Friday, February 14, 2020


My neighbor's horse, Angel:     1/11/20
CC Jean Stimmell

Two takes on Equus:

1)  A distinguishing feature of Jungian analysis is the concept of archetypes, symbols rising from the dark, deep psychic pool of the collective unconscious where humanity’s common experience is stored.

Archetypes express a complex of images and emotions that surround the defining experiences of human life.  One of the most commonly recurring archetypes is the Horse: 

“The Horse archetype throughout the ages has been closely linked with our instinctive, primal drives." Taken from


2) While Linda Kohanov, in her book The Tao of Equus, makes the case that horses relate to the world from a primarily feminine, or yin perspective:

"As a result, the species is a living example of the success and effectiveness of feminine values, including cooperation over competition, responsiveness over strategy, emotion and intuition over logic, process over goal, and the creative approach to life that these qualities engender.” 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

One Way to Cope with Hard Times

A version of this essay published in The ConcordMonitor, 3/13/20

 Pond Essence CC Jean Stimmell 

Last summer, fretful about our fate as the world cartwheels out of control, I found myself drawn to the simplicity of Japanese ink drawings. I spent quite a bit of time attempting to duplicate that look – to find the essence of an object – by manipulating my photographs of water lilies and reeds.

It was hit or miss but finally one came out that I liked well enough to submit to a juried exhibit where it won an award. With humility, I’m discovering that the simplicity I crave, identifying the essence of a subject  is a profound undertaking that goes under the label of “minimalism.”

Minimalism is seen by many today as just the latest fad where people obsess over decluttering their homes, while the rich revel in living in glass houses with virtually no furniture, except a high-end stereo and a limited edition, Eames Lounge Chair.

In truth, however, minimalism has a rich artistic and philosophic history that goes way back. I also discovered, it’s a reoccurring theme that rises to the surface whenever society is in upheaval.

Yoshida Kenko, a poet in Japan 800 years ago, lived and wrote during such a time of conflict and danger, the result of incessant warfare between various groups outside of the established government, all seeking to extend their control over the country.

Sound familiar?

Kenko’s answer was to become a monk, embracing what Buddhists call impermanence: the idea that life is constant change. He wrote that a person was to be envied who lives in a simple, neat house, “not of the modern, garish kind” because it is “but a temporary abode, “ like life itself. He found  beauty in a room not overly furnished, “where there is room to move around.⁠1

He wrote that we should pay attention to everyday beauty: “Are we to look at flowers only in full bloom or the moon when it is clear.  No, we should concentrate on the simple austere aesthetic of the here-and-now: “There is much to been seen in young boughs about to flower, in gardens strewn with withered blossoms.”⁠2

Thoreau, writing in the 19th century, was on the same wave-length, valuing simple living and reveling in what can be observed in the moment. Like Kenko, Thoreau was living through tough times, probably the most traumatic in our country’s history: Not only our cataclysmic civil war,  but the shredding of local community by rapid industrialization and the advent of the train.

He believed, like Kenko, that is was a mistake to favor the vibrant colors of fall foliage over the simple, stark beauty of winter.

Immersing  himself in the here-and-now was an antidote to hard times:  “Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.”⁠3

Based on recent history, we shouldn’t be surprised that minimalism is on the rise again because – and I don’t think anyone will disagree– we are once again living through a period of extreme polarization and cultural disconnect. Under these circumstances, it makes sense to strive for sustainability by shrinking our liabilities and adopting frugal ways. 

Rather than looking for the salvation promised us by the capitalistic gods of advertising – only to be slowly crushed under the increasing weight of shoddy and superfluous material goods – wouldn’t it be nice to escape all that and, instead, surround ourselves solely with those few items that define the essence of who we are.

In light of the above, why wouldn’t I be drawn to the simplicity and purity of Japanese Ink drawings. 

And follow Thoreau’s advice about the importance of winter walks: To take that opportunity only winter provides to withdraw inward to sharpen my focus in the present moment – temporarily tuning out the shrill. food-fight fracas, consuming society at large.