What i learned about spirituality by making a “book”

Oh the places you’ll go! And what you’ll find out about what you don’t know…

Silly me…i decided writing the paper on Gender, Sexuality, and Family and how they impact on spiritual formation/direction was beyond my ken…so i said yes! i’ll make a piece of art instead…it will be a wondrous work which will show how wild and mysterious spirituality is…how unique to each person it is…how it is circular (like the globe where we live) and how it unfolds, evolves and involves us so completely…how complex…yet not complicated it is. And well let me explain dear ones, that when we decide that we will do something so large, so encompassing,  so totally beyond our scope…God or the Universe conspires to teach us many lessons. Here are some rather graphic ones…

Finally after numerous prototypes and a long period of try this and incredibly many folds we have 4 “pages” and two “covers”

Each page started out like this…one 12 inch circles of 140 lb. watercolor paper (natural) with hand made paper reinforcing triangles at the stitching folds…


Front cover is half of a 12 inch circle with a wonderful picture from an old (1983) National Geographic with a quote from John Muir. The article was about John Muir and how he helped us to see the magnificence and divine grandeur in the wilderness while we still had some left here on this continent…that we hadn’t quite managed to “civilize” Thank God for that!


This is the back cover which is the other half of the 12 inch circle of watercolor paper that i used for both covers.


The inside is a tiny piece from a pullout graphic illustrating the rainforest levels. The article was on Brazil’s (or Brasil’s) rain forest. Again the miraculous reality of wilderness that we fear and are drawn to always…to me these were perfect metaphors for spirituality. As we fear and are drawn to the Divine.

For me the wilderness is an umbrella under which we all are found and lost regardless of our gender, sexuality, or family orientation.

Each page has an insert. Here is what it looks like when you first open the page.

The saying is from Wild Heart Dancing (a great book to accompany a 1 or 2 day retreat)

It goes like this…”Alas, for those who cannot sing, but die with all their music inside them. from a Jewish Prayer Book”

I broke it down like this: Alas for those who cannot sing / but die with all / their music inside / them. a Jewish Prayer Book

The music score paper speaks to the “music of the spheres” which to me is so large that most people don’t recognize it as music, but often call it “noise” because they don’t live long enough, or pay close enough attention to hear the harmonics in the percussive sounds…the drum beat of the heart of Gaia, Mother Earth, the ebb and flow of the tides that follow the rhythm of the moon.

Each insert unfolds to reveal 3 circles that contain short pieces of poetry from some of my favourite spiritual teachers…Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, Jan Richardson, Philip Newell, Dōgen, a Pueblo Prayer, Rev. Mark Loyal, Jane Hirshfield, Zen Buddhism…and the list goes on and on and on and on. But I only had space for 12. All the numbers are significant too. 12 inch circles, 4 circles, 3 poems per unfolding insert which add up to 12 folding covers which add up to 4.



So far so good. And it is/was good and it still is but…

Although I was very, very careful lining up the pages…which by the way are a form of coptic stitch and were a bear to stitch. First time … too loose and snip and rip was the order of the day. Then i got it just right. Only to notice that i had  two pages out of order…which wouldn’t have been a problem if i had only left off the triangular pieces until the end and glued them on with the poem pieces after i had assembled the book. But no…

So had to spritz the pieces were they were attached and peel off the paper slowly so as not to damage the watercolor paper underneath. Then I had to cut six more squares of bond and six more circles with poems in them and today i will be unable to complete the work because i am making books with/for Ethan and Owen to commemorate their March Break 2011 adventures.

But we learn as we go and it is humbling and when all is said and done…isn’t that what spiritual formation/direction is really all about?

Well…it is for me anyway.


4 thoughts on “What i learned about spirituality by making a “book”

  1. Wow, what an art adventure you have been on. The text reads like a travel log. Thanks for sharing the journey. xo

  2. This IS a wondrous work! I especially like your comment about how spirituality unfolds, evolves and involves us so completely…it’s complex, yet not complicated…and you’ve visually captured this in your circular book – well done!

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