In early January, I decided that I would make a mandala for each of the four seasons, and that I would complete each one during the actual season it represents.
True to form, I finished the one for Winter on the first day of Spring. OK, so I was one day late, but I think that’s not bad. And the weather cooperated with me totally. Here on Orcas, it was a gray, cool day, with high, howling winds. A perfect day to sit down with a hot cup of tea and, work in the small, tight way that these mandalas demand. A perfect day to finish this project that I have been pondering, doing sketches for, and finally drawing for almost three months.
It was the kind of blustery day I have been longing for all winter. We have had a pretty mild winter, with not enough of the drama that I look forward to so much. No loss of electricity since Thanksgiving. No cancelled plans. No sense of that deep quiet that I count on for renewal. No compelling reason to rest.
It has been a challenge to sit down and find that place of deep winter stillness within myself, and even more of a challenge to figure out what that “looks” like. Isn’t the whole concept of stillness the absence of imagery? How could I make something that is still and visually interesting at the same time? Within that challenge, I got to a place of conditional peace. Within my busy mind, I willed stillness to come to me. I breathed it into my yearning heart. I wanted this mandala to be dark and a little mysterious as I perceive winter to be. But of course, I wanted it also to reflect the promise of light and warmth both inside and outside my true self.
I have been thinking and thinking (probably thinking way too much) about what Stillness looks like. Challenging enough to feel into it, even for an instant. But having decided to do a mandala about it, I am determined to figure out what it may look like. So with a tormented muscle in my right knee and the weather once again rainy and gray, I am slowed down enough to concentrate on Stillness. Can I feel into it enough to see it?
Stillness…the Ah of it…the breath of it…being enclosed in the safety of it…the womb…the softness…nothing too bright…nothing too loud. Quiet, stillness, Ah…. A sense of movement, yes! Something so very dynamic about it.
A sketch. A start? A kind of, maybe, beginning of a start?
Last Sunday, I was watching football (the Championship games) and knitting, and it occurred to me why knitting is becoming such a positive thing for me to do. I first learned to knit in high school and made a sweater which I never wore. In college, I tried making a vest for a friend of mine, got carried away, and in the end it was so huge that only a member of the Harlem Globetrotters could wear it. So I put my needles away and forgot all about knitting and all other craft-related activities, for that matter.
But now that I make baskets and hang around with all these beautiful women in the San Juan County Textile Guild, I see them knitting all the time – at meetings, on the ferry, at social gatherings, while watching TV. Their hands are always busy, and it has made my hands start to twitch with eagerness to be doing something similar. A friend of mine was knitting a scarf like this, and she said that it was really easy to do, and that I could do it. She was right. I can, and I am doing it. Just like riding a bike, it all came back to me.
So this is why I am liking this process so much. I can take it anywhere. It is a really good way to focus and to concentrate. For this scarf, it is 8-8-6-6-4-4-20. I need to pay attention, but at the same time it is very relaxing. When I am nervous about anything, it is very soothing. I breathe better. Knitting is a good way to hold me in the present moment. I lose myself in the repetition of doing one stitch after another. And I join in the archetypal process of all those knitters who came before me.
Best of all, by the time the Superbowl is over, I will have a fun and whimsical new scarf to wear.
After being on the road for forty five hours, I am finally home. You’d think that I had been somewhere truly exotic, for all that travel time. But a combination of cancelled flights and late flights and no late ferries made this a two-day voyage from Delaware Water Gap to Orcas Island. And oh, it feels so good to be here in the beauty and the quiet that is Orcas, and to breathe into the idea that I won’t be going anywhere (at least not on a plane) for the next three months. I’m sinking into that with joy and gratitude. So happy to see Dennis and the cats!! I’m already planning the many projects I want to do in the stillness and grayness of winter. Hoping that I get at least some them crossed off the eternally long list of things I want to do in the studio, for the house and outside in the garden. More mandalas. Work on half-finished baskets. Learn more beading techniques. Paint a lot. Organize my office. Clean up the garden. Make beautiful winter comfort food. And exercise to counter act all that. My work is clearly cut out for me.
For today, I’ll unpack, do some laundry, go through the mail and rest a bit. The projects can wait. And so can I. But not for too long.
It’s seems so common to talk about speaking truthfully and from the heart. But these days I’m being reminded that I must first discover what is really true for me before I say it. When I get it right, the words pour out. I feel better and the results are so tangible that I can reach out and touch them. But arriving at that kind of truth can be such a squiggly thing, so elusive and hard to hold on to. And even harder to say out loud. No wonder I spend so much time avoiding confrontation.
The other day I finally took some pictures of the Mandala Platters that I’ve been selling for almost a year. And I must admit that I was in a bit of a snit at that moment in time. When I got to the one depicting Truth, I realized that it was just what I needed to see at that moment. I was reminded of feelings that I had while I was working on it a couple of years ago, and was able to get more in touch with some of the fears that stop me from being true to myself. Clarity returned. I could breathe freely again. After that, it was was easy to find the right words.
How nice to know that these mandalas really work!! Now to get them up on our website, perhaps a much more challenging proposition than discovering truth.