This is one of my favorite mandalas. I drew it just after a visit from my mother and brother — the nuclear family I grew up with. We each live in different cities (and on different coasts) and hadn’t been together in the same place for at least three years.
I drew this mandala during a seaside retreat with the Women’s Sacred Circle in Maine this September. We were there during the autumn equinox (Mabon in the Wiccan calendar) and it was a pretty magical weekend. The last morning I was there, I took my final swim of the season. The water was so cold I got pins and needles, but it was worth it.
Most of my mandalas are far from perfect, but this one is more imperfect than most. I decided to embrace that imperfection instead of starting again. This is also one of the dangers of using a smaller sketchbook.
Direct experience of nature is a major theme in my writing. Technology has also figured strongly in my life: both professionally and in my growth as a writer/artist. The image below incorporates both nature and technology. I’ve taken leaves collected on walks during my recent convalescence, scanned them, and color-corrected them to document the bright autumn colors that never seem to translate in untouched photographs. Clockwise from top left, the leaves come from a red oak, a sugar maple, a white oak, and a red maple. The sound of the wind in the leaves, the feel of trees arching over my head and burrowing their roots into the ground, and their life cycle which mirrors the wheel of year are all powerful grounding forces for my body, heart, mind, and spirit.
Beautiful things can happen when you give yourself permission to let them. But usually it involves digging through a few layers of distraction. It took two pages of maundering before I settled down to make this drawing. Just before I did, I wrote “Never let someone take away your own agency as an artist. You don’t have to give that up — ever.”
I often draw mandalas. Here’s one I drew in March of 2014, around the time of the Egg Moon — the same month that holds Passover and Easter in the Judeo-Christian calendar, and around the time of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. In the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, it’s known as Ostara, a festival of the Germanic Goddess of the same name in which eggs and rabbits figure prominently. All these holidays share the themes of rebirth and renewal, a theme that is self-evident to anyone who’s lived through springtime in a temperate (or colder!) climate.
Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been living with a chronic illness for 25 years. Stress and complications with bronchitis caused a flare-up in early October. I spent about a week in hospital, and have been convalescing since then — I plan to return to work on a reduced schedule in the next week or so.
Writing has always been a major tool for me in making sense of (and peace with) these episodes. This past year though, in the depth of the illness I’ve found myself relying on right-brain visual self-expression. Words just haven’t seemed sufficient. Entering a pre-verbal space seems to get to the roots of my troubles in a deeper way and to allow healing to happen at a more fundamental level.
My family was highly creative, however we had an unspoken territorial agreement about who practiced what kind of art form. My father and mother were musicians, my brother was the visual artist, and I was the writer. While I had some early training in the visual arts, I chose to focus on writing partly out of respect for my brother’s “domain” and partly because writing was something that came very naturally to me. Visual art has continued to play a part in my life, though. I’ve kept this work private for the most part. But I think it’s time to send some of it out into the world.
I’ll be posting some of the images and artwork I’ve been creating since early October. Some readers may be more interested in the written word — and the name of the site certainly implies that that’s my primary focus. I like to think of creativity as being all of a piece, though.