The calendar / fills me with gratitude / like a sutra.
In 2012, Dylan and I put together our first calendar, as a gift for family and friends. Each year since, we have made a calendar with different photographs and poetic excerpts, and it has become a special holiday tradition for us.
The following note was printed on the opening page of the 2012 calendar, and still holds quite true for our continued creation of the project:
During the 1850’s, Henry David Thoreau compiled over 700 pages of charts and notes, recording and organizing the natural phenomena in his beloved Concord Massachusetts. Calling it his “Kalendar,” Thoreau’s project shaped a self-conscious attempt to draw awareness to ceaseless seasonal change, as he diligently recorded weather patterns and the precise arrival of each bird, fruit, and flower. In fully absorbing his attentions, Thoreau’s calendar is perhaps best thought of as a form of meditation. Meditation begins with each day. Awareness begins with each moment. Calendars, in turn, allow us to shape our commitment to a daily practice. As Thoreau wrote, “Now or Never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”
In dividing a year, a calendar allows us a series of views of the seasons that shape our lives. Seasons fall into months, months fall into days, days fall into moments. Calendars allow us to notice and take note, and can remind us of more than agendas and plans that keep us busy and beholden. They also remind us of the days we do not mark; blank boxes recall the expanse of winter and the long evenings of summer. When we look at a calendar, we might see a parade of new opportunities to start fresh. And when we turn the page of each month, we might begin once more, ever restoring our commitment to beginnings, beginners, and beginning.
Calendars are by no means the only way to find eternity in each moment. For me, photography has served as a meditative practice that locates stillness amidst motion. The photographs that follow are of a simple and happy Buddha statue, and sometimes, of flowers. Thich Nhat Hanh said that if you want to bring a Buddha statue into your home, wait until you find a beautiful one, and if “you don’t find a beautiful Buddha, wait, and have a flower instead. A flower is a Buddha. A flower has a Buddha nature.” With their exquisite form and vibrant colors, flowers captivate us and radiate bliss. Shot with my old 35 mm camera, these photographs express the passion of life-long amateur. “Amateur” is a word derived from the Latin amatorem, which means lover, or the agent of love. The following images suggest a dozen of the thousand times I stopped, beholding the light on the statue. Or moments when I have taken time to offer it flowers, positioning it in the light, as a means of expressing love.
Like photography, poetry offers yet another vehicle of reverence and meditative awareness—of eternity in each moment. Haiku in particular is an art form intimate to the notion of impermanence—of the certainty of ceaseless change. The seasons were an essential subject of the great Haiku masters because the changing year’s ability to balance sameness and difference serves fluidly as a metaphor for a life of pure presence—for a life with open eyes. Basho reminds us to return “to the world of our daily experience to seek therin the truth of beauty. No matter what we may be doing at a given moment, we must not forget that it has a bearing upon our everlasting self, which is poetry.” When we read haiku we might notice if we smile or are brought to a moment of wordlessness. We might drink the season with the felt presence profound poetic images inspire. Haiku teaches us to open our hearts to the natural transformation happening around us, and to let it nurture us in color and wonder.
My major writing projects these past years have also divided themselves in twelve parts, using the months to unfold their narrative. In close relation, this calendar is an offering from the heart—an expression of my faith in creative work as a natural complement to intellectual endeavors. It is also a thank you to friends and family and teachers and students (and especially D.C.L.) who have long supported my work and my faith in overlapping projects and the mixing of mediums. In Nature,Emerson urges us to sense the swift resonance between intention and action, as states, “build, therefore, your own world.” He assures us how, “As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions.” Like Thoreau shows us, we must make our own calendars, shape our own seasons, and work to awaken to the world that is already waiting. Or, as Emily Dickinson (always) puts it best: “Let months dissolve in further Months—/And Years—exhale in Years—”.