My last few posts have featured photographs inspired by my visit to Villa Montalvo this past week, and I was really lured into the park by an article I stumbled upon a few weeks ago that described a series of art installations centered around happiness and wellbeing. With heaps of happiness books under review in all my literary wanderings (see Maria Popova’s list 7 essential books on optimism) and in TED talks and podcasts on the internet (See the TED blog page devoted to happiness), I wondered what would a visual artist have to say about happiness?
COME HEALING is the latest exhibition in Montalvo’s Art on the Grounds. There are docent-led tours, and if you read my previous post you can understand why–many of these installations require interpretation. With not much time to spend on a tour, I chose to make a special trip just to check out A Healing Walk by Susan O’Malley (San Jose, California). I brought along my journal and a collection of spiritual meditations recently given to me by a friend, and I set out to locate the trail and take one last contemplative walk before my little loves take over all the remote controls and clean out my cupboards for the next two months!
O’Malley’s walk is comprised of simple woodland signs with short messages encouraging us to be attentive to the present moment and appreciate the healing effects of the countryside. Below are pictures I gathered as I stopped along the way to read or write, but I will leave a few surprises behind. I will say that I was the only writer there. Sitting in the dirt. Reading. Praying. Taking notes. One happy Chinese couple in their late sixties huffed and puffed up the trail, the woman working a cane and her beloved making T’ai Chi chops in the air in front of them, perhaps to ward off evil spirits I’m not sure. But as they passed me, they smiled and told me to toss my journal into the canyon at the next stop, that I would understand why. Well, this made me curious so I got up and wandered around the next few bends before coming to a large tree in the middle of the path and the sign here you leave your worries. If my journal contained more sorrow than wonder it would have been so liberating to toss it away right then and there, so keep that in mind if you go. The trailhead begins behind the gallery and proceeds up some steep slope about a mile. It is a short walk, with some confusing forks in the road, but I think this is part of our journey–trusting and discovering that wherever we’re headed, it is the right place to be.
I thank You God for most this amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and a blue true dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. ~ e.e. cummings
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~ John Muir
Entering into silence–emptying oneself of distractions–reflecting in meditative prayer–helps move you to awareness of God’s presence, his whisper, and the recognition of the ways in which the Holy Spirit inspires you. from My Beloved ~ Kenos Press