I have always loved birds. As a child I found a dead sparrow and buried it with my girlfriend Abby in her Seattle back yard. Many years later, driving on a blustery winter morning across the state of Oregon, a hawk saved my life. Colorado skies near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains are full of raptors: redtails, bald eagles, and osprey. Now I bow to each of these when I see them.
Stories about and artistic renderings of mythical birds such as the phoenix and griffin have always fascinated me. Many years ago I bought stationery from Nepal with images of a small standing garuda. Looking at this image with curiosity, I wondered about this mysterious bird. Last year I visited the Rubin Museum in New York City, the world’s largest museum dedicated to Buddhist art. There I was smitten by a thangka of Mahamukhamahakala, a raven-headed wrathful protector, remembering that a couple of years ago, I had made a self-portrait with a raven on my head. I drew the Mahamukhamahakala head in gold in my journal.
Himalayan Art Resources has many historical images of the Garuda.
Then, last year my friend Peter gave me a small print of a calligraphy by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Reading his book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, I learned that the garuda symbolizes outrageousness and is regarded as the king of birds. Outrageousness here means going beyond the rollercoaster of hope and fear. I have used the phrase “not caught in the ambush of hope and fear” for understanding how to establish stability of both mind and heart.
Garuda drawn in my journal May 2020.
Garuda on head of self-portrait on new 4' x 6' drawing,
Everything I Know 4, still to be painted, May 2020.