Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 36

Today is the 36th day, making five weeks and one day of the Omer.  Love within Foundation / Lovingkindness in Bonding:  Chesed within Yesod.  We are starting the sixth week, all within the Sefirot of Yesod.  Rabbi Yael Levy says "Yesod call us to encounter the fire, the sacred sparks at the core of creation."  Rabbi Simon Jacobson says "Without bonding and nurturing we cannot realize and be ourselves.  Bonding channels all five previous qualities into a constructive bond, giving it the meaning "foundation.""

My watercolor fragment had the feeling for me of something firey, and kind of sexy creational bonding.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 35

Today is the 35th day, making five weeks of the Omer.  Flow of Gratitude / Nobility in Humility:  Shechina/Malchut within Hod.  Just as we were leaving Ghost Ranch in the Georgia O'Keefe country of Arizona, at the end of our Jewish Mindfulness retreat in 2011, there was this very clear rainbow.  It only lasted a few minutes, so I was glad my camera was handy.  I printed out the digital image on gampi silk tissue paper, which is why the edges are frayed and it doesn't look like a regular photograph. Gampi attaches with matte medium.

 I can't remember exactly, but I suspect I completed this page after getting home, or at least the left side of it.  Life sometimes demands a certain improvisation.  I was registered to go to an annual mental health forum this evening,  together with some friends.  I cancelled out because of not feeling well. I'll be in bed within minutes...  So it goes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 34

Today is the 34th day, making four weeks and six days of the Omer.  Foundation within Presence / Bonding in Humility:  Yesod within Hod.  The image on the left is from a photograph I took at dusk at Ghost Ranch, Arizona in 2011.  One of the great pleasures of the Mishkan Shalom Jewish Mindfulness program there was being able to have evening prayers out of doors, as the sun was setting over the mountains that were so familiar from Georgia O'Keefe's paintings.  The qualities of light she painted really are how it is.  This horizon was just a small hill facing the cabins we were staying in.  Georgia O'Keefe's home and studio were nearby.

This year:  a great day of making monoprints yesterday.  Christine Staughton is an inspiring teacher and I moved into new territory.  Today I led a SoulCollage® workshop, and tomorrow will deliver two pieces to be juried for an ARTISTS Against Hunger Exhibit. 

Rabbi Yael Levy chose Psalm 119:34 for this day of Yesod within Hod: "May I have the understanding to cherish the journey and care for it with all my heart."  Her translation makes it come alive for me.  Just this one line alone says it all.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 33

Today is the 33rd day, making four weeks and five days of the Omer - the holiday of Lag BaOmer. Presence within Presence / Humility within Humility:  Hod within Hod. I was in the Red Rock country of Arizona with Mishkan Shalom's Jewish Mindfulness program at this time in 2011.  I remember being disappointed that we couldn't make the customary bonfire for Lag BaOmer because of the drought.  The place was a tinderbox. 

I recently read Janice Steinberg's novel, Death in a City of Mystics.  It's great to have a murder mystery set during the Omer count in the Israeli city of Safed (Tsfat), a hotbed of Jewish mysticism for centuries.  It paints a vivid, almost Disneyesque, picture of the whole community's celebration of Lag B'Omer. 

I haven't had any glimpses about the special meaning of Lag B'Omer, but I definitely enjoyed reading Janice Steinberg's novel!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 32

Today is the 32nd day, making four weeks and four days of the Omer.  Endurance within Presence / Endurance in Humility:  Netzach within Hod.  In 2011 when I made this journal, I attended the 5-day retreat at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico:  Presence and Gratitude sponsored by Mishkan Shalom and Jewish Mindfulness at Mishkan, led by Rabbi Yael Levy. We had arrived there I think on the 31st day.  On the left is my feeble attempt to sketch Box Canyon when we had hiked up while suffering the effects of radical change of altitude.   

This year we passed up an art opening that several friends have work in and also an interesting musical Shabbat at a nearby synagogue, in favor of sitting with our neighbor on her patio over a bottle of wine and visiting.  It felt like a nice end to a day of planting flowers in containers on our deck, that was so satisfying.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 31

Today is the 31st day, making four weeks and three days of the Omer.   Beauty within Presence / Compassion within Humility:  Tiferet within Hod.

A day of gratitude for beauty!  It was a good day to get back to working in my studio.  I had been on brief hiatus because of SoulCollage® responsibilities.  I could feel the sense of breaking through the crust to get back into the flow, even though it hasn't been all that long.  It feels good to be back.  I'll have a day of making monoprints on Saturday which will reinforce the momentum. 

I was playing with acrylic inks in the fragment on the left.  I love their transparency and fluidity.  It felt right for expressing gratitude for beauty.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 30

Today is the 30th day, making four weeks and two days of the Omer.  Strength within Presence / Discipline in Humility:  Gevurah within Hod.

I just came from the second class in a series of three on Torah and Hasidism, taught by Eugene Sotirescu.  My head is spinning.  He connected a brief passage of Torah with a Hasidic Master's commentary on it, and then a passage from the Zohar regarding the same text.  The Zohar is the foundational work of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, only now finally getting a good English translation.  Oy vey as they say.  It was difficult, it was fun, it was opaque, it was a puzzle.

I found myself remembering that I had done a mixed media piece years ago using a partially squeezed tube of Zohar Kosher Toothpaste.  I must have either sold it or given it away - I don't have it anymore.  I came home tonight wanting more Zohar Kosher Toothpaste!  I googled it.  The company still exists, but it is British. And they make other products too. The prices were in pounds, and I can't imagine the shipping costs. I don't even remember where or how I got that tube of Zohar Kosher Toothpaste long ago.  Looks like it will be my only one...

Steel wool soap pads 
There is a reason that sometimes the Sefirot, the Tree of Life, is shown upside down with its roots in the sky!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 29

Today is the 29th day, making four weeks and one day of the Omer.  Today we start the week of Hod.  "Presence - Gratitude" according to Rabbi Yael Levy.  "Humility and Splendor" according to Rabbi Simon Jacobson.  I like all of it.  I would drive myself crazy if I consulted more than my two tried and true sources.  I'm already wondering if you have to be an obsessional nutcase to keep track of where we are on this journey.

Today is Love within Presence, or Lovingkindness in Humility.  

The writing listing things that make me happy around the frame of the page was done spontaneously and somewhat mindlessly.  The person who suggested the exercise said, "you never know when you might use it."  She was right.  I have used it in a variety of ways, this page of the Omer Journal being one of them.  Excerpts: "green sprouts in Spring, daffodils, snow melting, Stan Brakhage's movies, vivid colors, a vegetable garden with ripe corn and tomatoes, paint brushes well used drying by the sink, rocks, a beautifully set table..."   It seemed to be the right frame for Gratitude and Presence.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 28

Today is the 28th day, making four weeks of the Omer.  The Flow of Eternity:  Shechina within Netzach.  Or, Nobility in Endurance:  Malchut of Netzach.  

On the left page I quoted some of the day's thought from Rabbi Yael Levy's Counting the Omer, A Journey Through the Wilderness.  "We remember our grandparents, our great grandparents and all those whose actions have helped us to create our lives.  And we remind ourselves that we, right now, are shaping the world for those who will someday call us ancestors."

The image is a copy of a photo etching I did a number a years ago, that includes a picture of my grandmother, my mother's handwriting showing her mother's dates as 1874-1952, a footprint from my own birth certificate, and Hebrew fragments from the Kaddish, the mourner's prayer.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 27

Today is the 27th day, making three weeks and six days of the Omer.  Foundation within Eternity / Bonding within Endurance:  Yesod within Netzach.

Was sick today and missed a Yoga Research Society seminar I was registered for.  Fell asleep around 6:30, and woke up around midnight realizing I hadn't counted...  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 26

Today is the 26th day, making three weeks and five days of the Omer.  Gratitude within Eternity / Humility within Endurance:  Hod within Netzach.

Today I led a SoulCollage® workshop for a small group of my professional therapist colleagues, for which they will get 4 Continuing Education units.  I made a card too, along with them.  In response to the news of the week:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 25

Today is the 25th day, making three weeks and four days of the Omer. We are half-way to Sinai!  This is the third day I had to use only one side of the journal instead of both sides, because that finished Volume I.  Tomorrow starts the second journal that gets us all the way to Shavuot. Today is Netzach within Netzach.  I had written: "This Shabbat is double Netzachdik.  What does it mean?"  Rabbi Simon Jacobson says Endurance within Endurance.  Rabbi Yael Levy says Eternity within Eternity.

In the light of the recent terrorism in Boston, Rabbi Jacobson's words resonate:  "Examine the endurance aspect of endurance, its expression and intensity.  Everyone has willpower and determination.  We have the capacity to endure much more than we can imagine, and to prevail under the most trying of circumstances."  

It's good to know we can make it through, but it is not a world of endurance through trying circumstances that I wish for my grandchildren.  Perhaps because Endurance within Endurance falls on Shabbat this year, it is an opportunity to quietly go within and find the hope for a saner better world.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 24

Today is the 24th day, making three weeks and three days of the Omer.  Beauty that Endures:  Tiferet within Netzach.

Wow, does that ever speak to me as an artist.  Most of the art by Anonymous has endured.  It is not about ego.  It is about beauty.  For instance this bronze horse from late 2nd - 1st century B.C., by Anonymous:

Rabbi Yael Levy says for today:  "..It is our responsibility to search out, notice and create beauty.  And it is our responsibility to allow the beauty to inspire our empathy and encourage our acts of connection and love."  What a concept!  It is not just for our pleasure.  The enjoyment we feel in our heart chakra, Tifert, can radiate outward in connection with others.  Appreciating beauty can cause us to be more loving people!  Remind me again why the schools cut funding to arts education for children???

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 23

Today is the 23rd day, making three weeks and two days of the Omer.  Strength within Endurance:  Gevurah within Netzach.  My strength and endurance are ebbing, and if I'm going to have any tomorrow I need to hit the sack.  

This is one of the most amazing images of the sefirot:

I looked it up, and it is by Christian von Rosenroth, a German Christian Kabbalist, in his book Kabbala Denudata, published 1684.  Apparently the tradition of Christian Kabbalists who thought it all pointed to Jesus, with the three highest sefirot representing the Trinity goes pretty far back.  I just like the image and its design.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 22

Today is the 22nd day, making three weeks and one day of the Omer.  Today we start the week of Netzach. Rabbi Simon Jacobson calls it "Endurance, Fortitude, Ambition."  Rabbi Yael Levy calls it "Eternity, Vision, Endurance".  Endurance seems to be the common denominator. Rabbi Jacobson calls Chesed within Netzach  Lovingkindness in Endurance.  Rabbi Levy  interprets it as Love within Vision.  Take your pick.  It makes it more fun that there is so much room for interpretation.

Usually I favor Rabbi Levy's more contemporary view.  Rabbi Jacobson is more traditionally Orthodox. Today I appreciate what he says about Lovingkindness in Endurance:  "For anything to endure it needs to be loved... For endurance to be effective it needs to be caring and loving.  Endurance without love can be counterproductive.  Raw endurance can come across as harsh and aggressive... For endurance to be successful it needs a loving and caring attitude, it requires patience."

At the recent Dumpster Diver meeting, (Divers are a group of assemblage artists who make art from found objects, thrift shop and flea market treasures, and re-cycled stuff,) one of the Diver women said to me "What makes an artist a professional?  It is not an art school degree, or sales.  It is someone who just keeps making art and just keeps doing it no matter what."  Endurance!  Netzach energy needed for sure....with a loving, caring, and patient attitude!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 21

Today is the 21st day, making three weeks of the Omer.  It is both Shechina and Malchut within Tifert - both feminine and masculine.  Majesty within Beauty; Nobility within Compassion.  The photo at the left is from a Jewish Renewal retreat I went to several years ago, at a Baha'i center in the Northern California redwoods.  I stumbled into an abandoned apple orchard, and was glad I had my camera with me!

The Sefirot that is both Shechina and Malchut, feminine and masculine, feels especially meaningful to me this year.  I'm delighted to have joined the Dumpster Divers, http://www.dumpsterdivers.org/, a long-time group of quirky assemblage artists who are so far outside the box that there is no box.  Apparently twenty years ago it was mostly men.  Now there are significant numbers of women along with the men.  They are bending my mind and helping me grow, along with a lot of fun. 

I'm also happy that I will be part of a six person show in November at DaVinci Art Alliance, along with five men.  Not only am I the only woman, but also the only 3-D assemblage person.  The guys are painters and photographers.  One of them, Rex Sexton, is also an author.  His latest novel, Paper Moon, arrived in today's mail and I have started reading it.  

Above is his painting, also titled Paper Moon, which illustrates the book's cover.

In San Diego I was involved with the Women's Caucus for Art, as well as a Women Artists' Focus Group for many years.  They were instrumental in my ultimately moving to Philadelphia where I could devote more time to art and have real studio space.  Now that I am here I am still part of two women's artist groups, one that I was invited into, Women with a View, and one that I formed. At the same time I am grateful for the balance of Malchut with Shechinah energy in my new Philly life, between the Divers and the DaVinci Six!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 20

Today is the 20th day, making two weeks and six days of the Omer.  Connection within the Heart, Bonding in Compassion:  Yesod within Tiferet.  This is the first time I collaged a fragment of one of my watercolor studies into the visual journal. 

My original SoulCollage® group that has been meeting in my studio monthly for a year and a half, met this afternoon.   

There is something so special about this group, and the bonding and connection that deepens over time between all of us.  It is a privilege to be a SoulCollage® Facilitator.  www.soulcollage.com.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 19

Today is the 19th day, making two weeks and five days of the Omer.  Being within Beauty, Humility within Compassion:  Hod within Tifert.

The temporal arts are certainly about Being and Presence within Beauty!  We were at a wonderful chamber music concert this afternoon.  One of the most astonishing sounds was a Shostakovich Sonata for Viola and Piano, but it was played by viola and marimba!  I had never heard those two instruments playing together before, let alone Shostakovich.  It was otherworldly.  I had always thought of Shostakovich, who died in 1975,  as contemporary.  Today I realized that the real contemporary composer was the young student, Jeremy Rapaport-Stein, born in 1992.  He wrote an astonishing piece, el male rachamim, (the title of a Jewish prayer), for two violins, viola, and two cellos.

Prodigies did not end with Mozart.  I struggled for a few moments with feeling hopelessly old and out of it.  The humility part of Hod within Tiferet can be very helpful.  When I was present with the music I could not only get lost in its beauty, but feel joy at the continuity of new generations of brilliantly talented creative artists.  May he live longer than Mozart, and someday be an old man who mentors the twenty year old student.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 18

Today is the 18th day, making two weeks and four days of the Omer.  Endurance within the Heart, Persistence in Compassion:  Netzach within Tiferet.  "Another Netzachdik Shabbat."

I want to shut down the computer and spend some time with my sweetie on Shabbat.  I learned from Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg that it helps with unplugging to throw a cloth over the monitor on Shabbat.  I generally don't make it until sunset on Saturday, but at least on Friday night it is nice to be shut down and the computer put to bed under it's little blanket. 

This is part of the fabric with which I am about to cover my monitor.  It was once my Dad's, so it provides an immediate connection to my parents, and therefore in a sense previous generations.  Good night!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 17

Today is the 17th day, making two weeks and three days of the Omer.  Balance within the Heart, Compassion within Compassion:  Tifert within Tifert.

Today also marks one week that I have been on http://theartstack.com/susanrichardsar/.  I have 'stacked' 440 images,  55 of which I have been the first to add.  There seems be special grace and blessings during this Omer period, and ArtStack is part of that for me.  Tiferth within Tiferth makes me think about what beauty really is.  Sometimes it takes us by surprise.  In my "Works on Paper" collection in ArtStack, I stacked two etchings by Rembrandt, one of a man pissing, and the more rarely seen image of a woman pissing,  squatting against a tree while lifting her voluminous skirt. I thought I was pretty familiar with Rembrant's work, but hadn't seen these before, and wouldn't have without ArtStack. They aren't in any way salacious.  They are part of his massive detailed recording of  ordinary human life, in drawings, prints, and paintings. They are beautiful of course simply because of his use of line, and light and dark, as always, but there is a beauty in their truth, and indeed a certain tenderness in their intimacy.  He made beauty out of the mundane.

I'm appreciating a certain heightened sensitivity during this Omer counting period, and can appreciate why someone said recently that they missed it when it was over.

People have devised various ways of aiding counting.  The calendar page on the left side of my journal, from a 1982 calendar (thank you Michael Strassfeld), was a method for counting by coloring in day by day.  In 1982 apparently I only colored in the center, but charts like these implant the concept of counting.  After all, I did keep the calendar!

Here is a chart for 2013.  They apparently also designated Tifert as green, so day 17, today, shows as green on green.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 16

Today is the 16th day, making two weeks and two  days of the Omer.  Discernment within the Heart, Discipline in Compassion:  Gevurah within Tiferet.  On this page in my 2011 journal I wrote that I had been sick since the beginning of Omer counting, and was relieved to find out it was only allergies to the pollens of the beautiful Spring blossoms.  That was our first Spring in the new climate and we were still learning and adjusting.  I wrote: "Some days it felt like counting the Omer was all I could do - a structure for keeping going."  "Keep on keeping on."  "Gevurah helps."

I'm grateful that this year I know what comes with all the Spring beauty, and what to do about it!  And I'm especially grateful for the friends that I have made since moving from San Diego to Philly.  I spent today with a group called Wild Women, founded and led by Rabbi Rayzel Raphael, http://www.shechinah.com/.  It was an extra special gathering because we also celebrated her 60th birthday and were treated to some of her many original songs which have not yet been recorded. It was spirited, inspirational, funny, and fun.  By the time I got home I was too tired to go back out again to my Rosh Chodesh group, a group that celebrates the new moon that marks the beginning of a new Hebrew month.

Today the temperature shot up to 90 degrees, as if we suddenly moved into summer and almost skipped Spring.  Now it is pouring rain, so the new moon isn't even visible around here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 15

Today is the 15th day, making two weeks and one day of the Omer.  Tifereth, the large circle which I have designated as green, approximately in the heart chakra area, is the containing sefirot  for the next week, so all the journal backgrounds will be green.  Love within Beauty, Lovingkindness within Compassion:  Chesed within Tiferet.  This feels a little easier to me.  I'm happy to be moving into green.

In the first week, on the third day when it was Tiferet within Chesed,  I wrote what my grandson Noah said when he was eight years old:  "Everything is beautiful - even mud."  Now he is eleven, and has petted a California Grey Whale calf in San Ignacio Lagoon, BCS, Mexico, on Spring vacation. (The scoop was for making noise in the water to attract the calf, not for bonking him on the head.) 

I look forward to knowing how he will perceive and express Love within Beauty and Beauty within Love as a young man.