Perfect Mandalas


These are called Romanesca Broccoli and I think that they are stupendously beautiful.  We started them from seed last summer, and in early August transplanted about 20 of them from pots into the ground.  We had such a cool summer that they didn’t really take off.  But summer was followed by a pretty mild winter, and look at them now!

They are perfectly wonderful mandalas.  They have a central focus, then spread out in a seemingly limitless fashion.  They hold the promise of the universe in the intensity of their color, the great variety of their surface, and the depth of their rounded form.  If we choose, we can read many meanings into them, and they can speak to our souls.

But most important, did I mention that they are utterly delicious?  Sauté them, or steam them.  Or prepare them in my favorite way.  Roast them with just a little olive oil and salt.  425 degrees, for twelve minutes (or thirteen).

Yummy!  Perfect!

Stillness (Winter)

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.

Seeing in a New Way

Last week, I took my annual trip to Chicago, the city where I grew up and where my mother lived until her death over three years ago. While she was alive, I went there more and more frequently. But now I content myself with an annual pilgrimage to see family and friends, and to revisit my roots.  My continued visits to the city are somehow really important to me.  Yet another circular experience in my life.

How many thousands of times have I walked on Michigan Avenue where this photograph was taken! But not so often with camera in hand, feeling part tourist, part long-time resident. Waiting to be surprised by the city I still know so well.

So as I looked through the lens, I was really pleased to capture these three iconic Chicago landmark buildings in one shot.  In the foreground is a part of the original Water Tower, which is one of the only buildings to have survived the devastating Chicago Fire of 1871.  In the middle is just a small slice of the “new” Water Tower, a six story shopping center which has become a destination in itself.  How perfect that the words were the only things framed by this view. And in the background stands the distinctive Hancock Building, once the tallest building in the world, now not even the tallest building in Chicago.  The tiny shape of the tall building in the upper right corner is the Ritz Carleton Hotel, one of Oprah’s many homes.

I was truly delighted to see all this at once.  It made the proximity of all these buildings very real to me, and their juxtapositions brought thoughts about architecture, urban planning, and the symbolism attendant on the giants of commerce they house.  I gained new insight about the process of seeing and about the so-called happy accidents of photography.

a start?

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?

how can this be?

Iris Shoots, February 2, 2012

I look forward to winter for many reasons. And one of the main things I look forward to is the opportunity to have everything stop for a while. And even though I recognize that this is a total illusion, I pretend anyway. Winter seems to give me more time to still my busy mind, to spend lovely days at home, listening to the rain and the wind, letting the beautiful gray tones of the Northwest sky wash over me. In this stillness, I feel that my creativity and my spirituality are being renewed. And in anticipation of this special time, I decided to make a Stillness mandala as my next project. To commemorate the coming around of this wonderful time of year.

But something is going terribly wrong this year. True we had a little snow two weeks ago. But where are the wonderful winter rain storms? Where is the intensity, the opportunity for cleansing, the chance to stay at home, and to snuggle up inside and be warm. To read books, to make soup, to work on mandalas.

Aside from the huge implications for Global Climate Change, how can I be still when the sun is shining?  How can I pretend that things will stop long enough for me to have my winter experience when I go outside my door and see things like the photo I took this morning.  On February 2nd, no less.