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Dharma Wheel

17x22¼ watercolor, 1988

spiritual trailblazers

the story of this painting



"The leaves are shaped like an immense rounded bowl with rippled edges.

The interior of the leaf is a curious translucent, bluish green, due to a waxen surface.

When drops of rain or dew collect in these jade bowls,

surface tension pulls up the water into crystalline globules.

And if the leaf sways, these jewel like drops roll back and forth like crystal beads.

When acres of those leaves rock together in a light breeze,

sheets of electric blue light sometimes flash across the field, refracted from the waxen surface."

Lorraine Kuck(1)

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The Story of this Painting

It's fall again and I'm caught in the sheer sensuality that pervades the atmosphere. The fog is laden with rich earth scent. The sun is both sharp and warm as it refracts from evergreen trees and golden red willow branches. We, like the animals, put on our warm coats and every being is busy getting ready to cozy in for the winter. I think of my grandmother quilting and my hands desire the tactile sensation of velvet, satin, bark, shells, pine needles and fur. I remember diving into piles of sun drenched autumn leaves, the ultimate bed to support my imagination.

How to capture the huge essence of autumn perfume in the tiny leaf that I paint. But that's always the question that arises in my mind when every cell in my body rushes forth to engage with nature. It can feel so small and insignificant to put this small leaf on paper, to capture this tiny nature spirit and try to infuse it with the whole of creation. I cherish the fact that this leaf is a part of my life, that it lives in kindness to all beings creating the air that we breathe, healing our hearts with its luminous greenness. It dances with the wind reminding me that there is joy in letting my breath carry me and that invisible forces sculpt my life. Humbly I approach this leaf and it becomes an altar before which to revere all life. Dharma gates are boundless, and the leaf becomes one. Yet even as I imbue the leaf with color, form and human qualities, I realize that it then truly becomes a leaf shield protecting me from or obscuring the essence of the leaf, the Tao, the true face of God, the Dharma (truth). A leaf, is a leaf, is a leaf, as a friend of mine, patron of the arts Gertrude Stein once said about a rose. So now the leaf becomes a leaf mandala. I'll sit at the center waiting for it to turn and transform me, and I'll stand next to it ready to turn the wheel.

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"Water Drawn Up Into the Head" (a passage)

I have sat here alone for two hours . . .

I have sat here alone for two years!

There is another being living inside me.

He is looking out of my eyes.

I hear him

in the wind through the bare trees.

That is why I am so glad in fall.

I walk out, throw my arms up, and am glad.

The thick leaves fall,

falling past their own trunk,

and the tree goes naked,

leaving only the other one.

Robert Bly(2)

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1. Keswick, Lorraine Kuck--quotation, The Chinese Garden, p. 184

2. Bly, Sleepers Joining Hands, p.65

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