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Ardently Do Today


“Ardently do today what must be done. Who knows? Tomorrow, death comes.” The Buddha

From the Bhaddekaratta Sutta: The Discourse on the Ideal Lover of Solitude (MN 131), translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Ñanananda.

Artwork by Susan Prince Thompson. 1953-2016

It's almost noon, it's raining outside, and Margaret, our three-legged cat, and I went back to bed. I'm on the computer writing this blog post, she's curled up next to me. My husband, Aaron, is in NYC at Lincoln Center at an outdoor show ready to sell his steel sculpture - today in the pouring rain and thunder storms. Many other artists packed up and left because of the weather forecast, but when Aaron called me this morning he was excited about the predicted thunder, and not leaving! His morning call was upbeat, he gave me various updates . . . like he began his day by taking a shower on a NYC street wearing a blue bathing suit and dumping two 5 gallon buckets of water over himself - first bucket to get wet and soap up and second bucket to rinse off. He had an audience, an elder gentleman was amused and commented, "Now that's an old fashioned shower!" Aaron loved the feel of the smooth pavement under his feet freshly washed clean from the rain. He is a natural performance artist.

I am always grateful for Aaron's unabashed willingness to simply be himself, to "ardently do today" whatever life asks of him. I am an introvert, and Aaron's willingness to be seen in a big public way makes me cringe a little and yet, at the same time, I revel in his ability to connect with strangers in unusual ways! Aaron's ardent love of life - and it seems to never fail - leads him to meet interesting people and sell his art to people with serious collections: Aaron's work lives in private places next to DeKooning, Moore, Calder, Gaugin, etc. Personally, I want to see his work start to be acquired for public spaces - and I think that is coming next.

I sense things before they happen. Like the Nectar Farm project - I have seen it coming for a long time. When Aaron's dad, Erik, lived with us in the last year of his life, he had a premonition of Nectar. His hospital bed was by a large window overlooking a field and one morning he pointed outside and ardently said from his altered state (dementia that came and went,) "It's time to build the convention center! The cabins are already built!" He delivered those words as a proclamation to "get going!" I had never told him my vision of a few small cabins for contemplation and art in nature. And the "convention center" is my dream of a straw bale barn someday.

And I have been visioning sculpture at Nectar, but my dearest friend, Susan Thompson, AKA Sooz, just a few weeks ago took my idea for sculpture outside to a new level. She reminded me about her days in Berkeley in an email: "I think it could be really weird and surprising to have a number of those black sculptures leaning against trees in a grove--sort of a casual conversation/installation. I did something like this once with older kids' painted and cut out large animal figures from a class I was teaching, to decorate for a party at our community field in Berkeley. It was very cool!I also hung painted and stuffed "flying fish" from the branches of the trees."

So I wrote her back and made a plan to start the sculpture installation in August. But she died two days ago unexpectedly.

I am taking a pause right now . . . to look at the grey white sky, to look at my grey cat, (she just woke up and meowed!) So I guess she says "hi."

I am noticing the soft and substantial weight and feel of my duvet and down comforter.

I am noticing the bird sounds outside.

I am feeling the cozy stillness of lying here propped up with pillows.

That's the ardent doing for today. Feeling the loss of my friend. Mourning.

And underneath the cozy stillness, I feel the day that will come, when I gather other artists who knew Sooz with me to make the really weird and surprising conversation/installation in the woods. I love her idea of fish . . . and I want red monkeys and colorful elephants and whatever else we come up with to fly in the trees next to "those black sculptures," (which are actually the negative spaces cut out of steel from other large 8-10 foot sculptures.)

But as much as I know from experience that I sense things before they happen, as much as I can feel the cool of the quiet forest, and as much as I can hear the quickening voices of other artists, dear friends, playing, creating, collaborating, poetry danced in celebration - inspired by mad/crazy love of our dearest Sooz - as much as I know we'll share wine and food on a table set under the moon - as she casts her borrowed light through the trees just for us . . . contented when the work is completed . . . I don't take this knowing for granted. Not for a second. So I revel when Aaron showers on a NYC street. I revel when I can post Sooz's angels for others to see. I revel each time I get closer to making Nectar Farm really really happen. Because as the quote from at the top of this post says:

“Ardently do today what must be done. Who knows? Tomorrow, death comes.” The Buddha

Thank you to all the backers so far with wholehearted love and appreciation! 3 more days to go for our GoGo Nectar Farm project campaign: www.igg.me/at/nectarfarm

I shall come; but, if I do not,

remember me {that is, if I do not come}

Above image: Detail from 2 pages in our book below: Susan Prince Thompson and I had been collaborating for years, passing this book back and forth. We would paint and draw, write, and cut and paste...over and under, around and through, on top of and next to...140 pages. We would both squeal with anticipation delighted to see what the other had done next. There are themes and threads running throughout...Sooz said it had become an oracle, like a ouija board. I agree, and to me they are like tarot cards. It was my turn...I will keep going but it will never be "finished."


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© 2020 Susan Q Brown​. All Rights Reserved.

American Contemporary Painter

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