Photo: Chaco Canyon, USNPS. Art Direction: The Magazine of Yoga.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST JOANNA HELLER
Summer gets me gazing – more than usual. Not that it isn’t a favorite activity anyway but summer somehow allows extra permission. It’s hot. Why not slow down and breathe.
Gazing has no agenda. Breathe. And gaze. On or off the mat. Into the distance, out the window, or out the back door into the garden. Or into a fishbowl.
Patricia Hampl, in her memoir Blue Arabesque writes of her experience walking through The Art Institute of Chicago and being stopped by Henri Matisse’s Woman Before an Aquarium. Matisse called it “Femme et poissons rouges” – woman and red fish. It is a painting of a woman leaning on her arms at a small table and gazing into a fishbowl with goldfish. On the table where the woman rests her arms is a white sheet of paper waiting…
This woman was ahead of her time. She is not a passive object. Gazing is activity.
1911, Ekaterinoslav and 2011, Connecticut
Just now I am gazing into the next room where Jacob is jumping up and down on his trampoline. He is nine.
One hundred years ago my father was nine. And my mind goes back in time one hundred years, maybe to the day, to my father in Ekaterinoslav, Russia, the spring of 1911. His family left their home with a few clothes, some kitchen things, and their brass candlesticks, to board the ship Kursk bound for America, arriving in New York July 3, 1911.
A very different first nine years in a child’s life. His namesake, busy in the next room … blissfully unaware of uprisings and pogroms.
1979, New Mexico
In the summer of 1979 working on an archaeological dig in Farmington, New Mexico, day after hot dry day under the enormous blue skies of northern New Mexico we dug into the past.
Slowly hauling buckets and buckets of earth up and out of the pit, pouring the earth onto a screen, brushing and sliding it back and forth, carefully removing and identifying hints of past lives … pottery shards, worked stone, bone, anything that looked like a human might have had contact with it. Slow gazing work. Who knew what we might find.
One day I photographed Cassie photographing Mark photographing an Anasazi stone wall, all of us peering into the lives of the Anasazi, their kivas and their beautifully crafted stone work. Gone from that site for more than 1000 years. Gazing with friends into the past.
Gazing into a bowl of water or into the next room. At a one thousand year old stone wall or out into space. On or off the mat. It’s always a trip.
Gazing with no agenda. Breathe. You get what you get.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.