Foraging is in my blood, as if ancient Hunter and Gatherer genes can’t be denied. At the beach, I compulsively gather interesting rocks and shells. Their designs enchant me, and I rub my fingers over the textures, satisfying something deep within. Four to six inch-diameter stones from my father’s favorite salmon fishing beach, La Push in Washington State, surround my bathtub. They all have a single white stripe rounding their middle, a striation I find endlessly fascinating. I try to imagine the immense geological forces that embedded this pale stratum within the rock. A geologist told me the tiny line represented at least one hundred feet of sediment that got squished by nature over time before it solidified. From various mountains, meadows and sea shores, I’ve collected a basketful of similar small stones. When I want to calm myself, I pick up each one and trace the bisecting line, in wonder, with my finger. I call them meditation stones. The memory of collecting each one remains part of their enduring allure.
During the recent Pandemic, wanting to avoid shopping in stores, I explore the farthest reaches of my pantry where I discover ten rusty cans of my favorite soup, Amy’s Lentil. Their use-by dates shock me: February, 2019. But the cans aren’t swollen or their contents bubbling or fermented. I eat them anyway with the satisfaction of a successful hunt completed. The old soup keeps me safer, since I can avoid stores for the worst two weeks of the Pandemic.
I love office supplies. The odd shapes, sizes and colors attract me. Before Covid19, I used to browse in stationary stores and try not to buy more of the tempting items on display, usually failing. With extra relaxing hours during a recent quarantine period, I gather random items from my office and dump them on my art table, assembling them according to my whims. An emerging happy face delights me. When a surprised expression jumps out from the debris around me, I’m thrilled. I add bright colors in oil paint.
The pandemic also inspires a deeper kind of foraging. I can imagine that I might catch Covid19. The virus is an equal opportunity invader, so why not me? Like reaching into the darkest corner of my pantry, I dig into my mental recesses. Would I have the inner fortitude to see me through a life threatening illness that might cause death?
Just as I pulled out old hidden cans or spotted an intriguing striated rock out of the hundreds surrounding it, gems of strength arise in my mind. I believe forces of the positive exist. When I tune into the interesting, thoughtful or inspiring events around me, my life becomes better. But, when I dwell on negative complaining or blaming, I seem to attract those types of people to me. Quiet contemplation helps me to more clearly see where my mind dwells, and to consciously choose the optimistic.
In meditation, I envision this goodness as the Buddha. I feel certain such visualizations and the prayers I repeat every day could help me if I were to get sick. Not that they would instantly heal me, but I believe they would help me to relax, accept my condition and bring peace. I feel grateful my meditation practice emphasizes repetition of prayers and mantras, such as “Namu Amida Butsu” which means, “I and the Buddha are one.” I’m so conditioned to saying them, they’ll be likely to pop to the surface and calm me in an emergency, as happened in hospitals in the past. When I remember to tune in to the essence of virtue that exists for me in the Buddha, I feel a flood of harmony, joy, and, best of all, okay-ness. At those moments in the hospitals, I knew that, whatever the outcome of the surgery or emergency, I would be okay, whether I lived or not.
Having foraged through my mind, I find it reasonable to hope that I have enough mental and spiritual tools at the ready if Covid19 pounces on me. Meanwhile, stones, soup and office supplies add delightful sustenance to my days.
2023 July 27-30
Seattle Art Fair
Kaethe Kauffman’s 2022 piece, The Rain Tree will be on exhibit at the Seattle Art Fair,
July 27-30 in the Walter Wickiser Gallery, New York section. More Info