Everything we do is an act of poetry or a painting if we do it with mindfulness. Growing lettuce is poetry. Walking to the supermarket can be a painting.
–Thich Nhat Hanh (from Peace is Every Step)
I met the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once, when he gave a talk centered around his book “Peace is Every Step”, one of over 100 that he has published. His command of English is limited, and this forces him to speak and write simply rather than remain silent or hire a translator, as other teachers do. (His nickname Thay means Teacher.)
When I shook his hand, I noticed the kindness in his eyes, but also a toughness that belied his delicate grasp. A Vietnamese Buddhist monk does not get himself nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (by MLK, 1967) for protesting a dirty Asian war without courting hardship.
I was also struck by the happiness shared by everyone in his brown-robed entourage from his Plum Village center in France, who sang for us. They were otherwise quieter than King Solomon’s mimes, but they were all obviously very happy to be there.
In this painting, I communicate this love for their teacher by portraying Thay as wearing a knitted scarf and cap that were actually gifted to him to keep him warm and comfortable. His wreath is formed, of course, by plum boughs.