Balancing Act: A Writer Wednesday Post

March 20th, 2013 | Posted by Irene in Essays - (14 Comments)

Eggquinox, all photos & text © Irene O’Garden 2013

To listen to this post, please click here:Balancing Act

Equinox. Light balances the dark today. Eggs balance on their oval ends.

Soon the massive green scroll will unroll over the black and white landscape. Colors will breed in irresistible bursts. Windows will rise; our hive will grow social. But for now, inner self and outer self equilibrate. One sits, one acts.

Which is more important, inner or outer?

I’ve continued the meditation practice I reinvigorated in January. (Since I am called outward a good deal, my intuition prompted me to go inward to maintain my balance.)  Watching thoughts fountain up in meditation is a bit like checking a Twitterstream or Facebook feed.  As thoughts flash naturally in our personal psyche, similar groups of reflections, questions, images, and amusements flash through the public psyche at this funny new intersection of public and private: social media.

Like thoughts, one can lose oneself in social media. But like thoughts, one can choose what to ignore, what to retain, what to share. And one stream often reflects the other. For instance, I’m seeing more about meditation these days in the culture at large, and in friends teaching mindfulness to children. ( Among them, Zoe Sameth in California has a great relaxation CD.)

Which is more important, public or private?


Is this



less important than this?




Some things are showier than others. Public can be showier than private. Spring is showier than winter. Blossoms are showier than bulbs. But all are necessary aspects of larger truths—the truth of human beings, the truth of the seasonal year, the truth of the flower. The truth of the whole. The metronome holding the motion.

In this enlightening of the year, may you enjoy an outward spring gratifying to your senses,  an inward spring deeply refreshing to your spirit, and a profound renewal of your whole self.


Is something awakening in you?

RetreatShirt, photos & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2013

I recorded this post, but too much visual data for it to upload–sorry!

The burning question: Did I get a lot of writing done on retreat? I did not return with a pack of monologues like the ones which turned into my play “Women On Fire”. Nor did I return with a 17-minute choral piece for four voices, as happened the year before last with “The Toast Cantata.”

Responding to deep inner urging, I made meditation, reflection, and trusting spontaneous impulse my top priorities for this retreat. It took effort to refrain from nagging myself about “production.” Midway through my second week the phrase on the t-shirt above hit me. At last I was able to laugh at myself. Of course, I journaled the whole time (but that’s not really writing is it?!)  But come the third week, formal writing roared through some longstanding obstacles and I came home with several finished pieces.

Now, as I ease back into my quotidian rhythms at home,  I want to say a word in praise of one of the great gifts of retreat: increasing awareness of subtlety.

I don’t usually share doodles, (after all, they are not “art,” are they? And we’re only supposed to display the most polished, finished, finagled-with stuff, aren’t we?) I hardly doodle at all any more. I used to doodle during phone calls and classroom lectures and board meetings. But now I’m out of the classroom, I’m sabbaticalling from boards and whenever I’m on the phone, I’m always doing something else: running errands, organizing sweaters, cooking dinner.

However, as my faithful readers know, I left with a fine supply of “retreat candy,” among which were a double box of fat oil pastels and “The Gift,” a book of poems by Hafiz. I found the following quote in that book,  immediately doodled it on a blank page, and decided I’d make it come true.


I decided that every night when I called my husband on my cellphone, I would sit down, put a blank sheet of paper and the box of colors in my lap, and give my hand and eye perfect liberty. In this early paisley,  you can see how happy they are to play.


A few nights later, I drew the bulb basket I had brought along. Note the detail gets a bit subtler here:

TulipsOnThe Way

But I did not want to have to hold to representation, so, the next night, back to bold abstraction:

Still somewhat representational.  This “window” below emerged from a conversation a few nights later. It was fun to photograph these and email them to John before I could think about them.



After several more days, I looked at the doodles in sequence. I saw that while I was finding more freedom, I was also putting things in their “places.”  It was happening internally as well. Each image had something going on in the center, which was also true for me. Suddenly, I began to tire of the bright fat colors, the thick strokes, the messy waxen flecks.  I remembered the colored pencils I brought, and switched to them for the next conversation. Immediately this quieter, more subtle Square Mandala appeared:




I began to see that even the paper itself had something to say. It wanted to be included in the event of the drawing. This final image revealed to me what the whole process is of subtle awareness is really about.


May you take the time to see yourself mirrored in your work (whatever form it takes) and may you relish your own subtlety.

How does it best reveal itself to you?


Many thanks to one and all for your kind comments and good wishes! More about my new book next week–

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