5 Days of New Year

For many of us, the New Year is a time of personal reflection and goal setting. One year ago, I set out to do a series of paintings that explored our time in southeast Asia doing humanitarian work with a charity called Bracelets For Buildings.  The well of ideas was deep.  I had taken hundreds of photos.

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered gallery canvas prints of four works that connect to the spiritual and meditative side of our adventures in Cambodia.  I ordered the fifth a few days ago.  These will be part of 5 DAYS OF NEW YEAR, a daily auction where we auction off one piece a day and focus on the word it inspires.

"The Monk's Blessing" is the depiction of the moment when the head monk at the local temple blessed the red string that he later tied to each of our wrists. 

One year later and it is still hanging on, reminding me of our time in southeast Asia, the beautiful people of that country, and the need to strive for balance in all things.

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of BALANCE, order, rhythm and harmony" - Thomas Merton

There are a very small number of original paintings that I have not been able to release.  "Praying Monk" is one of them.  I painted it during a week when I was feeling enormous stress and anxiety.  Its creation helped me reflect and understand some very important things about myself.  Its continued presence in Birdsong Studio helps me to this day.

"The way we experience the world around us is a direct reflection of the world within us" - Gabrielle Bernstein

I was thinking of this monk the other day listening to a segment on CBC Radio. They were talking about the betel nut.  This monk was a fan.  When he smiled, his teeth belied his addiction to the local delicacy that stains your teeth red.

But when he was deep in prayer, a sense of peace enveloped the room.  This original painting is hung in our very small dining room where our family convenes for meals and conversation.  I'm at the point where I can't imagine it not being with us.

Peace is an important theme heading in 2019, on more than several fronts.  There has been so much discord, particularly south of the border and in locations around the globe, that there is a great fear it will continue, and potentially get worse, in the New Year.  I hope and pray for the opposite.

"Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means" - Ronald Reagen

As the monks performed their blessing ceremonies in a mall village near Siem Reap, I kept getting drawn into their hands.  They live a very simple life of service and their hands tell a marvellous story.  This painting was done live at a fundraiser at the Best Western Plus a couple of months ago.  Its creation, along with the amazing luncheon that was put on by the hotel, raised enough money to fund an entire house for a desperately poor family.  We'll be heading over to Cambodia in about a month to participate in its construction.

"Wisdom outweighs any wealth" - Sophocles

The final work in the 5 DAYS OF NEW YEAR auctions is "Vav's Prayer".  People and companies from the other side of the world made it possible for Vav's family to be given a new home.  His ramshackle shelter had been replaced with a well built and designed home that will provide safety and security for his family for years to come. 

It's hard to imagine what he was thinking and feeling as the monk's chanted their blessings in the small space witnessed by the village elders.  I'm certain that gratitude was a big part of what was washing over him in those beautiful moments.

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."  - Albert Schweitzer

We will auction off these special pieces each day on the Russell Thomas Art Facebook Page.  Each auction will end at 9 pm MST.  Your participation helps us continue the work that we do throughout the year here in our community and province, and across the world with Bracelets For Buildings.  We are grateful.


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