Monday, November 28, 2011

Henna -- fading frescoes; unexpected understanding

It’s been just over two weeks since I had my henna designs on a foot and a hand.

 Now they remind me of old faded frescoes; paint gently crumbling away, but remaining beautiful.

At first I protected my hand. Wearing gloves not only for washing dishes but when washing my face and showering.  The latter was not totally fool proof as the water dripped into the glove.

One unexpected aspect of this was to make me very conscious of how it might feel to have a disability. Washing my face with gloves on, I once almost burnt myself not being aware of how very hot the water was. After that, using only a glove on my right hand felt so unbalanced and difficult to get a true sense of connecting with my skin.

Slowly during the past week I’ve left off the glove and allowed the natural process to happen.

As the designs were admired and commented on I wished Larissa lived closer than Fredericton. She is available for special occasions such as bridal showers or wedding days, for women’s  get togethers, mother’s or baby’s blessings, birthdays and corporate events. She can be contacted at Her website is

Monday, November 21, 2011

Henna -- The Body as Art and Impermanence

Ganesha sits on my left foot, grounding me as my feet touch the earth. On my right palm a lotus blossom and Om sign remind me that my hands are an important part of my yoga teaching as I encourage students’ bodies into alignment.

For a week I have been watching the henna designs blossom, and begin to fade. Beauty does not last forever, but the significance remains.

Henna, the artform known as Mehndi has been used as part of social celebrations possibly longer than yoga as been practiced. When a week ago Martine Boudreau had an Open House to celebrate five years of being in business, she invited Larissa Reinders of Dragonfly Designs to offer henna decorations.

Martine owns Carnelia Stones and Crystals on McLaughlin Drive in Moncton. We first met several years ago offering workshops during Wellness Weekends at the Algonquin in St, Andrews. Our paths keep crossing and she’s practiced yoga with me. I bought a piece of unpolished Lapis Lazuli for the shrine at The Yoga Space and a beautiful Snowflake Obsidian

Larissa, who lives in Fredericton, is one of only three internationally certified natural henna artists in Canada. We had discussed the symbols I wanted and she worked swiftly and smoothly, creating the designs freehand with amazing felicity.

Henna paste is made by drying, milling and sifting the leaves of the plant then mixing the powder with lemon juice, strong tea, or oils to create a paste that is used to crate fine design. The henna plant, part of the loosestrife family, also has medicinal properties, one being  the ability to cool down the human body.

Being hennaed is also about slowing down and being patient. The paste has to dry, helped by being sealed with a lemon/sugar solution. With three other women having the treatment I sat by Martine’s stove, chatting as the heat helped to dry the paste.

Ideally you leave the paste on for 12 or more hours; the longer the deeper and darker the design will be.

It was Sunday morning before I brushed the paste off my hand. Larissa had ‘bandaged’ my foot, so on one of the coldest days recently I could put on a sock.  When I removed the tape a reverse Ganesha was revealed. Not being impatient to see the results is part of the process.  The designs are reddish but quickly darken.

During the week I’ve been reflecting on the connection between yoga and this ancient art. Both encourage you to slow down, to reflect. I felt connected with the women who had received this age-old celebratory body decoration.  Henna is regarded as having ‘Barakah’, blessings, and is applied for luck as well as joy and beauty. It’s a frequent part of wedding ceremonies.

 This was how the henna on my hand looked a week later.

As the designs fade I’ll document the process.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Music & Art

The visual and performing arts have always been important in my life, to my life. As a writer I've spent many years, and incredibly happy hours, reviewing performances, in art galleries, talking to artists about their creative lives. Whatever  opportunities I have I go where art is.

Two recent weekends took us east and west to enjoy more live music and a wide variety of art.

First again to Sackville and the Brunton Auditorium at Mount Allison’s Department of Music.  To hear faculty pianist Stephen Runge give a recital in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Liszt’s birth. Highlight of the evening was Runge’s performance of Liszt’s brilliant Sonata in B minor. It’s 3o minutes long and full of dazzling and devilishly difficult passages.

Runge’s interpretation was compelling as the music moved from single notes to bell-like chords, from thunder and turmoil to tenderness.  Another lovely evening in this small, attractive university town.

A week later to Saint John, where we lived for a year, for one of the regular Gallery Hops the city organises. About a dozen galleries have special openings and receptions. All are within easy walking distance in the historic downtown. Plus we were able to have a short visit and tea with some good friends.

The exhibit that delighted me the most was ‘Stimulare – the whispering game’ at the Saint John Art Centre. A Beaux-Art style Carnegie building once a free public library, the Arts Centre now has several galley spaces.

Stimulare, which involved 17 artists and two writers, had as its starting point a photograph by Freeman Patterson. It was a close up of light refracted through a glass of water.

Two artists took this image and painted their interpretation of the original photograph. Their work was then passed on to two more artists, then two more until the two final interpretations created were poems. Creations included metal smithing, recycled copper, fibre,  mixed media, a wood automaton, even postage stamps as well as painting.

 An intriguing look at how interpretation changes, evolves and stimulates the artistic imagination and responses.

Water colours, oils and mixed media work by mother and daughter Heasun Kim and Iris Kim were another ‘worth-the walk’ exhibition.

 New Brunswick Museum showed intriguing collages about the historic searches for the North West passage. Handworks had its usual fabulous jewellery, wood and pottery. At Peter Buckland Gallery, Angel Gomez’s acrylic collages were impressive. Trinity Gallery exhibited works by two Nova Scotia artists; Mark Brennan’s landscapes and Vinton Lloyd’s seascapes and ships.

 This exploration and enjoyment of two of the major communicative arts was another refreshment for my mind and soul.