were the most predominant plant in the area.

Dried stalk


Stalk silhouettes

Back lit stalks

Backside view