Chop Wood, Carry Water

Hi Friends,

I listened to an inspiring talk given by Bruce Rubin a few days ago. He does short talks weekly, and they’re all available on his YouTube channel.

Bruce has been a student of Buddhism and spirituality for something like 50 years, and he’s also an accomplished screenwriter and photographer. You can find his gorgeous abstract photography on Instagram.

In the talk, Bruce was responding to a question about what do we do to help save the world? The problems seem to be large and insurmountable, and as individuals, what can we do?

Bruce told a story from the movie “Perfect Days” by Wim Wenders, about a man who cleans toilets for a living. Some might consider cleaning toilets a lowly and monotonous job, but this man takes great pride in his work and feels a sense of accomplishment when it’s done. He does his best to enjoy every moment of his day.

Bruce’s point in telling the story was that when we don’t know what else to do, do what’s in front of you. Do it well and do it with whatever joy you can muster. Cook dinner. Pull weeds in the garden. Chop wood and carry water. Clean the toilet.

It’s these small daily things in life and small acts of kindness that add up to our purpose for being here and a life well lived.

Last week Penelope’s and Cleopatra’s mom, Gwyneth, showed up on a cold and rainy night soaking wet with matted fur and a large infected wound on her side, most likely from a cat fight. Someone had cut her whiskers short, and she wasn’t feeling well. I brought her in and have been nursing her back to health since.

Gwyneth the cat

I’ve tried bringing Gwyneth inside in the past, but she wasn’t ready for it then. She would panic and do everything in her power to get back out. I’m hoping that now she might be ready to stay. Maybe as the indoors becomes more familiar and the outdoors less desirable, she’ll get used to it.

Caring for cats is my “chop wood, carry water.” For many years it has been part of my daily spiritual practice, and if I do nothing else in this world, it’s enough. It’s my small contribution to making the world a better place.

My art is also part of my daily practice. It not only grounds me but connects me to something larger than my small self.

Over the weekend I finished three new rust pieces. The background paintings are done with carbon black powder, and I use soy milk to bind the dry pigment to the canvas. The mandalas were created using rust and eucalyptus leaves on canvas with hand stitching. And each piece uses black pet screen (leftover from building the catio) to accent the inner circle.

Click on the images for more information and to see them in a browser.

Cassandra Tondro rust art

“The Great Divide,” 18 x 18 inches, mixed media on canvas

Cassandra Tondro rust art

“Microcosm,” 18 x 18 inches, mixed media on canvas

Cassandra Tondro rust art

“Spirit Dance,” 18 x 18 inches, mixed media on canvas

What daily practices inspire you? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.

With love and appreciation,


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