I couldn’t paint a better painting than this. As I was walking through Coyoacán, I stopped at a parking lot wall. It was so good. A layered mess of history, scattered across it. A palimpsest*, if you will. *More on that $100 word below.
When one of my paintings was juried into the 2003 Eugene Mayor’s Art Show, I was flabbergasted. I’d never entered a juried show before, and people kept telling me I was “lucky,” and that they had tried for years, to no avail. I was in my first year in Eugene, a bougie San Francisco transplant that wore city clothes and was teased for it. I worked for MECCA, the Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts, and I opened their first regular-hours Materials Exchange. This was one of the best things and worst things about the job-regular access to junk and recycled bits and bobs. There are so.many.stories connected to this job, but that’s for another time.
My Mayor’s show painting was reviewed along with a select few in the Eugene Weekly, and the journalist called my painting a “palimpsest” of a wall, like a city street. Like years of posters and paint and glue had been attached and worn off. I didn’t know what the word meant and had to ask Will. Of course he knew. It just means many layers, and it usually relates to manuscripts in scroll form. It’s an old, bougie word. The review made me squirm-it was pretentious and I was trying to avoid being seen as pretentious.
But this kind of painting makes me calm down so much. It’s just peaceful. It has texture and raw edges and deep layers and cuts. It is full of the richness and tragedy of life. In reality-the wall is decomposing slowly, crumbling back to the earth, to its first form, lime, sand, water, cement. Words have been painted here and rubbed off. Sales have been advertised here and the rain, wind and hot sun have washed the words away. The last words to be added were just painted on up at the top, where there are less cracks and history. In red paint it says “10 HRS-$50 pesos.”
You might wonder, dear reader, what a wall of cracks has to do with meditation, or presence. Imagine staring at this wall. Just staring at it, and letting it be all you see, smell, think about, explore. For me, meditation needs more to it than a “blank” mind.
This cracked and deteriorating wall would be a place I could hang out a while and let my mind rest on the shapes, colors and textures within it. Instead of letting my mind wonder to bills and to-do lists and noises outside of my sphere of consciousness, I could focus on this and be at peace.
What images, smells, textures and places bring you peace? What helps your mind rest?
Find those places and spaces, dear reader. Find them and be peaceful for a moment today.