Friday, May 11, 2007

final post of the sand mandala. we arrived as Tenzin and others readied for the dismantling. the school wanted the dismantling to occur outside where there was more room for the students to see. it's a boy's school. I thought it was co-ed as girls were around. the table was carried thru the doorway and students gathered round. some of the faculty spoke a few enriching words then Tenzin gave a glimmer of Buddhist precepts. then he chanted a prayer and while ringing a bell he used a tool to cut the lines of the mandala then invited boys to take a brush and sweep the sand into the centre of the table. now, I don't want to get all exotic about this, the temptation is there, but a sense of the life of the work was very evident. in seeing it created, in how he approached it: you could think of it as a world. after the ceremony the sand was to be taken to the Concord River, the selfsame by which I was born. we went there with a woman and her son who we know. the sky pended imminent thumper. the site where Tenzin would release the sand was where we had encountered the winter solstice celebration on our wedding anniversary last year. a place that native Americans were said to hold dear, and where colonists pastured their cattle. Tenzin sat at the river's edge and chanted then took the jar of sand and, ringing a bell and chanting, poured it here and there into the water. rain fell as he did so. when he finished, the windows of heaven opened, with thunder and lightning. a release, I should say, that seemed quite a propos. pictures at 11.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

we made another visit to the sand mandala. when we arrived, no one was around. soon Tenzin scuttled in and got back to's a slow process requiring patience. people came in and out. several students addressed him familiarly. classes, no doubt, were brought to him. one faculty member, presumably, asked if she could ask a question. to wit: Tenzin what am I going to do without you. having become used to the sound of his scraping funnels, and his presence... yes yes yes, lovely. it wasn't too far from flirting. I guess he'd heard it before. he gave her sermon about accepting the moment and not grasping. he was a pretty funny fellow. yesterday Erin said, I have 3 questions for you, and he repeated oh three, as if it were amazing. chuckling as he said it. and he answered everything Erin threw at him. I asked about a repeated figure on the mandala, which was in every outer segment. he explained. a bit after, I noticed one of the segments lacked the symbol. I waited till a break in his work to point that out. he'd been talking about contentment, being able to die happy, so I said, when he began to fill in the lapse, now I can die happy. I admit to having an inclination towards buddhism, but very little practice. you think of Jim Behrle going all Holden Caulfield worrying about phonies, feh, that nervous reputation chatter. what's more interesting is being present and letting the moment. I mean, reading an agenda, that's a pretty slow beat to dance to. whereas what is poetry but reading a life of language in some present when one writes. the chuckle above that seems so pale and worthless. I say seem, I only mean how it strikes me.
okay so here's the cartoon that came to me. two people standing, dressed as firefighters. one holds some sort of contraption. a human head can be seen on the ground near a headless corpse. the head has a befuddled expression. the one without the contraption says to the other, 'I said the Jaws of Life, Jenkins, not the Jaws of Death'. great, huh? you will note the canny use of the name Jenkins, this being one of the official names to be used in cartoon punchlines. nota bene, in style this cartoon would be drawn Thurberesquely. like in his cartoon in which a fencer lops off his opponent's head, crying 'touche', the point is bloodlessness, and the feeling that severed heads can be plopped back into place. I woke in the middle of the night with this cartoon in my head.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ven. Tenzin Yignyen

Ven. Tenzin Yignyen, originally uploaded by allen_bramhall.



applying sand with funnel (Chakpu)

just saw a Tibetan sand mandala in production. the work of Ven. Tenzin Yignyen, who currently teaches at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. he was set up in a room at a starchy private school in Concord. a pissa nice art facility, as it happens. he was in a room with lots of paintings on the wall. plus some masks that resembled, to my mind, Tibetan deities. the work of students. I took pictures, which was okay with him, but Blogger wasn't into it, and they landed on my blog with a great deal of extra space, so I removed them and will try otherwise. his work began monday, setting up and chanting. a couple of thangka were on the wall and below that a table with unlit candles and glasses of saffron tea. offerings. Beth and Erin saw a much larger mandala done in Boise, which 6 monks worked on. it was a healing mandala. here the table was a bit larger than a card table, and the mandala itself maybe as much as 42" across. a compassion mandala. when we arrived a boy was sitting nearby playing guitar. other students came and went. the person from who we learned of the event, a homeschooler, arrived with her son. we stayed for about an hour. we'll try to make a visit tomorrow, and on friday, when it is dismantled. for an artist, the sense of impermanence is difficult. we all have glimmers that we lose, and you never know when something might get lost. or as the resident dog has done in periods of nervous distress (worries of abandonment), namely, eaten paintings by both Beth and me. there's a certain egolessness in art, in its creation, yet when the work is complete and free to bumble about the world, we tend to become more possessive. my work. so it goes. Stephen Vincent's mother seems to be facing these issues now, both holding on, at times, and letting go. that wish to stay, that urge to go.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Stephen Vincent faces the aging parent with equanimity, as this post attests. what more can I comment? in my own test, I was wearied by the daily grind of it, of the father who is the child to the man. one does what one can. I learned something larger than me in serving the father, or the moment. in serving the mother, differently and long ago. I cannot presume some right way, but I see language at overwhelming mercy of the imperative. that our words won't hold all we want, that life strides past. language isn't mastered.
I cycled to Great Meadows yesterday. it's a Nat'l Wildlife Preserve not far away. Thoreau mentions it on page 1 of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack. a dike runs down the middle of it, with water on both sides. 2 Canada geese looked like they might block my way but they sashayed away when I approached. I saw what I briefly thought might be white domestic geese up ahead but realized it was a pair of swans. one was in the water and the other on shore and both paid me no never mind. I got as close as 5' from them. seemed like I could get closer, but thoughts of their rows of razor sharp teeth, and of being just one more victim of murderous swans, I kept back. lots of pictures, tho. even some movies of some other swans in flight. they make an odd, raspy metallic sound as they fly. is it their wings or their breathing? as graceful as they are on water, they stumble with take offs and landings. they launch by running on the top of the water till they can pull themselves into the air. they glide into landings, stick their feet out and crash into the water. when I showed Beth some of the pix, she wanted to go over. I hadn't seen swans there before. we got back out there, with Erin, around 5, with the sun at a slant to the west across the water. Beth took lots of nice pictures and Erin picture and some excellent movies. all hail the digital camera. we saw a great blue heron in the distance. as we watched a crowd of barking geese hounded the bird and it flew grandly away. a goose on the path was intent on browse for food, so I got close. at the too close point it gave me quite a look, and I backed off.

, originally uploaded by allen_bramhall.

, originally uploaded by allen_bramhall.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

, originally uploaded by allen_bramhall.

Lowell canal

Lowell canal, originally uploaded by allen_bramhall.

Erin's spring formal last night, an effort to give homeschoolers a promish event. Erin was buffed up in his suit, looked great. he has a properly matched tie but chose to where one of mine, derived from a painting by Henri Rousseau. of course he couldn't possibly button the top button for fear of asphyxiation. no age restriction really to this event, as befits homeschooling philosophy, so it wasn't so valedictory as I imagine (never having prommed) most proms are. the parents seemed generally giddier than the kids. in essence the parents put the show on, cooking and decorating and what not. the theme was Mexican, which I didn't get until I realized that it was Cinco de Mayo. anyone ever hear the Coronas radio ad with the jingle that proclaimed "it's the drinko of Cinco de Mayo"? man, you've got to have a finger on the sensitive button to limn lines like that. the dj was playing fairly drippy Mexican music. not likely to inspire. we left before much blending began, and the dj did turn on the real music eventually. one boy wore a t-shirt and had his tie on backwards. another wore a tux and vampire teeth. there was one girl, expressly boho in jeans and I think beret, and a few goth types. a cool, drama club boy with long hair, he played Mercutio in the recent production, wore a dark green jacket, navy velour bellbottoms, a deep green polo shirt and shades. we picked Erin up at midnight, with "Stairway to Heaven" properly loud. I used to think it was a mighty song, but it doesn't hold up so well. Jimmy Page sucks as a soloist, for all his other genius, and squeal me no Robert Plant, I'm afraid. I don't know how many of these kids would go to their proms were they in public school. many, I believe, would be marginalized in the public school hierarchy. think of Janis Joplin going back to her high school ten years later, as Janis Joplin. the most common question by public school parents is about how homeschoolers socialize. in fact, homeschooling parents spend their time finding ways to get their kids into social situations. and not just dumping them off to sports teams, clubs and other organized configurations, but much more varied possibilities. there are fewer compartments into which homeschoolers are put, nerd type, cheerleader type, jock type, victim type. I didn't have a gruesome time in public school, but I didn't flourish either. in the 7 years in which Erin has been in my life I have been able to reexamine the experience. my last 2 years of high school, I was a serious if not adept writer, yet I had no sense that what I did was anything but extracurricular. the school's literary journal was for those who joined in. it was a club, and those imitative scrids that were published were part of a potlatch economy. it demands a step back to see the burden of the social complex on public school students, how so much of the school experience is about normalizing kids. well, I've orated enough. Erin's a unique, wonderful young man. we should honour the idiosyncrasies not try to erase them, which I believe is what homeschooling aims at.