Posts Tagged ‘Leonard Cohen’

The studio corner where I gather my wits.

The studio corner where I gather my wits.

I had an epiphany this morning, standing at the sink. It was foggy and wet outside, and my small life suddenly made sense again. (more…)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is refrain.

Sometimes—just sometimes—I can step way back from life (and in particular, my life) and see the larger harmony of it all. I can see how each event, each person contributes to the warp and weft of the fantastically complex web we call Life. I can see how the little irritations and so-called failures, the inequalities and seemingly major differences, the dramas and conflicts are all perfectly right. I can see how all contribute to the music that Consciousness is making with itself. Sometimes I can see that. Most of the time, I’m lost in the clamor, bustle and bruising of my individual life. But then suddenly a ray of light pokes through it all—no, not nearly often enough— illuminating the truth: All truly is well. Something much larger and wiser than I is running the show here. I relax and just do the next thing, knowing I will forget again. And so it goes…

The refrain from Leonard Cohen’s song, “Anthem,” expresses it nicely, I think:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

“Bremen Town Musicians”      (watercolor, pen & ink, gouache, colored pencil)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is warning.

Sometimes in moments of acute frustration, I find myself wishing fervently for an external, clear path to follow. I wish for a path or a system that could tell me exactly what choices to make and how to achieve that elusive goal, success. That path would have road signs that point, “You are here. This is how you get there.” It might even be handy to have a red warning light on my forehead that could predict, “Danger! Danger!” in a no-fooling, mechanical voice.

Usually, though, I am counting on the belief that trusting my Inner Guidance is an art that can be learned and depended upon for all of my life choices. It is the art of Listening, augmented by the ability to pay attention to, and learn from, the outcomes of my choices. When I am not in a fearful (or frustrated) state, I remember that human beings are bodies and souls. Such a dual journey may well be more about the Soul’s journey than it is about the status, resume, or bank account growth. It may be that the acquisition of property, success and external perfection are not what we are really here for…not the Purpose of a life. If it’s not for external achievement, then what are we here for?

Surely Leonard Cohen was alluding to the true purpose when he wrote, “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (“Anthem” lyrics from the album, “The Future”)

Mary Oliver, in her poem, “Wild Geese”, said this another way,

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Let us remind ourselves: we are already the goal. There is nowhere to get to, nothing to achieve that will make us more perfect, more successful than the miracle that we already are. When we realize this, we bring the joy and peace of that understanding to everything external that we do. “Success” takes on a whole new meaning…


“Danger” (watercolor, gouache, pencil, pen & ink)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is layer.

In a dog-eat-dog world, survival is a strong motivator and hiding is a most useful skill. One could even make the argument that hiding is natural because the animal kingdom demonstrates such a plethora and variety of adaptive physiologies and behaviors. Environment-appropriate colors, shapes, spots or stripes are everywhere, and hunting, foraging and mating behaviors are perfectly synchronized to particular surroundings and particular species. An animal surely knows (if it can know such a thing) who it is, where it fits and how to survive in its world.

But is hiding natural for humans? Without significant survival instincts and when faced with what seems to be a hostile universe, humans frequently resort to hiding strategies (more kindly referred to as ‘coping behaviors’) that take the form of postures, poses, masks and personas. Many of us resort to a different layer of personality for every area of our life. To our boss or clients we are one person, to our parents we are another, to our kids or friends we are yet another, and to the opposite sex, yet one more still. Could this be natural for anything that is not a chameleon?

Humans are born fur-less and defenseless, and maybe that is a cue to the path we are meant to travel on our journey through life. Some might argue that ‘superior mental faculties’ (should one interpret this as ‘the ability to manipulate’..?) are meant to replace the ‘less evolved’ survival tactics of tooth, claw and stripe…but have those same faculties brought the human race any percentage of the apparent tranquility that most animals seem to enjoy? A wikipedia essay on the Theory of Camouflage (both animal and human) notes that, “the methods by which concealment or obscurity are attained share a common set of strategies intended to deceive the observer.” Natural or not (and successful or not), for humans this hiding business is exhausting and alienating. It leads to stress and strain, illness, paranoia and lack of connection. It destroys the opportunity for true communion and creative evolution. Seems a high price to pay for propagation of the species and the safety of one’s soft underbelly…

For those of you who are wearied by the rat race and the dog-eat-dog version of reality, I send a wee bit of comfort with the poetic lyrics of Leonard Cohen (from the soundtrack of McCabe & Mrs. Miller).

Sisters of Mercy

Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on.
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me their song.
Oh I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long.

Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes round to your soul.
Well I’ve been where you’re hanging, I think I can see how you’re pinned:
When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don’t turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
And you won’t make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

“Parlor Persona” (oil on paper)

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