The Middle Way

Zen Spot #28 —Mindfulness, meditation and still life painting at 36 via Fondazza February 20, 2018 00:05

Italian interdependence

I recently returned from a trip to visit my son in Bologna Italy. The city is amazing — cozy, warm, delicious and friendly. His apartment was on the fifth floor of a wonderful building, with a kitchen window that overlooked the surrounding homes’ red clay roofs for what seemed like miles. The angles and juxtapositions of the roof lines — some over two hundred years old — opening up into private courtyards that only one’s imagination can fathom , were a dreamer's feast.

The painter next door

Bologna is not America. With the exception of established, high profile shopping districts, smaller stores and other addresses are not well marked. A hallmark of the city are the porticos that cover almost every sidewalk. It is possible, because of the porticos, to walk through most of the city, in pouring rain, and barely get wet. Sometimes the porticos make it impossible to find even well marked addresses. If you don’t walk by, while under a portico, you might miss something wonderful.

I did.

It wasn’t until the last day of my visit, as I was walking to meet my son, after just having descended five flights, that I noticed a small sign affixed to his building, six inches to the left of the next-door neighbor’s front door. The name Giorgio Morandi was etched.

A still life

Morandi was a modern master of the painted still life. He lived in Bologna, at 36 via Fondazza, from 1910 to 1964. His work is unmistakable. Instead trying to describe his work, other than to say that it is sublime and understated, yet powerful, I recommend you try to see an image in person. Photography can’t capture the nuance and texture, both of which are critical to understanding his mastery.

Among the most common of his still life subjects were clay pots, bottles, vases and cups arranged in very tight formations, sitting on a sparse table top.

The handle of a cup

Several years ago, I read The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. My memory of the reading is singular. In his explanation of interdependence, His Holiness describes how a cup and the handle of a cup come together to create the entirety of a useful object. Without both, the cup would not be the cup that it is. Morandi’s cups included.

A stiller life

When I found Morandi’s home, I started to contemplate the life he lived, with an emphasis on the idea of so many masterpieces having been created in a single place. The life of a painter is often quiet and, having lived and painted at a time when mass media hadn’t poisoned his personal culture, I image the quiet was profound.

I used my contemplation as a starting point for a brief meditation. Having sat on the sidewalk, with my back against the front of the building, my skin protected from the midday sun by a portico, I closed my eyes and took a breath.

It was wonderful.


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?