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Autumn: Visio Divina

Updated: Nov 2, 2022


watercolor painting of a circle

 

It's November.

The year 2022 is almost over. Where did all this time go? Looking back over the past growing season that marks these past months, the tomatoes didn't do as well as hoped, giving a few cherry tomatoes, before they succumbed to a virus that withered their plants into brown stalks. Meanwhile, the squash grew with mighty abundance, and there were times when I simply ran out of recipes for cucumbers. I'm certain the local wildlife on the micro farm had their fair share of cucumbers. The squirrels and rats feasted well. They even got a watermelon. So, like I said, everything in the squash family did well.


And now, the high summer garden has its much needed bit of a rest. I walk the quarter acre and listen to the plants and birds as they settle into their autumn resting places. Things sound different in November than they did in July. Meanwhile, other plants are perking up for their springtime--the cool weather means other growing things come alive. Despite the heat of this past summer that saw the near death of our avocado and fig tree during an impressive heat wave like we've never had, last winter's cabbage hung on through it all. I am amazed at it's fortitude. It's making a very hearty comeback as the night temperatures cool and the days have gotten steadily shorter. I have no idea why I planted it, because I simply cannot eat much of the stuff, and despite my best efforts to remove as much as I could in spring clean up, FOUR plants evaded my efforts and multiplied into eight new heads--beautiful dusty purple hues down in the lower garden.


Gardens teach us to pay attention and to listen.


 

This gives me a prime segue into other areas of my life that I've been paying close attention to---namely, I've returned to school with a full scholarship to complete my Masters in Divinity at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Over the past year or so, I've discerned a call to ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). You could say, the birds and seeds and errant cabbages have had their way with helping me figure out where my next steps are taking me. But really, my understanding of it is that I've been aware of the presence of the Divine in my life for a long time, via this deep connection to the land, it just wasn't quite so articulated until certain other events in my personal life helped me realize how I needed to better align all that I do in the world. There is a next step to take in regards to being of service, art, and healing.


So, here I am.

There's lots more that could be said, and probably will be said here in this space in the months to come. Suffice it to say that for the moment, I've become more aware of bringing intention into many activities in my day to day life.

Call it whatever feels comfortable to you--prayer, meditation, centering, presence....


I put intention into certain moments of my day and feel the presence of God. I may not have used the term God, or called it prayer before, but I'm re-learning how to again, and in a new way that I had before. Being non-binary, I gravitate toward gender-less names for the Divine, so the term "God" doesn't have a gender to me. But that's how I roll.


My two daily spiritual practices are walking through the garden, and doing a daily painting, or what is sometimes referred to as "Visio Divina." Some consider this as simply Sacred Looking--viewing sacred imagery as a form of spiritual practice. But, as a practicing artist, I wanted to take it further, and actively engage in the creative process as a form of sacred "practice." So the looking and doing are one and the same. You, the viewing, and the process become triune. In the process, you become closer to God via the experience. Some folx find that watching the video of making an Imperfect Circle is a form of Visio Divina itself too. That's cool, too. Sometimes we can't do the doing. We don't have the supplies, the time, or it's not physically possible to paint.



 


Visio Divina: Imperfect Circles

I stumbled upon a book called "Watercolor Is For Everyone" by Kateri Ewing

I bought it to cull ideas for possible curriculum/lessons to teach students. The meditative qualities of many of the author/artist's exercises appealed to me. I liked the spiritual bent of the lessons, but found them a little too restrictive and lacking in what I needed for my student learning outcomes. But, in one exercise Ewing demonstrates a process referred to as "imperfect circles." It reminded me of doing ensos in a Chinese brush painting course I took in graduate school. I ended up developing my own approach based upon Ewing's and realized that painting these circles had become a powerful catalyst for my own process, both creatively and spiritually.


So, I'm passing along the process to you now in a mini, three minute lesson. Here are some some things to consider prior to beginning:

  • Generally I do this painting process at the end of the day, before bed. It grounds me and helps me let go of whatever I'm carrying around of the day. Do it whenever you're able to, or when it feels most helpful to you. Maybe first thing in the morning-


  • Start by bringing awareness to yourself in relation to your surroundings, with the reminder that you can let yourself go of whatever your mind is yammering about as much as it's able. Total blank mind and we'd be dead, right? But, a gentle reminder that whatever is there can take a back seat to give you the gift of this process and moment.


  • Invite in the presence of God. However this feels right for you--say a casual hi, a formal prayer, light a candle, ask for their presence to be with you during this gift of creative process.


  • Prepare your art tools in this awareness! Fill a water cup, gather your paintbrush(es), wet your palette, squeeze tubes of paint onto palette, ready your paper. It is all part of the process, the preparation is as much a part of what you're doing, as the act of painting.


  • Follow along with the video below:



People Ask:

  • What paints do I use? How do I "know" which colors to use? Well, there's lots of information about color theory, but the simplest suggestion I have is to start with the first color that comes to mind and don't think about it. I hate pink and purple, and sometimes for the love of God--those are the colors that end up being the ones that I use. So, I go with it. There are no "wrong" colors.

  • I prefer strong colors and a very intense palette. Obviously! So, I do not dilute my colors much and use brands that are known for rich tones. If you're interest in this ability, or want paints that will last you a long time, I suggest these tubed paints: QoR, Holbein, Daniel Smith. For pan paints there's no beating Kuretake. These are mere suggestions and aren't monetized.

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