To visit the work of Robert Rahway Zakanitch in "From a Garden of Ordinary Miracles" at the Samuel Freeman Gallery in Santa Monica is to find oneself suddenly and unexpectedly adrift on a mighty cloud of joy: we're blessed, we're blessed, we're blessed, we are blessed.
There is a particular sensibility in this work, a way of looking at the world with love, a way of allowing magic and light to slip into your consciousness, which, along with the underlying tone of assuming the best in all of us, reveals a habit of mind that is enchanting:
Those who see all creatures in themselvesThese massive (96” x 72”) displays of flowers and creatures
And themselves in all creatures know no fear.
Those who see all creatures in themselves
And themselves in all creatures know no grief.
How can the multiplicity of life
Delude the one who sees its unity?
(it's even more of a surprise in person!) allow one to become so absorbed in the experience of joyful seeing and awareness that one forgets oneself:
. . . in those moments when we forget ourselves—not thinking. “Am I happy? Am I having fun yet?” but completely oblivious to our little ego –we spend a brief but beautiful holiday in heaven.But the forgetting is a sort of divine paradox, because in the forgetting, one feels most oneself in this intimate connection with nature and beauty and sheer goodness.
By “goodness,” you understand I mean moral goodness, and by “moral goodness,” I mean what is beautiful in the human spirit, from even the tiniest impulsive act of generosity or kindness or mercy. I mean take-my-hand goodness; I mean Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Maud Martha Spares the Mouse” goodness:
Maud Martha could not bear the little look.Through some amazing grace, these works nudge you to spread your wings--to be a better person--to put a little love in your heart.
"Go home to your children," she urged. "To your wife or husband."
She opened the trap. The mouse vanished.
Suddenly, she was conscious of a new cleanness in her. A wide air walked in her. A life had blundered its way into her power and it had been hers to preserve or destroy. She had not destroyed. In the center of that simple restraint was–creation. She had created a piece of life. It was wonderful.
"Why," she thought, as her height doubled, "why, I'm good! I am good."
She ironed her aprons. Her back was straight. Her eyes were mild, and soft with loving kindness.