Letter Twelve: Final letter

Hawk, Hawk, Hawk … Hawk, Hawk,

I have never seen you without feeling wonder and affection as you soar in the open sky, perch on a limb among the trees, make your high-pitched call in the distance. As you saw in my video, I wanted to be like you and fly. Clearly I am not a hawk. But you can appreciate the effort; I had great fun!

Today I woke up to a beautiful spring morning, and I felt a sense of spaciousness as I might in the treetops of a forest. I remembered a year ago, you made a journey from your park in Queens to Manhattan. And as I heard the first siren of this day and then a mourning dove, I realized something and I felt a moment of loss. This was like the wax man touching the linden leaf and then letting it go—not because he wanted to, but because the energy of the leaf was to keep moving, against gravity, upward, and then the wax man felt the grace to let it be so.

Hawk, I’m releasing you, to be exactly as you are: daring, beautiful, and free. I cherish your happiness and freedom and the delight you bring. I am releasing you from the confines of my imagination into the openness of it and beyond.

You have taught me an important lesson. If I can have deep affection for you, Hawk, I have the potential to connect to all beings in my art practice, my spiritual practice and daily life. Thank you, Hawk. May your appearance always remain in flight and freedom, passing through trees and in the sky, and I will always speak to you.



I’m in my room, sitting on my stool, staring at the white wall in front of me. It reflects the muted light entering from the city.
The wax man sits on his bench on top of the pilaster. The dog stands next to him. Both are still.

In wax man walks, the wax man searches for Hawk and speaks with his movement. I created a system of armatures for the wax man. He is dependent upon them, and each movement is dependent on the one before it. Each movement is documented with photographs and then I used digital editing video software to create the animation.

Keeping the original brownish tint of lighting, and also keeping the armatures and wire exposed, reveals the relationship that the wax man has to his setting and space, the room I live and work in with my simple props and mechanisms. It keeps a certain integrity intact. It is a beginner’s effort as it is for the wax man learning to walk.

The second episode is called wax man and dog on bench. The wax man was waiting for Hawk to appear, but the dog appeared instead.

The last episode, wax man wants to fly, speaks of his efforts to shed an ordinary self and metaphorically become the hawk. The animation shows an external transformation of becoming a hawk, but it is a metaphor for an internal transformation.

These animations represent the beginning of a new art practice, which I will continue to work on. It is interesting how one can change depending on intention and with kind guidance and effort.

I hope you enjoy them.

  • Letter Eleven: wax man series, animations
  • Letter Eleven: wax man series, animations
  • Letter Eleven: wax man series, animations
  • Letter Eleven: wax man series, animations
  • Letter Eleven: wax man series, animations
  • Letter Eleven: wax man series, animations


Linden Leaf2 R

Linden leaf, digital photograph, 2013

I’m sitting on the bench now, dear Hawk. It is one of many under the linden trees facing the East River. It is morning and brightness laughs, sparkling and white on the gray rippled river. Brooklyn is across the river—a steeple, a water tank, brick warehouses, an old neighborhood changing very quickly. Farther up the river, modern residential towers stare across the water at Manhattan.

I see a reddish leaf on the brick. Is this you, dear Hawk? Have you arrived in disguise so the pigeons won’t know you? Hop up, dear Hawk. Yes, hop up, hop up. There is room on the bench for you. Don’t let the noise of the city frighten you, dear Hawk. Yes, the cars always whine and the sirens scream and horns pound their impatience into our ears. Look, Hawk, how many spaces there are. A person, then a space, a person, then a space. Has loneliness taken the space?

Ok, ok, Hawk, I will dismiss loneliness—goodbye, loneliness, get out out here, I’m tired of your companionship. No, there is nothing to argue about. No, I won’t miss you. No, I won’t be sorry.

Loneliness is leaving, Hawk, pretending to be so sad. Loneliness has climbed onto the railing, Hawk, next to a silent gray gull. Loneliness jumps and is drifting over the water toward an approaching barge stacked high with colorful storage containers. A rope ladder unravels down to the water’s edge. Loneliness grabs hold and climbs onto the gray, steel deck. Loneliness waves to me. I wave back. The horn whistles, and black smoke trails from the stack and disappears.

Ok, Hawk, is there room for you now? Yes, you answer. Ok, sit down.

Hawk, you have arrived. It’s so good to see you. The leaves on the limbs provide a nice shade. Hear them speak—this breezy day rustles them while their friends dance across the pavement.

Ok, Hawk, I will speak first. Thank you, dear Hawk, thank you, for coming. It’s an honor to share this refuge with you. We are mixed within the city din. Ting, ting, a slight lady walks past carrying a large plastic bag filled with empty cans.
She glances at us kindly.

I remember first seeing you, Hawk. You were not in the air or perched on a tree, but on the ground casting a stick into the air with a talon. It was such fun to watch. When it fell to the ground, you stomped on it. It was an amazing sight, and afterward on my walks I watched for you every day.

I saw you many times, as many hawks, in many hues of brown, red, and tan, soaring high in thermal winds, or racing under the canopy of trees, often perched on a limb of a sycamore tree, looking out over the wide expanse of fields in the park.

I am grateful to you, Hawk; you are a beloved appearance in my mind. When you are alone, I am alone. When you pace the ground, your wings tucked behind you, you appear as a man, perhaps in thought with hands chained behind your back—but you change in an instant, springing upward, opening and thrusting your wings downward, and you disappear into the sky. Your freedom is instinctual effort.

One more story, Hawk. I saw you across the road on a distant limb. It was the first time I had seen you with another.
And I thought: This is wonderful. I pointed my camera and you sprang upward one, two, three times flapping and glided silently toward me. Your wings were huge, and on each wing five forefeathers reached as you approached swiftly. At the last moment, you veered upward. I promise, dear Hawk, I felt the draft tumble over my head. You had never been so close to me.

Are you speaking now, Hawk?

Strong, sharp talons clinch the wooden bench slats. The beauty of your layered feathers is astounding. You rotate your majestic head and we stare into each other’s eyes, and your hooked beak and my nose almost touch. We blink our eyes in slow motion. How can this be? You are here. We turn our heads further around. We are in a canyon now. I’m listening carefully. There is a hush of breath, and your beak and jaw separate.

Hawk: I want you to know—yes, you too are a dear friend—that I have heard every word you have spoken to me…

Hawk: Yes, every one. And every time you have seen me, I have seen you. When you walk alone on the path, under the trees you love, the leaves chattering with the wind, I see you. My eyes are sharp and often I’m camouflaged by the trees. I see the slightest movement. And you are easy to spot. The top of your head shines in light. Ha, Ha, that is a joke.

Man on bench: Yes, thank you. You are funny.

Hawk: Do not feel alone. Many have attachments to hawks.

Man on bench: Yes. But I have never thought I was you, Hawk. But perhaps I am.

Hawk: What do think, now, if I may ask?

Man on bench: You are all the hawks I have seen, a feathered creature, so unlike a human. All the love of my life is with me now, gathered as moments, layered sparkling as the river in front of us—people, animals, sights, sounds, and momentary thoughts. They are with me now on this bench, and I can join you in flight leaving the bench empty under the linden tree shade.


Man on bench: Goodbye, dear Hawk.

A draft of wind sweeps Hawk away. The pigeons step toward me and the red leaf tumbles away. I close my eyes.

Hawk, Hawk, Dear Advisors, Dear G’s

The urban park is beautiful with trees and grass. On benches people are talking, reading, and eating lunch. A continuous flow of people pass on foot. And I wonder, Hawk, why do I think of you now? Why do you appear in silence?

Nothing ends
every blade of grass
remembering your sound

—Sonia Sanchez, from “10 haiku (for Max Roach)” [29]

In eyes opening, wax man is awakening to a realization of emptiness illuminated by the different colors. He realizes emptiness does not change the appearance of what one sees or the sound of what one hears, but the awareness connects directly to one’s mind with a different understanding. In Buddhist texts, emptiness is compared to waking up. [30]

In the second animation, eyes open, the wax man recalls his past and the aspirations that accompany them. Before making eyes open, I viewed an Ingmar Bergman film called Wild Strawberries. [31] It tells of a retired professor who relives childhood memories and expresses regret and awareness of his approaching death. He is offered comfort with appearances of a world he long ago desired. The present moment brings him grace.

I wish to express my gratitude to all my advisors and G’s for the encouragement to liberate myself and listen and watch closely to how others speak. My life has become deeper with meaning and understanding.



  • Letter Nine: eyes opening, eyes open, stop motion animations
  • Letter Nine: eyes opening, eyes open, stop motion animations
  • Letter Nine: eyes opening, eyes open, stop motion animations
  • Letter Nine: eyes opening, eyes open, stop motion animations
  • Letter Nine: eyes opening, eyes open, stop motion animations
  • Letter Nine: eyes opening, eyes open, stop motion animations


Dear Reader,

I would like to share readings from Buddha’s Smile, a book written by Jacquelynn Baas that examines other Western artists who have been influenced by Buddhist philosophy and its precepts.

In The Circle R

Wassily Kandinsky, In the Circle, 1911-­13 watercolor, gouache and ink

In Buddha’s Smile, Baas refers to Kandinsky’s painting In the Circle, 1911-­13 as an example of the artist’s strong feelings for the inner force of the circle and as a source of living wonder. [8] The full moon comes to mind.

Baas considered other works of Wassily Kandinsky, who believed that art is the creation of reality and that a true work of art leads to a full inner life. He was interested in the Theosophical movement of the time, which was a religion based on the scientific knowledge of things spiritual; it offered solutions of how to reanimate the material world with spiritual qualities. [9]

Baas makes an interesting comparison between Kandinsky and Marcel Duchamp that helps me understand each artist: “For Kandinsky, art was form—a creation with life of its own that connects artist and viewer—for Duchamp art was emptiness, a space wherein the viewer ‘brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.’” [10]

Kandinsky believed that nature and art are a non­dualism:

Everything showed me its face, its innermost being, its secret soul, inclined more often to silence than speech—not only the stars, moon, woods, flowers of which poets sing, but even a cigar butt lying in the ashtray, a patient white trouser­button looking up at you from a puddle in the street, a submissive piece of bark carried through the long grass in the ant’s strong jaws to some uncertain and vital end…. Likewise, every still and moving point became for me just as alive and revealed to me its soul. [11]

Baas wrote of Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel (1964):

In Buddha’s first sermon the wheel stands, among other things, for the newly enlightened Buddha’s determination to turn the wheel of truth in this world. In early Buddhist art, the Wheel of Dharma is represented by a wheel placed on a throne or pillar. Duchamp enthroned his wheel on a pillarlike studio stool, signifying the commencement of Duchamp’s new path in art as well as his teachings. [12]

Duchamp had a more casual explanation, though:

The bicycle wheel … had more to do with the idea of chance. In a way, letting things go by themselves and having a sort of created atmosphere in a studio, an apartment where you live, probably, to help the ideas come out of your head. To see that wheel turning was very soothing, very comforting, a sort of opening of avenues on other things than material life of every day. [13]

Another book I enjoyed was Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art, edited by Jacquelynn Baas, which contains a collection of essays written by artists on the relationship between Buddhist practice and art practice. Arthur Danto, an art critic, in his essay “Upper West Side Buddhism,” discusses John Cage’s use of Zen precepts in his music. The musician sought to hear the music in everyday life noises. He tries to overcome the differences between musical sounds and mere noise. Danto refers to Cage’s musical composition 4’ 33”.

It was first performed in Maverick Hall in Woodstock, N.Y. in 1952 by David Tudor. It is three movements, though the keyboard is never touched. The pianist closes the keyboard and the piece begins. At the end of the first movement, he opens it. To mark the second movement, he closes it once more, reading the score to determine for how long the movement lasts. He does not strike a single note throughout the piece’s duration. [14]

Cage was influenced earlier in his career by professor D.T. Suzuki, who lectured on Zen Buddhism at Columbia University. “What Cage was bent upon was erasing the difference between music, understood as intended sounds and the irrepressible racket of life. The ‘music’ in this extended sense consisted of all the sounds that fill the auditorium for four minutes and thirty­three seconds of the performance’s duration.” [15]

These readings were encouraging, placing my interest in Buddhism in a larger context with artwork I was familiar with and have long admired. I have thought about Cage’s music when listening to city sounds coming in my window.

In Eleanor Rosch’s essay “If You Depict a Bird, Give It Space to Fly,” she presents a fairly optimistic view that there is another, more open and less encumbered way to experience daily life than the one most of us have, the one burdened with our egoic hopes, dreams, pasts, presents, and futures.

She believes very much in the power of meditation and art as a means to help expand our minds to a greater, panoramic view of our world. In fact, she argues that “meditation and art can illuminate each other and can do so beyond particular styles and practices.” [16] Her basic claim is that the arts have a special avenue for “showing people themselves in a mirror which reflects their ordinary self­image in light of these broader and deeper intuitions.” [17] She feels this can be done because the arts are created and appreciated by the thinking mind, but she also is aware of Buddhist traditions that warn that the activity of the mind and sense “are inherently doubled­faced. They arise from and can point back either to their surface, confused, habitual mode of operation.” [18]

Despite this, Rosch makes the following claim: “humans have a mode of knowing themselves and their world that is more basic and deeply rooted than the habits of mind that we usually deploy, and art, at its best, can provide glimpses.” [19] I have found the combination of artwork and meditation to be a good thing. I am more mindful of passing thoughts as I work. If I’m angry, for example, I can expect that anger somehow to be expressed in the work and perhaps it is not my intention to express anger. I think this practice helps me focus on my intentions without the heaviness that intentions may be dogmatic. Artwork and meditation can work well together.

“There is the basic mode of knowing that knows the knowing self, mind, body, and environment as one panoramic whole. Don’t we have glimpses of this independent of any formal meditation experience?” [20]

This is an interesting question. Rosch suggests looking at Chinese landscape paintings or the brush strokes of a Van Gogh painting. Also, perhaps experiencing the energy of movement through Chi. These are ways for one to feel part of nature. Interestingly, she quotes a wonderful passage from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms as an example of narrative using its style and quality of description to depict nature, humanity, and energy. Rosch wonders if the mind that comprehends scientific knowing is different from the mind knowing art.

For many the scientific version seems to lead the intellect to the conclusion that we are mere products of nature and as such without value or meaning; that is, it tends to cut off the rest of knowing that goes with this type of intuition…. My claim is that when the underlying human knowledge of oneself as part of nature is evoked, it is anything but nihilistic. [21]

She then uses the following poem by Mary Oliver as an example:

“Wild Geese”

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through desert, repenting.
You only have to let the animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely.
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting— over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

This poem speaks eloquently to Rosch’s previous idea that when the knowledge of oneself is a part of nature, a richness abounds. The poem says to me that the world will offer its movement, life, and beauty to your imagination and a place within its family if you engage in it fully with nature and others.

Rosch continues to speak about humanity: “Who has not been deeply moved, perhaps life changingly, by visual images or narratives of other humans, even fictional ones? But we don’t really need a contemplative exercise to get in touch with feelings of connection to other humans, do we?” [22] Then she refers to a portion of another poem to contemplate by Vietnamese monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh.

“Please Call Me by My True Names”

Look deeply: I arrive in every second…

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond,
and I am also the grass­snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons in Uganda…

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughs
at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes as though we are all one, touching, impacting all living beings, and that our joys and pains are all one when we look and see clearly, and this interrelatedness can lead to compassion.

In another resource I read the transcript of an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh in which he discusses engaging Buddhism in everyday life. I have been moving deeper into the practice and though I know the actual practice emphasizes interconnectedness with all aspects of life and existence as perceived by the mind, it is tricky navigating through the concepts of emptiness, impermanence, and selflessness without becoming self­absorbed. I have sometimes become lost, not seeing a clear path of engaging the practice in a social manner. Thich Nhat Hanh speaks very clearly:

Buddhism has to do with your daily life, with your suffering and with the suffering of the people around you. You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time…. Meditation is about awareness of what is going on, not only in your body and in your feelings, but all around you. [23]

I was very appreciative of this reading.

Rosch continues to write about timelessness and how consciousness tends to be obsessed and controlled by time: the past, the future, memories, reliving of defeats, replays of emotion—good and bad—plans, hopes, worries, fears, boredom. But there is another way of knowing time. She then asks her readers to recall a moment in which time seemed to stand still, perhaps a near­death experience, or the feeling of love at first sight, or something you saw or experienced. [24] I had a memory. I had been walking up a high hill in the park last fall in the evening and my eyes were tilted toward the sky, and suddenly my whole life flashed within a moment of time. It was as though every moment experienced in my life had appeared and then disappeared. It was so startling and powerful that I stopped and waited for a few minutes. How could a life be seen in a moment or a flash of time? Rosch refers to a Tibetan Buddhist concept of knowing time in which life seems complete in a single moment; it is called the fourth moment. “All phenomena are completely new and fresh, absolutely unique and entirely free from all concepts of past, present and future, as if experienced in another dimension of time.” [25]

Rosch gives examples of how this fourth moment might be seen in the arts such as a climax, or the perfection of form of an entire piece—music may have narrative­like climaxes. But she continues to ask: How can any experience be free of time when I can plainly see that the present experience is the result of who I am, my beliefs, feelings, expectations, and all my past experiences? Isn’t everything conscious filtered through our concepts, categories, and cognitive representations? This may be true, but it applies only to the content of the present experience. [26] “According to Buddhist teaching, while all the interdependent past can be causally gathered into the microcosm of the moment, of the present experience, that does not mean that the basic mode of apprehending the present moment is somehow filtered in distorted or abstractly representationally.” [27]

Finally, Rosch speaks about the idea of what is unconditional, how we sometimes bemoan that we didn’t get unconditional love growing up. But the Buddhist idea is that our fundamental state, what we are right now, is not any particular or special experience. “That is one reason mindfulness, rather than withdrawal from the senses, is a basic practice of Buddhism. When we realize this wisdom, it is said that the phenomenal world, including the false sense of self and all the other problems and degradations of life, are experienced as the timeless perfect radiance of that basic ground.” [28]

I enjoyed Rosch’s article. I particularly liked the poems and passages of fiction illustrating the human connection to nature. Her writing on “timelessness” was of interest to me as well. How I wish I could view each moment as fresh and unique, free of the past and future.



O Guru Buddha Shakyamuni, please listen to what I now say.
From this time forth until I attain enlightenment
I go for refuge to the Three Jewels—Buddha, Dharma and Sangha—
And confess individually all negative actions.

There are six perfections of practice to train or develop this heart, and first is the perfection of giving. The following explanation is taken directly from A Handbook for the Daily Practice of Bodhisattva Vows and Tantric Vows.

In the practice of giving you should practice:

giving material help to those in poverty, including giving food to animals;

giving practical help to those sick or physically weak;

giving protection by always trying to save others’ lives, including those of insects;

giving love, learning to cherish all living beings by always believing that their happiness and freedom are important; and

_giving Dharma, helping solve the problems of anger, attachment and ignorance by giving Dharma teachings and meaningful advice. _ [6]

The following parable tells of Asanga, a Buddhist practitioner who had a great wish to understand the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. Asanga tried to find a teacher to help him, but he could not—so he decided to attain a direct vision of Maitreya, who had received these teachings directly from Buddha Shakyamuni. To do so, Asanga went into a cave for three years and meditated and concentrated on a visualization of Maitreya, but it did not occur. Discouraged, he stopped his retreat.

Returning home, he met a man on the side of the road who was working hard to cut a block of iron with a peacock feather. Asanga asked the man, “How can you cut this iron block with a peacock feather?” and the man answered, “With effort we can accomplish anything. Look, I have already made some progress.”

“What are you going to do after cutting this iron block?” asked Asanga.

“Nothing, just leave it here,” answered the man.

And Asanga thought, “If this man can work so very hard for something that has no meaning, surely I can work continually in my retreat for something that will bring great meaning to myself and countless human beings.” [7]

The man cutting the block with the peacock feather was in fact emanated by Maitreya for Asanga’s benefit.



Hawk, your flight motion is absolutely beautiful.

I’m sitting in my studio looking out, a thousand windows reflecting the morning sun. I imagine the thermal winds lifting you as the morning warms, and I watch you soar above the city.

One city hawk winged
into flight
fan of the sky.
—Gale Jackson [5]

I realize there are many ways to express voice, beauty, and grace—but how can I communicate deeply unless I understand what places you in the sky? Your skeletal and anatomical aspects will help clarify the essence of your nature as I compose an animation titled hawk’s journey.

I was inspired by Audubon’s original drawings and paintings at the New York City Museum, the ornithological exhibits at the Museum of Natural History, and Leonardo da Vinci’s flight study sketches. I watched many online films on birds’ flight and continued to observe Hawk on my daily walks in the park.

I imagine Hawk flying over the Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan, north to Central Park and Washington Heights, and then back home again to Queens. hawk’s journey speaks of the dreamlike quality of my life.



  • Letter Five: hawk’s journey, stop motion animation
  • Letter Five: hawk’s journey, stop motion animation
  • Letter Five: hawk’s journey, stop motion animation
  • Letter Five: hawk’s journey, stop motion animation
  • Letter Five: hawk’s journey, stop motion animation
  • Letter Five: hawk’s journey, stop motion animation
  • Letter Five: hawk’s journey, stop motion animation
  • Letter Five: hawk’s journey, stop motion animation
  • Letter Five: hawk’s journey, stop motion animation
  • Letter Five: hawk’s journey, stop motion animation

Goodbye winter, hello spring!

As I walk up the steps from the subway, I see blue sky and white clouds passing. Yesterday I was in the park. Flowers were blooming, and I saw a stream cascading over the rocks. Not long ago, winter was here with snow and ice. Nature teaches us that we are all connected to change.

I would like to share a time-lapse video titled city hawk. I built the wax sculpture upward without reinforcement, and I imagined Hawk liberating the wax sculpture from its static properties. At its peak, the piece began to tilt and then succumbed to the forces of gravity, descending moment to moment as Hawk might have, returning from the sky.

As Hawk descends, I speak to Hawk and city sounds, sirens, car horns, and construction noise enter through my window. I wonder why I speak to Hawk, a creature of the sky, as I work in my small city room. I have no answer as Hawk’s fragile impermanence settles in repose.

I am grateful to my advisor and the school community for encouraging an expansive view of art practice that transports me from dogmatic familiarity with static sculpture to visual narratives and experience. Please watch as I speak to Hawk.



  • Letter Four: city hawk, time-lapse video
  • Letter Four: city hawk, time-lapse video
  • Letter Four: city hawk, time-lapse video
  • Letter Four: city hawk, time-lapse video
  • Letter Four: city hawk, time-lapse video
  • Letter Four: city hawk, time-lapse video

Hawk, Hawk, Hawk, Teacher, Advisor, Hawk,

I’m sitting on a bench and the river is passing. My advisor has inquired about the relationship between my spiritual practice and art practice. I have thought deeply about them.

Might Buddhist practice distance you from the world as well as bring you into a meaningful encounter with it.

I have felt isolated the past ten years living alone in the city. How can I be surrounded by eight million people yet know so few? I have come to understand I am very much a part of the city, and many have feelings of isolation.

Buddhism has helped me connect to the world. My world is my mind, and I can train to be open and joyful. I can feel sincere affection for hundreds of people I see walking on the sidewalk. The mind can speak without uttering a word. Every day I can give simple things such as advice, directions, or food, or I can help a friend.

This city is my community. When I walk the streets, draw, photograph, write, or make art in my room, I engage the city. Meditation is a practice of letting go and acceptance, and it helps me thrive in this city. My art practice is similar. It gives me the space to function within.

Does your art practice invite your contemplative self into conversation and communion with the ordinary and quotidian places of meaning around you?

For many years I have wandered in the city visiting ordinary places that have become special. Along the East River, there is a sitting area under linden trees where I have spoken to Hawk. Another is located in Washington Heights under large, old, sycamore trees facing the Hudson River and the Palisades. I carry my drawing book and my mind roams freely, silently observing the trees, the water, the sky, the birds. My room is my fondest place. I commune with the city there; the skyscrapers, reflecting and illuminated windows, the echoes of voices, the sirens and horns, and the subtle hues of natural light pouring into my window. The work I do there is a communion with space, a conversation with it, composed in all the imaginary work taking place.

How is your art similar to or different from your meditation practice? Does it open opportunities to be present, awake, engaged in your environment? Does it transport you? Do you hope it shares with others some of the balance or peace, or connect you through art making and meditation? Is it daily? Does it bring you a way to explore and express your spiritual ideas of interbeing, stillness, and communion with creatures?

I have been practicing meditation for three years, and I have a daily practice in the early morning. It feels different from my art practice completing tasks at hand. Before I began studying Buddhism, I did not believe my art had to benefit anyone beyond myself. You wonder: Is it not enough that it helps me alone? I would answer: No, it is not enough.

Meditation is a process of clearing my mind and transcending to another place, another world. I take many short meditation breaks when writing because my concentration is short. When I am engaged in visual work I am not easily distracted and can work in the middle of Grand Central, for example, and feel as though I’m transcending.

The spiritual aspect of my meditation has given strength to many ideas: trying never to hurt others, trying to understanding different points of view and actions, really enjoying people, nature, and speaking with animals. These are not aspects I am trying to promote in my artwork; instead I am trying to strengthen them in the consciousness of my daily life.

Buddhism and meditation have deepened my relationship with Hawk, freeing my consciousness and metaphorically joining Hawk in flight. There is a similarity in images passing unobstructed in my mind while meditating and experimenting in my art. While meditating if I experience a stillness, I might imagine a communion with all the buddhas emanating as a light or a color. I often experience a joy associated with this practice. It is a communion that parallels my relationship with Hawk, which I articulated in my imaginary pieces and current stop motion films.

My artwork has evolved. Stop motion is a middle path between my shapes being permanent and changing. For me, this is similar to the mahayana answer to phenomena existing and at the same time not existing. I am creating forms, but changing them is part of the process for creating the visual narratives. I move the wax in my hands and it becomes a flower. I give the flower to a friend.

My meditation practice and art practice share the idea of all phenomena being mere appearances to my mind. I see hundreds of faces daily; in a moment they are gone. The drawings, sculptures, and writings have been appearances to my mind associated with personal feelings and emotions that I have recorded or represented. My loneliness is transforming into an appreciation of solitude. It is a gift; time to enter a wonderful art program, time enter a spiritual community, time to see others; time to deepen my art practice. Solitude brings others into my life.

The addition of music is a mysterious aspect of my current work. It is similar to my meditation practice, moving me to another place of being, and it closely identifies the feelings I am experiencing at the moment.

_This getting lost—losing time, being out of self (and away from our normal selfconsciousness)—is, for me at least, a profound characteristic of art practice. It is almost trance-inducing, and one does not think of oneself—and often does
not think at all. Rather one is absorbed, lost, and completely in the process of what one is doing or making._

Discarding the ego does seem to place one in the position of having concern for others, and it might be of benefit as the artist transforms into a selfless individual living among many more than his own number, one. Yes, I agree with you.

Do you think, like Kandinsky, that a good soul makes good art? That art-making might make one a better person?
Do you feel resonance with any of these artists in Buddhist or creative terms? Can you see echoes of your thinking or spiritual quest in these pages?

Does a good soul produce good art? I’m not sure. I believe we all have a good soul, but sometimes it hides under our mental delusions. I enjoy looking at the art of others without judging if it is good or not. I love watching people make art. Does it make you a good person, making art? Using one’s imagination can bring out the pureness and wonder within us all.

I feel resonance with Odilon Redon (1840­1916). His early drawings and paintings were dark in nature and inspired by his own misery and engagement with Romantic literature. But at age sixty­four, he painted Buddha in His Youth, a beautiful, colorful painting depicting Buddha’s first sitting. It was autobiographical; the tree is a memory of his childhood home and the painting describes his own transformation that enabled him to come to terms with his painful childhood. [4] I did not have painful childhood; but like most individuals, I have had difficulties shrouded by darkness. I am preparing to add bright colors to my films.



Hawk, Hawk, Hawk, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, Hawk,

Hawk, let me speak of Mahayana Buddhism.

Dharma is the path and Sangha, a spiritual community. Buddha’s teachings describe his path to inner peace, happiness, and enlightenment. Each follower has his or her own personal experience traveling on this path. In the Mahayana tradition, one promises to help all living beings. This intent is called Bonichettia, a spontaneous wish to benefit others.

May I realize emptiness and help others. The Mahayana Buddhist concept of “emptiness” infers phenomena is not separate or independent in any way from the mind perceiving it. My art practice and graduate study focuses on understanding this Buddhist precept. Imagination is encouraged, and I love the many verses and images the teachers employ to illustrate emptiness. The following is one comparing emptiness to the the work of flight.

Just as eagles soar through the vast expanse of the sky without meeting any obstructions, needing only minimal effort to maintain their flight, so advanced meditators concentrate on emptiness for a long time with little effort. Their minds soar through space like emptiness, undistracted by any other phenomenon. [1]

The Kadampa Buddhist Center in Chelsea is beautiful and peaceful. In meditation the master teacher sits on a higher platform facing us; behind him are large statues of the Buddhas and a beautiful sky-blue background. I watch images pass through my mind, breathing out negative feelings and breathing into my heart a glow of light and good intentions. I often wonder how I have appeared in this room studying the ancient words of a path. As I open my eyes, one is sitting next to me. I love the appearance of another in the Sangha.

Magnolia Blossoms Flushing Meadows Park Digital Photograph 2013 R

Magnolia Blossoms Flushing Meadows Park Digital Photograph 2013 R

Thanks to Spring, a nameless hill
bq. Has its veil of morning mist.
—Matsuo Basho [2] from “On the Way to Nara”

After the teachings, the Sangha discusses the readings and commentary of the master teacher. Many of the students are longtime practitioners, so I can receive guidance in my study. We are reading Ocean of Nectar, a commentary by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso on Chandrakirti’s Guide to the Middle Path, which is regarded as the principal presentation of Buddha’s view on emptiness and the Bodhisattva’s path. Last year we studied the Heart Sutra, another commentary on emptiness.

The following passage is from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s book Ocean of Nectar. It touches my love of imagination and an effort to understand emptiness.

All the while we believe things exist from their own side, independent of the mind, we shall find it difficult to understand how, for example, Milarepa could transform himself into a flower. To understand these things, we must first realize that all phenomena are like dreams, and do not exist in the least from their own side. If we understand that the world and everything in it arises from the mind, we shall not find it difficult to understand how Yogis and Yoginis who have brought their minds under control can manifest whatever they wish through the power of their concentration. [3]

Hawk, I delight when moments appear as you.



Hawk, Hawk, Hawk,

How many times have I called to Hawk, while walking under trees in the park; my murmurs lift and magically reappear as Hawk.

Hawk, Hawk, how do others speak to you when they search the sky? Hawk, Hawk, I call. Hawk is wonder, Hawk is imagination, Hawk is emptiness.

I speak using drawing, writing, sculpture, voice, photography, and animations to articulate perceived and imagined relationships. I’m interested in expressing the past, present, and future as a moment and then releasing it into a continuum of moments, creating a narrative.

May I speak of Goddard College, a very special community in the woods of Vermont. The “G’s” gather with artistic advisors during residencies then share our work and thoughts in an exchange of letters or video conference calls. A personal journey is composed.

With guidance I have read critical essays on art practice and theory, and I have viewed a range of stop motion and time­lapse work. I am especially interested in artists influenced by Buddhism and how art practice might serve a community beyond one’s own spiritual growth.

Wax is my medium of expression. I love its strength and malleability, and I am intrigued by its beauty. Wax has a value beyond its traditional use as an intermediary material for casting bronze. I respect it in this manner, and my tools now include digital photography, voice recorders, and video editing software as well as traditional sculpture tools.

My art practice and spiritual practice are interwoven. As I touch my knees, palms, and forehead to the ground offering respect to enlightened beings or ply brown wax in my hands speaking to Hawk, each is an aspiration to express the interconnectedness between appearances real and imagined.

Hawk, Hawk, advisor, reader, teacher, G’s—I write these letters with great appreciation. Thank you for accompanying me on a wonderful journey.


  • Letter One: Introduction
  • Letter One: Introduction
  • Letter One: Introduction
  • Letter One: Introduction
  • Letter One: Introduction
  • Letter One: Introduction
  • Letter One: Introduction