Clouds Low

K. Kauffman, Clouds Low, 20”x24”, ink, 2022

Clouds Low is an ink drawing that depicts people meditating in nature. The left figure sits among boulders. She consists of multiple layers: the white outline, an off-white area inside the outline and an inner space with tightly drawn ink lines. When I meditate, I feel an outer level, symbolized by the outline, that is everyday reality, where thoughts constantly arise and I actively decide whether to act, and what to do about a thought. The off-white inner zone denotes a more restful experience: I simply observe rising and disappearing thoughts without making decisions about them. The interior ink lines represent the spacious, yet energetic feeling I get when no thoughts intrude; a pure essence of being.

The meditating figure on the right blends into the lowered gray-blue clouds and rises above the rocks, completely floating. I’ve experienced this in meditation, a blissful sensation. I don’t literally fly, but it feels like I do. I don’t try to replicate this sensation because, intuitively, it seems too advanced for me. It’s a not realm I’m not ready to enter.

The muted ochre clouds at the top of the drawing reflect the boulders, bathed in sunlight. Some clouds hover above the others. The meditators don’t enter the upper space. To me, it represents a higher spiritual realm, protective and reflective of my experiences on the land.

I love to meditate in nature, savoring the sounds of twigs crackling, water dripping, wind whooshing, birds calling. The feel of sun on my skin calms me.  Perhaps it’s the stillness of meditation or a tranquil mind that draws wild creatures to me: once a bobcat, once a coyote, once a large antlered stag, and once three giant manta rays in the ocean. They all came close, within ten feet. When I perceived their presence, I opened my eyes a tiny bit and felt mesmerized by their unbelievable beauty – their gorgeous multi-colored surfaces, their powerful muscles, their infinitely graceful and rhythmical movements, the coyote’s and bobcat’s probing whiskers, the three manta rays’ and the singular stag’s indescribable majesty. I wanted them to come closer and they did. The bobcat and coyote didn’t seem to sense my presence. When they were within a few feet, self-preservation kicked in. If I made a large movement or sound, I thought I might startle them into a fighting stance. I simply moved my little finger, a non-threatening gesture. In a flash, they hightailed it. They disappeared so fast, it seemed I might have imagined their presence. 

The stag and the manta rays saw me and stayed with me for a long while. In my mind, I told them, over and over, how beautiful they were. I thanked them for their visit. As I swam in the ocean, the manta rays fluttered along with me and I felt ecstatic that they chose to be with me for over an hour.  I’ll treasure the generous gift of their presence for a lifetime.

I remain grateful every day for the inner and outer riches meditation gives me. In my drawings, I attempt to illustrate some of my experiences meditating in nature.