The first person ever to say “one thing leads to another” was born long before the internet, but, boy, when I sat down this morning to read my mail and a few friends’ blogs, somehow I ended up far, far, off track. Sometimes this turns up pure internet dreck, but today I was richly rewarded for my e-meandering.
Yesterday I read an article in the current issue of Shambhala Sun called “There is Much We Do Not Know About the Feelings of Butterflies,” by Liza Dalby. As a graduate student in anthropology back in the 1990s, Dalby immersed herself in geisha culture and trained alongside other young women who wanted to be geishas, making her 1998 book on the subject, in my opinion, much more fascinating than Memoirs of a Geisha.
In the Shambala Sun article (which is not, alas, available on the magazine’s web site, so you’ll need to find an actual copy to hold in your hands in order to read it), Dalby writes movingly of an intimate encounter with a butterfly in the cemetery to which she has gone to visit her geisha mother’s grave. She refers the reader to a YouTube video in which she captures this moment with the butterfly.
Well, one video leads to another, doesn’t it? You sign on to look up spectral butterflies, and before you know it you’re watching banned Ikea commercials or talking cats or Decemberists videos and half an hour has gone by and your tea is cold. Eventually, though, I stumbled on something completely marvelous–another Liza Dalby video posting of a brush painting class in which the instructor leads the class in painting images of the famously dour Daruma, aka Bodhidharma, credited with founding zen, Shaolin martial arts, and, not incidentally, with creating tea. To keep himself awake during meditation, goes one version of the tea legend, he cut off his own eyelids, and from the place on the ground where he tossed them sprung the first tea plants. The painting class is just irresistible–I’m off to clear a space at the table, grind some ink, and paint my own Daruma/Bodhidharma. After all, zen, karate, and tea are all pretty important to me, so it seems appropriate.
[several hours later] Okay, here’s my shot at old Bodhidharma. He’s a great subject, because he scowls so fiercely there’s no point in trying to make him look pretty:
I may like this one even better–a sketch I scribbled with a Sharpie marker on some kraft paper cardstock (that’s a crease in the middle of the paper that runs through the bottom). I’ve never done any cartooning, but if I did I think Bodhidharma would make a great character.
By the way, here’s one more side note about how much we don’t know about the feelings of butterflies. When my son and his best friend were 8 years old, I nearly convinced the two boys that when a butterfly lands on you and gently taps your arm with his delicate feet . . . he’s really trying to kill you and it’s just the best the poor guy can do.