O213: Time Smiles Uncertainly

This invented landscape has about 10,000 layers of oil and wax on it. The foreground is almost carved out of the many layers underneath. In my recent paintings since I took up the brush again, this thicket of brush at the end of riverbed or marsh kept pushing itself to the fore. I lie awake sometimes at night and wonder what it signifies – everything points.


The final composition, shown above, was a somewhat serendipitous outcome that happened when I re-painted the initial sky I had put down. The first and final versions are shown side-by-side below:

When I painted this, my I kept wondering if this was the sort of landscape that old Hsieh Ling-Yun had wandered around in when we wrote this poem.

Written on the Lake While Returning 
   to Stone Cliff Hermitage
Dawn to dusk, the weather constantly changed,
mountain and lake sometimes vibrant in sunlight,

bright sunlight that made me so happy
I forgot about going home.

Leaving the valley at daybreak,
I didn't disembark until dusk,

forest and gorge clothed in shadows,
sunset clouds melting into evening mist.

There were water chestnuts and lotus,
cattails and rushes growing thickly.

I had to push them aside to pass southward,
happy to be reaching my home in the east.

When the mind stops striving, the world's 
     not a problem.
A constant heart won't waver from the truth.

A few words to nurture the living, to say:
follow this teaching if you want to know the way.

Hsieh Ling-Yun (385-433)
Translated by Sam Hamill, in
The Poetry of Zen, by Hamill and Seaton

Just reflect on that the simplicity, the availability of happiness in the mind that says: “bright sunlight that made me so happy I forgot about going home”.

I should end this post now. I should. But I am thinking of a future me stuck somewhere at an airport, re-reading this post. And I think I would like, sitting there secluded among so many people, to be able to read one of my favorite prose-pieces from the Book of Disquiet again:

And the light strikes things so perfectly and serenely, gilding them with sadly smiling reality! All the world’s mystery descends until I see it take shape as banality and street. Ah, the mysteries grazed by ordinary things in our very midst! To think that right here, on the sunlit surface of our complex human life, Time smiles uncertainly on the lips of Mystery! How modern all this sounds! And yet how ancient, how secret, how full of some other meaning besides the one we see glowing all around us!

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics) 


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