11.Tassajara Lantern

Tassajara Lantern, chalk pastels on paper, 2004

Tassajara Lantern, chalk pastels on paper, 2004

I came to know Tassajara from my interest in cooking.  Years ago, I was introduced to bread making through Edward Aspe Brown’s (1960s-classic) Tassajara Bread Book.  I wouldn’t physically visit Tassajara until twenty years later.  Tassajara – a Zen Buddhist monastery-retreat in the mountains of central California – is miles from the nearest patch of pavement, cell phone tower or telephone pole.  When evening comes, a designated resident dutifully lights a handful of these blue kerosene lanterns.  This one hangs at the entrance of one of the communal bathrooms.

I love that, in the background, blurred and out-of-focus, is a walking staff, at the ready for someone to pick up and use.  I love the grey smudge of kerosene soot on the inside of the glass.  I love the flecks of Coleman paint chipped off the finish.  And I love the strong, harsh California sunlight that blazes hot white and pitch black.

I realize it would have been a much more challenging piece to capture the lantern at night, at “work”, to try to capture the yellow glow the lantern casts onto the dusty path. Instead, I chose to show the lantern “at rest.”  To me, this is like the night worker asleep at mid-afternoon, resting for what will be a long, illuminating and useful night.  But without the rest, there can be no work.  Aren’t we all just two sleep-deprived nights away from madness?  I know from my years of competitive running that the “work” of becoming fitter happens at night, while we’re asleep.

So this is how this faded blue Coleman lantern with the smudged glass speaks to me – it’s reminding me that it’s quite impossible to be “on” all the time.  We all need the balance, the darkness and the light, to be useful. Nor do we need to be fancy, burnished copper, highly polished without a trace of soot – that therein lies the beauty of Utility.

I donated this piece to the Kline Galland Home, Seattle in June 2018.

~ by Delfino on 2009/02/11.

 
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