The Mandala Chronicles

November 20, 2017

Back in 2010, there was a display of photographs in the café of our local Briar Patch co-op, that had been created by the Mandala Nomadess, a woman who wandered to beautiful locations, mountains, rivers, beaches, and created nature mandalas from what she found in the immediate environment.  She used leaves, branches, twigs, stones, flowers and  pinecones, to create intricate designs with an affinity for each particular ecosphere she was visiting.  Something awakened in me by seeing this gorgeous work, and I bought a print and framed it for my living room.  I subsequently moved twice, and this mandala came with me as a reminder of a kind of ephemeral art that appealed deeply to my spirit.  This is how the nature mandala first came into my awareness, and in the next few years, when teaching art workshops, we would often close our circle with a mandala of flowers and candles surrounded by our paintings and collages.

In 2014 I turned 50 and set out on 50 Field Trips (with flowers and friends) to celebrate.  In May, on a trip to Mendocino I sat alone on a log and made my first nature mandala on a driftwood log on Glass Beach.  On the 50th trip – I went on a walk by the Yuba at Edward’s Crossing with Jennifer, it was late autumn, just before Thanksgiving, and as we walked she suggested we make a mandala, and we instinctively  collected things as we walked, filling our pockets with golden leaves and acorns and sat on a rock together in the mist by the water.  It was both the culmination and celebration of my 50 trips project and also had the real portent of being the beginning of something new, and the beginning of our mandala collaborations.

For the next few years Jennifer and I would meet on special occasions and make mandalas with flowers gathered from our gardens, before our friends’ fire circle,  or as part of our art events.  That year I was leading art field trips to visit artist studios and at that time contacted the Mandala Nomadess to try to arrange a mandala walk with her for our group, but she had moved away, off trekking in exotic lands.

Last September (2016), I invited friends to the river for the autumn equinox.  It was just three of us who were able to be there, Sunny and Jenn and I spent a glorious day at my favorite rock at the river to honor the change of season.  We collected twigs and quartz and swam in the golden light.  That mandala marked the beginning of a year long cycle because due to the escalating discord in American politics during election season, and the unrest we were all feeling on the planet, I felt it was time to step it up a notch and bring the women together more often just to stay balanced. Earlier that summer, my son had given me a copy of Malidoma Some’s book, Ritual: Power, Healing & Community, on the need for ritual in the western world, and although our circles were very different from what he describes in his book, it was a nod to his work and leaning in that direction in the form that came naturally to me.

So I began to gather  small groups of women together, to share each other’s company and to create offerings of beauty, a gentle form of ritual.  We began to meet, every new and full moon, twice a month for the whole year. This book is a chronicle of those gatherings, a harvest of our time together, and a collection of writings from any of us who wanted to contribute, weaving a tapestry of our collective experience.   The nature of these mandalas, unlike my inspiration the Mandala Nomadess who works in solitude, is collaborative.  It is extraordinary in our product driven, competitive art world to relax into an art form that is temporal, collaborative and accessible. We all know how to do this, it is in our hands, in our DNA.  It’s in our feminine consciousness. We are built to create offerings of beauty.  It is easy for us to stand in quiet reverence of the natural world, to give thanks for the gifts surrounding us, to be immersed in a sisterhood of sharing our lives, celebrating the rhythms of the seasons, and supporting each other through both joyful and difficult times.

On the new moon, which is a quiet, internal time, we explored writing our new moon intentions, and experimented with a new moon group tarot spread.  The full moon is a more energetic,  expansive time, more for celebration and fun. And always good food.  Some gatherings were inside, some were out at various locations, the pond, the river, leaving our offering to be enjoyed by anyone who might happen upon it, especially the deer.

Each season brings its own gifts, its own flavors and rhythms.  We also began to attune to the Cross Quarter celebrations—Samhain, Imbolc, Beltaine and Lammas.  Paying attention to the cycles of the moon, of initiation and action, celebration and letting go, slowing down and deep rest, has been a very nourishing process, and an exploration that has only just  begun.  As we tune into the rhythms of the moon we become more balanced, more grounded, more able to live with an ongoing sense of wonder and gratitude.

We close each circle by saying one word each, passing around a beautiful polished rose quartz that fits just right into the palm, understanding that when we pass a rose quartz to another person, love radiates throughout the universe.  May these flower offerings continue to ripple with joy through our collective consciousness, in reverence for all life.
(Introduction to Offerings of Beauty: A Year of Moon Mandalas)

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