Sunday, November 18, 2012

zen and arts at Ancient Ground zendo

Kodoji  (Ancient Ground zendo) the Sydney Zen Centre’s rural retreat centre, is a beautiful place. If you don’t believe me, check out this link:
How could people not find something in this quiet valley to get their creative mojo working? On the weekend of 27th and 28th October, a fertile mixture of adults, children, four-leggeds and nationalities came together in the Macdonald valley to work with zen students, textile artist Gail McCall, ceramicist Janet Selby, and me. 

(transl. from Spanish)

Great white trunk
green tiny leaves
old tree 
Abigail Lutzen

Usually it is just dedicated time that is needed in this busy world to make a satisfying piece of art or a poem, but on our arts ‘treat’, there was also great food and good company: good conversation, jokes, ponderings, observations. This ‘treat’ was not catered, and in true self-reliant zen fashion, we all pitched in with dishes and foods that we had made at home. All the jobs were handled in the same way. The result? great generosity. The meals were fabulous. Over the weekend we had periods of zazen ( meditation) interspersed with hands-on art and poetry.

Gail McCall (see the first workshop, which involved decorating and then dyeing a silk scarf with onion skins and natural materials. The children were so excited to see what would emerge from the sopping wet bundle which came out of the dye vat.
Janet Selby ( see gave us all a lump of clay in the afternoon, and made the link to the fertile earth of the mind when it is quiet. Again, the kids were totally involved in making a small ceramic sculpture. Later in the night, Janet was moved by......

Full moon on the hillside
    shares a yarn
    with the forest

The next morning I took everybody on a ginko - a haiku walk. Gracie the dog was in her element! I led everyone back down the road, my plan being to take them deeper up the valley towards the national park.

Bad weeds!

but the bees
think otherwise

Helen Sanderson also wrote about the dandelions:

small suns waving
on grey day.

But first of all we made a detour to the creek. Some weeks ago while I was on the spring zen retreat, I wrote this:

These sandbanks tell
"A mighty river once!" -
little brown stream

Now, some weeks later and not much rain, the creek was even lower.
Helen wrote:

Creek wanders,
A tiny flow,
Rippling the sky.

I was interested to notice how slowly visual artists walk, on a ginko. They are looking at everything!

The mud that was left either side made for a fascinating record of what had passed by. I wrote:

A goanna

inscribed ‘S’
in the muddy creekbed

Imogen Coote, who is about nine years old, wrote this:

Dog trampling through the river
ruining animal tracks
having a fantastic time

And Gilly Coote wrote this:

black hole,

waggy tail -
look out, wombats!


Ants on wet mud
invisible tracks.

I finally managed to drag them away from the creek. We wandered up the road where the Blue Gums grow, with their "gran tronco blanco", to quote Abigail,  and the high sandbanks from a major flood a century ago. 

Janet wrote this and illustrated it:

Defiant bracken

  between the car tracks
     - old road

 I wrote:

Can I avoid
stepping on
tiny white daisies?


Children run
along bush track
with singing stick


Haiku has always co-existed with art. Buson, the great nineteenth century poet, was also a renowned painter. A 'haiga' is a painting that images haiku. These haiga above, were unsolicited - they arose naturally from the artists who came on the weekend.

And Helen has the last word: "It helps you see, to do this poetry".