The Idea Box

In a time when the world has tilted, when we are all worried about loved ones, small things can help…planting seeds in cups on a window sill in readiness for a garden, listening to music, reading a poem, meditating, or doing yoga.

Lately, I re-discovered drawing. Some of these little drawings are of ordinary objects I’ve collected: feathers, shells, spruce cones, and a few others are sketches made from photographs. I asked friends to send some photographs and they did. Often these drawings didn’t work. I’d get stuck trying to do something over and over again. I crumpled them up and kept going. The idea was simply to focus, to meditate on what I was doing.

One afternoon, I pulled out a book I loved when I was younger – The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation – by Frederick Franck (Vintage, 1973). Franck describes the method he used in an outdoor workshop, after distributing cheap sketchbooks and pencils to his participants. They were asked to find a place by themselves, leaving six feet of distance between one another, and then he asked them to open their eyes, letting them fall on whatever plant, tree, or patch of grass was in front of them. Next, they were asked to close their eyes for five minutes. After that time, he asked them to open their eyes, giving an instruction: “Focus on whatever you observed before – that plant or leaf or dandelion. Look it in the eye, until you feel it looking back at you. Feel that you are alone with it… You are no longer looking, you are SEEING.”

Drawing as meditation… It doesn’t matter if the drawing works or doesn’t work: what matters is just attempting it. A line can lead to another line, and occasionally, there is a sense of resting with the mind alert. What I noticed was that I forgot about the news, and began to feel a sense of equanimity, of calm.

Try it with a leaf or a shell or a feather. All that’s needed is paper and pencil. As Frederick Franck says, let yourself truly see the object in front of you “until you feel it looking back at you.”

8 thoughts on “The Idea Box

  1. Anne, what an invigorating piece. If it weren’t so
    late, and my eyes so
    blurry, I’d be at the table with my HB2
    right now. I’m so tired of working
    on Susan Howe. I think I’ve totally
    abandoned her and sailed off
    in uncertain weather. I’ve gone
    aground on John Donne
    and his island seems a long way from shore.
    But that’s social isolation.
    Drawing would be a lovely release.

    • Lovely, Jane. Yesterday I was thinking fondly of our plans for Ireland (about this time last year)…and then our wonderful walk there!
      Sending love,

  2. Today I have sunshine, radio2 hosted by the amazing Gemma New, a poetry assignment underway, a novel to finish, 4miles on the treadmill to accomplish, and will really try to find time to start a drawing. But most of all, I have friends like Anne Simpson who continue to inject inspiration into my life in isolation.

    • Four miles on the treadmill AND a novel to finish (are you the writer?)…along with a poetry assignment. You are busy, Dick!
      You are one of those who inspires me!

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