22 Oct
Posted in: Poems, Practice
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Thirteen Ways of Looking

I’ve started, again, to do a different sort of contemplative practice, one that I’ve done a couple of time during the last two years.

Here’s the practice: I go to the Art Museum, choose a piece of art (or rather, let a piece of art choose me), then I look at it….closely, carefully, contemplatively…then I write a couple of pages in my journal — whatever comes to mind — beginning with the phrase: “Now I see…”

And then I go back, a week or so later, and I do it again. And then again. And again. And again. Until I’ve done it thirteen times. (Thirteen being chosen with a nod to the enigmatic poem by Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.)

It’s amazing how differently I can see the “same” piece of art from one week to the next. Or maybe what’s so amazing is that I can still feel like it’s the same “me” that is seeing the same “it” again and again. When clearly neither of us are the same!

I’ve posted some of my previous experience with this practice here. And herehere, and here. Each of those posts were in response to looking at the well-known Guanyin statue we are SO fortunate to have right here in the St. Louis Art Museum.

But for this round of practice, I’ve chosen a subject that’s a bit more…hmm, what should I say….secular. It’s Max Beckman’s Carnival Mask, Green, Violet, and Pink, painted in 1950 (the year I was born).

I won’t post what I wrote in my journal just yet. Instead, I leave you with the first stanza of the afore-mentioned Wallace Stevens poem:

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

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