Something blue

One day, during a long intensive, I decide to experiment with “being in the moment” in a more conscious way. Starting a new painting, I stand and sense what wants to come. I don’t grab at the first image, I let myself wait.

Finally, a red heart comes to me. I paint it. I watch and wait again. A torso surrounds the heart, with arms and hands. Paint them. The suspense is heating up. I feel as if I’m learning how to paint for the first time.

Then, after waiting, sensing some more… I see a head. I could have predicted a head, there was no mystery to the head, but this one came honestly, from deep in my intuition.

So now I had an upper body, a head, and a heart. An exhausting morning but a productive one, I think. Time for lunch.

Sometimes going out into the world after painting shows me more than anything else how deeply this process affects me. On this day, H. and T. and I walk down to the café on Taraval. I discover within half a block that they are in a very different state from mine. H. is in ecstasy mode and has to stop and exclaim over every little flower and leaf. She and T. start imitating the vegetation as we slowly make our way down the street. T. does a hilarious imitation of those sculpted “ball” trees, with her cheeks puffed out and her arms akimbo. But I can’t join in the fun. I feel as if I’m out of register—the color doesn’t line up with the outline.

At the café, as I tell them my revelation about waiting for the head to come on my painting, I start to laugh. It makes such a ridiculous suspense story: “There was a body … and then … wait for it … a head! I couldn’t believe it!” By now I’m laughing uncontrollably, and in the next moment I’m crying. How do other people stand their boring lunches with their small talk and tuna sandwiches?

It takes so little to step outside our outlines. The outlines seem so safe, we snuggle right into them, we cling to the safety of knowing we will be able to conduct ourselves with dignity inside a sandwich shop. And yet we keep going back to painting, because we yearn to be blasted out of the outline. This lunch experience gives me new insight into the Void: We picture it below us, ahead of us, a big yawning hole in the fabric of the known, like a pothole in the street that we might be able to get past if we pay attention … but instead, it’s everywhere, just one millimeter away. It hits me how we are just barely existing inside the vastness of the inexplicable emptiness—like particles of foam in the wave of life, so easily dissolved….

 So that was lunch.

When I go back to my painting, it seems I’ve lost the thread… that beautiful connection to my intuition. When I start to get flashes of a big blue penis, I swat the image away. It’s clearly ridiculous. What’s happening here?

I become so tired from my resistance that I go into the other room and lie down. I let myself drop down and out of consciousness. When I resurface, it seems something has changed. The blue penis is definitely there. Glowing. Huge. Repellent but insistent, it takes on a sense of inevitability. So I go back and paint it—a large blue penis coming up from the bottom of the painting, with a blue leg on either side. Then I paint the vagina that belongs to the head-heart-torso person. No more guesswork, no more “sensing,” it’s obvious.

My next painting starts with a large blue Being who has an enormous penis with a halo around it. Proving that there’s always something new to paint. The phrase “foreign presence” comes to me. Just that, no explanation.

So I feel reassured once again that something always comes, that resistance (the will) always deposits you in a cul de sac, giving you no choice but to turn around and find your way back to the flow. And I feel humbled that I can’t make a technique out of it, even if my “technique” is only to wait for my intuition to tell me what to do. The important thing is to keep painting. It’s all going on deep, deep in the unknown, which is, perhaps, the core of our being. Journeying to that core is a sometimes scary, always miraculous, and ultimately safe endeavor. As Henry Miller famously said, “Paint as you like and die happy.”



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