The idea of creating a mandala for each of the four seasons came to me last January, at a time when I had been feeling pretty sure that I was finished making them. And then, the concept just popped into my head, complete with subtitles for each of them, so I felt that I had to go through with the project. Each one was worked on and completed within its own season. Much to my surprise, it turned into a labor of love, and has been an amazing and healing way of learning about myself and how I feel, as each of the seasons revealed their sweetness to me and yielded its position to the next in line. Four circles (cycles) sitting inside the larger cycle (circle) of one year. Perfect for a person like me who loves looking at almost everything in terms of circles and time passing.
Winter (Stillness) was about finding the quiet place inside myself, wrapping myself in a cocoon of silence, of safety, of protection. Finding imagery to echo Stillness was quite a challenge. But the most important lesson was to discover how much movement there could be within the Stillness of the winter months, how much opportunity for growth and change. How bright it all really was.
Spring (Tolerance) held a kernel of an idea that somehow everything and everyone could work together toward growth and cooperation, toward the promise of blossoming. But in reality, nature is messy and free and wild. There is an unruly aspect to Tolerance. Things are popping up all over the place, yet they all seem to know when and where to grow. My lesson was strong and clear. Get out of the way and let it happen.
Summer (Trust) became a way of finding renewed strength and confidence. I always love summer, since I was born at the end of July and feel my happiest during the heady part of summer that Leo rules. This year, I learned to Trust my body more and to be more grateful for it. In return, it allowed me to garden and to be creative and to keep learning about life and love, about getting and giving support.
Fall (Vulnerability) took me totally by surprise. Originally, its subtitle was Surrender, but I realized that Vulnerability was more appropriate for what I was feeling. It was supposed to have a leaf in the center, but that changed to a Falling Figure (a motif I painted many years ago). I tried to turn it back into a leaf, but the figure demanded to be seen. It is about everything being revealed in the Fall. As the leaves fall, we see and are seen. Both make us more Vulnerable. I mourn for what I have lost. I rejoice for what I have gained. It is a bittersweet time. And what I have learned is that being Vulnerable is okay. Maybe not always fun, but always okay.
I finished the Summer Mandala just a few days ago, and it signals the end of many summer tasks. I am not quite ready for it to be September. I’m never really ready for September, but this year it seems especially difficult. I want the sunny bright colors of the mandala to last longer. I want the flowers to stay around. I want the garden to keep growing.
I do love Summer! And I am working on Trust in so many areas of my life right now. Learning to trust that the strength and sense of flow that summer brings me can last into the Fall, even when it is rainy and gray.
I’ve completed three of the seasons. One more mandala to go in my version of the four seasons.
I’ve been reading the June/July issue of Art in America (my only contact with the art world when I am at home on Orcas), and it has provoked me, shaken me up a bit, and confused me about the art I choose to make. The theme of the issue is “Resistance” and it not about my style of resisting, meaning something that I don’t want to do or to look at in my own life. No, it centers on artists who are making strong socio-political statements with their art. Many of the artists live in countries with repressive governments and are making these sometimes very public statements at great personal risk. They are truly heroes, making difficult yet relevant art.
There have always been artists doing this kind of strong, issue-oriented work, and it never bothered me. My art has always been so personal to me, arising from my own inner need to create and exorcise my own demons. I study contemporary art and am passionate about knowing what is current, but have known and felt comfortable with the idea that my own work was not so cutting edge. Challenging in its own way. But not political. More spiritual than anything else in a kind of abstract, contemporary way. Not necessarily classically beautiful, but not unpleasant to look at either.
And I have kept at it for well over forty years which is an achievement in itself. But these are strange and significant times we are living through, and reading about some of this work is stirring something deep within me. Making me feel obsolete and a little guilty, causing me to feel that there is something else I could be doing other than signing endless petitions over the internet and donating a little money to several different environmental and human rights causes over the year.
But what would it be? It’s not that I want to be famous! I need to remember that my form of activism is done on a different scale. As a healer and a Reiki teacher, I can influence one person at a time, helping them to realize their own potential to become calmer and maybe a bit happier. My paintings can introduce people to other worlds, to my inner life, and perhaps to give them a glimpse into their own. My mandala art, with its one-word titles, is designed for meditation and contemplation because that’s what I need as I am making them. The one pictured below is titled Hope.
So I’ll keep reading and learning. My challenge is to care about humanity and the future of the world in my own way. To keep caring and to keep making the art I love to make because it’s how I keep myself sane and healthy. I do know that somehow it makes a difference, even if it’s only to create me as a better person.
I spend a large part of my day looking.
In the morning, I look at the screen on my computer.
In the afternoon, I spend time outside. I look at the minute details of my garden, checking each flower and each vegetable for signs of growth, or slug damage, or readiness to be picked, pruned or harvested. I look at the whole vegetable garden (I regret that I got such a late start this year, and I trust that there will be more to eat very soon). I look at each flower bed, and try to manage the weeds that all this rain is bringing. I look at the sky and the water and the mountains in the distance. I see the sun gleaming or the clouds moving or the rain glistening. I notice the other houses near where I live. I take in the trees swaying in the breeze. I love it all. I breathe.
Then it’s time to go into the studio. I take the time to look at what I’ve been working on before going on to the next step, the next stroke the next layer. Then I paint and I look while I’m painting. And I look again, and paint again.
But all the looking is a prelude for feeling. If I am painting an abstract composition, I need to explore what is moving me in the moment, knowing that painting it will change the feeling or the emotion into something else. If I am creating a mandala, I take the word that I am associating with it and feel deeply into what it means for me. If I am prompted to paint my version of a landscape, I am not representing anything actual. I am feeling into everything I have seen, everything I have been looking at, and making a semblance of the real world as it has been filtered through my mind and heart.
The three small paintings on paper which are pictured above are those kind of landscapes.
In January, I came up with the idea of doing a new mandala for each season of the year. I finished the one for Winter on the day before the Spring Equinox. This one is ready well in advance of summer. Good for me!
The sub-theme for Spring is Tolerance. And here is why. Do all the flowers get stressed when they start coming up at the same time in Spring? Do they fight with each other for space, or crowd each other out, or deny each other light and water? No, they somehow make it work. And even when the weeds start to take over, they all still tolerate each other. They all know what to do. My personal lesson in all this is to be more tolerant of those who don’t act with kindness, or who don’t care about the good of the planet, or don’t have a particularly humanitarian philosophy. I recognize that we are still all connected whether I want to admit it or not.
But perhaps my greatest challenge in the Tolerance department is for those nearest and dearest to me. It is so easy to get annoyed or to need and demand perfection from them. I want to feel like the two ribbons of blue in the mandala, entwined yet flowing in different ways and in a different rhythm. I want to be working toward the sun and putting more and more consciousness into the tangle of green. Coming through in the orange and pink flowers. It’s all growing in its own way and in its own time. And oh my, I want to be more tolerant of myself as well. That dark spot almost in the center of the mandala. The remnant of darkness from the Winter months. The remainder of mistrust and doubt in my soul.