Yes! It has been a long time since I posted anything …but I’m back! Here is the first mandala I’ve done in a while with not one, but two beautiful new poems that Tom wrote. Since we are now living on an island, and the mandala was about finding a new balance in a new context, it seems fitting that one poem highlights the ocean and the other the forest.
Boulders strewn beneath the mass
of Ocean’s dark and vasty deeps
protect the rising reefs of glass
sponges where the mermaids weep
to see these fragile structures shine
in darkness since the dawn of time:
no sun has broken their repose
since species now extinct arose
to master Earth and sea and air
with mighty roars and stomping feet,
they ruled and the world until defeat
by time and chance entombed them there
beneath great Ocean’s darkling waves
where reefs of glass still mark their graves.
The forest hides its secrets well,
they’re measureless beyond account:
a perfect flower, an open dell,
a tiny grotto where the Fount
of Youth may flow into a stream,
until it feeds slow Lethe’s dream
as all about the forest speaks.
Leaves might whisper, branches creak,
each voice a secret now revealed
to anyone with ears to hear,
who dares to overcome their fears
and venture past familiar fields.
The forest watches, listens, waits,
for one who comes, embracing Fate.
(“Lethe” is the river of forgetfulness in Greek mythology.)
Starting with a poppy in the centre of this mandala seemed in tune with this time of year. Poppies and remembering.
Life is rather unsettled at the moment so it may be a while before I watercolour this. I wanted to share the black and white version anyway – since black and white also seems in tune with November.
Tom’s stirring poem:
Storm winds blow the scattered leaves of autumn
through the empty air, across the fields,
into ditches, craters, holes, and trenches
where a sniper aims for lost ideals:
service, duty, glory, resolution,
patriotic feeling, good and right,
huddled in the rank’s malign confusion
readying to rise and charge and strike.
The minutes tick around the face of time
measuring the heartbeats of the dead
breathing in the shadows, asking why
the blood of men so innocent is shed
for empire and for nation and for fear,
when all who seem so far are truly near.
In memory of Private George Lawrence Price, the last Canadian to die in WWI, two minutes before the Armistice:
This mandala was drawn over several days with the intricate motifs taking on a life of their own. I don’t analyze these; they are the process and become whatever they become. The end results aren’t planned and so can be quite surprising.
Tom saw something deep in this mandala inspiring him to write this amazing poem. As I sometimes do, I took the title of the mandala from one of his beautiful lines.
Within the door where dwells the King of All
now slumbering, exhausted by the trials
of life and rule and matters great and small
his ancient face is youthened by a smile
slow, soft and happy, lingering on old
deep memories of when the world was new.
Upon the door, fine-cut into the wood
the pattern of the world stands bold and true
to all that he once dreamed. There is a child
who stands before the door, his eyes entranced
by intricate emblazonments of wild
leaves and flowers spinning through their dance.
The Old King wanders through the door at last
The Young King stands before the living past.
Tom adds: I get a sense of age and tradition as well as wild beauty from this: there’s something timeless and eternal as well as continually renewing.
If peacocks made snowflakes, maybe they’d look like this… I was thinking about the mandala calendar for this year and thoughts of winter months inspired this one.
I love the poem Tom wrote for this. It’s all festive swirl and glitter with hidden depths. Tom says: This one has a (very) little of James Joyce’s famous short story “The Dead” in it, which is often touted as the greatest in the English language, although I’d put Kipling’s “The Gardener” up against it. Here’s a link for those who (like me) haven’t read this yet or would like a refresher. http://www.online-literature.com/james_joyce/958/
Kaleidoscopes of winter snow
fall across the icy sky
upon the ladies as they go
to Christmas soirees, “By the by,
I must admit I love that shawl,
with orchids, stars, a forest tall,
it looks so warm and cozy-soft,
like otters snuggled in a croft
beneath a landscape, frozen, cold
where carolers sing songs of joy
their voices by the stillness buoyed
up to the sky’s wide peaceful fold
as stars look down upon our lives:
like blowing snow we swirl and rise.”
This one ended up with a strong somber tone. I’m not sure why since I started with a flower! It’s a mystery. Anyway, the title arose because it felt like etching or metal inlay by the time I was done. We’re nearing the end of summer with autumn starting to give a hint of its cool breath. Perhaps that was in the back of my mind. Someone recently asked me about the meanings of mandalas which I have not studied deeply at all. I imagine that any analysis of my mandalas would say more about my psyche than about the iconography of any particular tradition.
Etched upon the sky’s grey steel
the trees of autumn raise their arms
while burnished roots both hold and heal
warding all from hurt and harm
keeping something in the centre
open, free, a door to enter
from the wind-blown darkling plain
where armies clash in cloud and rain
into a world of peace and strength
that can’t forget the promised spring
where still, perhaps, a bird might sing
while in some burrow, giving thanks,
a woodland creature, small and rare,
dares look out to see what’s there.
The inspiration for mandalas is still strong! I am enjoying sitting (and spending hours and hours) to draw and paint these! Completing the ink work is the longest phase because there is so much detail and then even more fun – deciding on the colour palette to really bring the image alive. Joyful. As usual, this one evolved as I went along. I did not expect the faces until they appeared!
Tom’s poem goes magically along with the image.
Adrift upon a sea of flowers
dreaming softly side by side
turning through this night of ours
as dusk to dawn we gently glide
from face to face within our dreams
trying on each one that seems
to fit the moment or the place
it vanishes without a trace
into the mystery at the centre
where a deeper beauty grows
beneath a lotus, not a rose:
a door where starlight yearns to enter
as we move on to other hours
snuggled here among the flowers.
This mandala started with mouse-like shapes around the centre and evolved from there. I had fun with the houses which are similar but all different. I hope you enjoy looking at all the little details – I know I enjoyed drawing them!
Tom’s poem is playful and whimsical like the mandala!
We are the mice of Plimsoll Close
and we will keep you on your toes
rustling through your drawers at night
searching for a crumb that might
satisfy our search for tastes
that delight our palates. Haste
is not our way, we’re patient mice
who will pass up a grain of rice
in hope sincere that we will find
a candied walnut, orange rind,
or some such savory delight
before the end of this fine night.
Have I mentioned it’s been hot here? I continue to have a rather tropical inspiration permeate my work!
Here is a magical poem from Tom …a riff on T.S. Elliot’s “Usk”.
Do not step and break the branch
where snakes slip soft
on forest floor
bright birds dip beaks but not too deep
of ancient mysteries that dwell
down the Amazon
contains the secret
in grey air
a high safe nest
a serpent’s lair
Here is another in this series of meditative mandalas. Again it evolved from the centre into something a bit stranger as it went along! Somehow the elderly ladies seemed right and once they were there, well they were clearly knitting the world! In Greek mythology we usually hear about the Fates weaving but Tom took this and ran with it! His poem is below followed by a short commentary.
Each within her cozy private nook
where a clicking sound is all that breaks
the silence while across the centre looks
are exchanged to judge the give and take
required to hold the world in careful balance
between the lunar turns. Each day the talents
weigh against each other, vying with
the promise of a tangle or a kiss
from the One whose rays fall bright between
as the world’s created stitch by stitch:
plaited, purled, and stockinette are switched
to form the fabric, all that’s never seen.
Behind the famous trio of the Fates
the Elder Aunties patiently await.
Apollo (whose rays fall bright between) got the Fates drunk and tricked them into allowing his friend Admetus to outlive his days. I don’t think the Elder Aunties, each assigned to a lunar month, apparently, would be best pleased.