Stroke Ensos: A Book by Michael Whitt, MD


There is always a pile of books lying around our house, and as people pass by, they are often curious to see which ones have been thrown on our cafe, dining room and bedroom tables.

But in the roughly 40 years we’ve lived in West Marin, no book has attracted more attention or curiosity than the collection of classic 7 × 7 inch enso circles recently released by Mike Whitt. These unclosed circles, which in Japanese calligraphy express or symbolize a state of mind, were created in a rehab hospital bed as Mike recovered from a stroke that brought him down in September 2020.

Everyone picks up the book and spends at least 20 minutes leafing through it, 30 seconds per page. And that’s a lot of time, considering that each page contains just a simple enso ring, some open, some closed, accompanied by no more than five or six short words.

To trace the impact and course of his stroke, and exercise some damaged nerves, Mike had a sumi brush brought to his bedside, where he began to draw. He created one or more a day, then attached what he now calls “mumbles”: short Zen-like observations or humorous jokes, such as “Knocking down often leaves a short”, “Illumination n ‘is not transferable ”and“ The way to find is to have nothing in mind.

When his friend Mike Dixon saw some of the early sketches, he encouraged him to do more. And Mike did, continuing to add a few words to each describing a state of mind caused or inspired by his stroke. The result is a combination of ancient art and contemporary wisdom at their best.

The book can be reviewed and purchased at Monk Estate at Point Reyes Station.

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