Thursday, July 28, 2005

Life as sand mandala

I woke up from a dream in which I was a sand mandala. The sand painting was finished; the grains of sand were being swept back into the earth, carried on the wind. I woke up taking a conscious breath in and out, then a big breath in and out. I looked at the sky: a beautiful blue with just a few small cloud puffs over the Catalinas.

I thought yesterday about an art happening that evolved a few years ago down in the rillito. One day in February, I began to move stones and boulders to create a rock garden on the expanse of dry river sand. I scavenged pieces of drift wood and twigs and iron rebar to make Japanese gates called torii (等り). Yuki hung out down there with me as I played.

Everyday, I spent my mornings moving rocks and creating new formations in the garden before going to teach pottery. Each day, I brought pieces of my hand made pottery to the garden, little offerings. In the evening, Yuki and I would again walk to the rillito. People from the neighborhood began to congregrate there, sunset walkers mostly, many with their dogs. Everyday, I found surprises in the garden: rounded spiral rock paths had been carefully placed, shiny stones were laid out in a pattern, glassy beads and small tin bells appeared hanging from one of the torii gates, a miniature shrine had been created beside a large boulder. Some items seemed to have disappeared only to appear in another spot, and some items found new, temporary homes with an admirer/visitor to the garden. The garden was no longer "mine".

There were no rules, yet everything that was placed was a natural found object from within the rillito; no one used plastic (with the exception of my pottery pieces, the seven-inch kami--paper--streamers I sewed around the torii, and some jute). People continued to visit, making the rillito rock garden a destination to walk to and a place to play and create with their whole bodies. It was never crowded, though, and always felt peaceful and playful. My idea was to work/play down there until the monsoons came and washed it all away. What happened was a little different.

One day at the end of May, I walked down there to find the rillito rock garden had been torn apart, vandalized. At first, I felt disappointed that I was not going to see everything float away and would not see moist, grainy river sand the next day where the garden had been. And, I imagined the energy of the ones who broke everything. Then, I let go of thinking. I could not control a perfect 'flowing' outcome. The end came differently then expected. Actually, so did the middle. I set out to move stones, to move my body, and to play at something that delights me (building things). I never expected that a community would come to meet it and that it would playfully engage many individuals.


pinkcoyote said...

Mmmnn. We have a special place up here called the medicine wheel where a friend of mine began hanging little offerings in a small, circular group of trees: a shell tied to a piece of sinew, a feather. Brandon and I went there and tied a little white feather and a bead when we found out we were pregnant years ago.
We built an actual medicine wheel on one of our mountain tops with colored rocks. When we went to visit it next Spring, someone had taken all the rocks apart and spelled "JESUS". Many of us were quite burnt at the symbolism of this for a while, but we moved past it onto other ventures: rock cairns on the hiking trails and piles of pine cones in hollow trees. Creating sacred special places with no attachment to the outcome. What a healing experience I get when I pass someone's creation. Thank you for sharing and reminding me of this kind of art. I have not been able to go on my regular hikes with this pregnancy and am rather sore about it! Your post takes me there easily....

keri Smith said...

I felt so happy reading that.

My husband and I are moving to a new place while he is going to school (Davis, ca), and we had to arrange it from here (Canada) and there wasn't much available. The place is really ugly, (and I am spoiled with my current home, a beautiful cottage with gardens and an art studio.) So I have been feeling winded by it lately. But reading this I am reminded that you can create something meaningful and beautiful anywhere you are. With whatever you have. (which I know and practice but sometimes need to be reminded of.)

maybe I am supposed to spend a year in an ugly place to really learn this.

thank you.