My brain continued in lockdown mode. There was no point in attempting any composition or painting. I had thought I might get by with the color exercises, but it seemed that this simple—ha!—task would require too much thought.
So since the weather was clearing up, I decided to toil in the earth. I went outside to the labyrinth.
[ed. note: you can skip to the next section if you like]
I began clearing the “planting area” of the patio. This patio is an area on the upper level of the back yard that I plan to level and pave over with stones. The side next to the fence will be a raised planting area with flowering plants. I’m not a big fan of flowers; they require a lot of care to look good, and as the Japanese might say, they “hot up the blood.” The labyrinth is all green. But the patio is Ginny’s area, a kind of a sitting/dining area that is not the labyrinth, and she likes flowers, so flowers it is.
Because of one unexpected expense or the other, we can’t afford the patio this summer, but I have plants that need to go into the ground: the cute little bat-faced cuphea plant known as “Tiny Winnie” (in honor of our late pet), and a couple of gardenia bushes given to us by our neighbor in the same vein. So I figure I will do the planting now and the paving later.
To that end, I mowed down the weeds in the area; transplanted a couple of irises that our former neighbor planted on the bank between our yards and which now sprout in the decline under the current neighbor’s fence; weeded the vinca major from the monkey grass; and sprayed Round-Up on the vinca major on the decline. Kill it, kill it all.
At some point I will have to figure out how to build the retaining wall for the planting area, but that’s for another day.
I also moved the remaining bricks from their perch over behind the firepit area over to the paving brick staging area. That counted as today’s exercise. Then I mowed down all the undergrowth in that area. It’s an area for which I have no defined landscaping plan, but now it’s clear at least, clear enough for me to start looking at it. Also, it reminded me that I need to install the bamboo fencing along that last stretch of the chainlink now that the diseased pecan tree has been taken down in the other neighbor’s yard. (Taken down, yes, but not removed. I don’t know what that’s about.)
All in all, a fun afternoon of sweat and toil.
All this is boring, I know, but it was therapeutic. I regained a sense of purpose and what our 19th century friends would call vital energy. It was fortuitous then that the mail brought the painting DVDs I had ordered a couple of weeks ago, and a book: Opening to Inner Light: the transformation of human nature and consciousness, by Ralph Metzner, ©1986.
I decided to stow the DVDs for the time being and plunged into Inner Light. This is a book that was referenced in a monograph I’m reading, and its author’s thesis is that “metaphor, symbols, and analogies are essential to describing [psychological transformation] and that there appear to be about a dozen or so key metaphors—from dream to awakening, from captivity to liberation, from fragmentation to wholeness—and symbols for tranformation that occur over and over in all major cultures and sacred traditions throughout the world.”
You can see the appeal.
Preface, introduction, first chapter/metaphor: “Awakening from the Dream of Reality.” And there was a quote from fourth-century Christian theologian Gregory of Nyssa:
All who are seriously concerned with the life of heaven must conquer sleep; they must be constantly awake in spirit, driving off, like a kind of drowsiness, the deceiver of souls and the destroyer of truth. By drowsiness and sleep here I am referring to those dream-like fantasies which are shaped by those submerged in the deceptions of this life: I mean public office, money, influence, external show, the seduction of pleasure, love of reputation and enjoyment, honor, and all the other things which, by some sort of illusion, are sought after vainly by those who live without reflection. For all those things will pass away with the flux of time; their existence is mere seeming; they are not what we think they are.
Well. This is not a new idea to me, of course (vid. Marcus Aurelius, Lao-Tzu, et al.), but it was a gift from the universe. It enabled me to rethink my state of funk and almost miraculously shed it. (Sorry to be so opaque about the issues which have been troubling me, but this is a blog, not a diary.) I was able to cook supper and build a fire for the evening and peacefully contemplate my perfect life. A good thing.