Some time ago, Ton asked me if I would be up for making a large bowl for his group Del Silencio. I replied that of course I would and that it would be an honour to do so. “Okay – dat be great” he said.
The bowl was to be 40cm in diameter, and made out of 4mm brass. He said he’d get back to me with the intention for the bowl. In the meantime I sourced the metal, had it delivered — yikes! What a weight — then began scribing, cutting and filing. Filing, filing, filing. Four millimetres is slow work!
Ton was in Spain writing, so I waited. Time passed and then came the intention from Spain via Carolina, his wife.
Oh, I thought to myself, (screaming internally)… nothing small then! Could I even begin to contemplate the Bodhisattva of Compassion and ingest a crumb of its meaning. Gosh – how was I going to go about this? Time passed. I found myself walking around the prospect of starting, knowing, just knowing that I couldn’t begin the work until something deeper, more authentic, fell out of my head and into a better place of inner wisdom. I didn’t know what or when that would be, but I did know that I wasn’t ready.
Walking around the valley and over the fields where we live, I found myself one afternoon looking for a spot, a place where I could sit in the weak spring sunshine and sink into that alpha state of being not only’ in’ nature, but a part of it itself. A small ask, I thought, yet wherever I looked there was either no privacy or no sense of quietude. Wherever I walked there was farm machinery on the fields, or building noises or traffic, totally filling the sound scape. Everywhere the hand of man, I thought to myself. No respite. All I wanted was a short period of calm so that maybe, just maybe, I might be receptive enough for something to drop-in. Hey-ho, not today, walk on.
Further on in my walk I am on my way home, walking westwards. On my left a field of stubble and a view over to Old Sarum, and on my right a small piece of woodland. Cutting across the field and wood, a small power line. As I walk beside the wood and under the line, I hear the ‘thrum’ of a plucked string and then a tiny ‘thup’ as a small thrush falls at my feet. I go to the grass where it has fallen. Beak open, panting hurriedly, it eyes me with shock and terror. Its wing is probably broken. My heart is full. I carefully pick it up in my gloved hands and arrange its wing. Still it eyes me, panting. “Blessings on you, and on all of your kind.” I find myself saying this out loud, again and again, as if to soothe it, but perhaps I’m just soothing myself… What to do? What to do? I think this for only a moment, for in truth there is nothing ‘to do’. Nothing to be done. There is no vet, no shoebox in the kitchen that help here. The ground is iron-hard frozen and I’m reluctant to put the thrush back on the cold earth. Having its life-warmth sucked out of it in such an emphatic way seemed harsh. A few yards away I see a large stack of straw bales. I place the bird on a straw ledge, facing west and in the relative warmth of the setting sun. I walk home imbued with the mystery of the afternoon.
So, Guan Yin, Kwannon, Kanzeon, Perceiver of Sound, (perceiver of the cries of samsara), Bodhisattva of Compassion, in my inability to perceive you, you drop a song thrush at my feet. The process continues, interrupted by this, that and the other. Each incident is part of the mystery. This is a much longer journey than I had imagined, but ‘the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting’
Listen here for a broadcasted portrayal of Quentin's relationship to the crafting of singing bowls. Scroll to approx 15'20" into the programme http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03g89bt/Saturday_Live_Linda_Nolan/