Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Forty Years #30: Jenny Hunter Groat

Some time after I took Jenny's Notan workshop, I wrote her a letter. I had never done anything like that before. I wrote to her about my conflicted feelings about calligraphy, about my desire to expand beyond it but not knowing where to go. I'm not sure I ever felt like I truly belonged to whatever I thought the calligraphy world was. As I started to question and try to stretch my wings, I never felt those efforts were appreciated. Looking back, I see that there was a lot I got wrong over the years due to my oversensitivity and insecurity but I think there is some truth to my feelings.

Somehow my letter touched a chord with Jenny. She wrote me back a long letter of encouragement, the first of the many times she shared her profound belief: "Follow your heart. Let it and your work lead you." The letter was the beginning of a correspondence which helped me find my voice and led me to a week with Jenny at her Knowing/Not Knowing retreat/workshop at Green Gulch Zen Center in 1988. During her first evening talk there, she gave me words for my dilemma. She said that there are two kinds of artists—interpretive and originating. Her examples were the ballerina Margot Fonteyn as interpretive and the modern dancer/choreographer Martha Graham as originating. It became clear. I wanted to be an originating artist. Green Gulch also planted the seeds for the Spirit Books. After two days of calligraphy in the studio, I went outside and spent the rest of the week playing with sticks and natural materials and creating little environments.

In 1992 I created an edition book, Lessons From Green Gulch. It contained my text about Green Gulch with the closing passage:

I went to Green Gulch holding my creative spark. The gentle and wise touch of Jenny, the warmth of new friends, and the safe haven of hallowed earth fanned the spark into a small fire. I left knowing the task ahead: to keep the fire going, to both feed it and protect it. May it burn on. 

along with photocopier imagery from photographs and Zen koan, 

and words of wisdom from Jenny.

Read more about Jenny on my blog here.

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