Intuitive Construction (or how I came to live in a brightly-painted bird’s-nest)

The workshop prompt:  Describe your creative process in terms of the construction of a building / structure. 

I’m not what you’d call an architect.  I don’t use the protractor, level, or tape measure.  I eyeball it.  I drag one piece of wood up against another, squint a bit, call it good or not.  I rely on my gut and love a piece of warped wood for the floor if it warms the space.  I have one organic impression or another—a blooming bee balm flower, a head of garlic, a bird’s nest, a summer storm, but I never draw a blue print.  I just tilt my head and build from the inside out.

When the building is complete, I survey it—I tidy here, I push back a thing there, I switch this part for that part.  The finished product—somewhat a misnomer, truth be told, because I’m always rearranging the furniture or art objects—is not without reflection and evaluation, but the specifics aren’t often drawn and measured before I begin; I don’t pile bricks and lumber neatly or even always ensure that I have roughly enough material to finish a project.

There are certainly drawbacks to not having a plan—the door doesn’t shut quite right, the hallway is always a little drafty; sometimes I live without a roof in spots.  But I have found that the intuitive unwinding of the structures that I create from a pile of raw material I’ve collected over years often results in something rather elegant, something coherent beyond my own expectations.  This window echoes an interior passage way; the house itself spirals around its staircase and on up towards the sky.  Sometimes it’s startling: I find familiar jewels crammed into the gaps inherent to a process that rejects measurements.  It is a strange way to build a home, but I love discovering those unintentional stripes of mottled light.


Mindfulness and the Eucharist

I was paging through Peace is Every Step  to see if I could find a good reading for mindfulness with my program kids today, and I came across this, which is not perfect to share with them but which I love.

The practice of the Eucharist is a practice of awareness. When Jesus broke the bread and shared it with his disciples, he said, “Eat this. This is my flesh.” He knew that if his disciples would eat one piece of bread with mindfulness, they would have real life. In their daily lives, they may have eaten their bread in forgetfulness, so the bread was not bread at all; it was a ghost. In our daily lives, we may see the people around us, but if we lack mindfulness, they are just phantoms, not real people, and we ourselves are also ghosts. Practicing mindfulness enables us to become a real person. When we are a real person, we see real people around us, and life is present in all its richness. The practice of eating bread, a tangerine, or a cookie is the same.

When we breathe, when we are mindful, when we look deeply at our food, life becomes real at that very moment. To me, the rite of the Eucharist is a wonderful practice of mindfulness. In a drastic way, Jesus tried to wake up his disciples.

from Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life