I’ve been making mandalas from flowers and leaves since February 23. It has become my meditation, my art project. It’s how I’m dealing with stress and anxiety. I am a huge fan of land art, ephemeral artworks made of natural, found materials and installed in natural spaces. This is my own little contribution to the art form. I love flowers and used to be a florist, so it seems to fit.
I am using primarily materials from my own garden and yard. Occasionally, when in a wild place or undeveloped lot, I will pick some wildflowers to use, but only if they are totally plentiful. I’ve made mandalas in my parents’ yard and in my in-laws’ yard, using their plants and flowers. I’m not buying cut flowers for this project, it’s just what I can glean.
It seems that every few days a new plant is blooming, making its flowers or pretty leaves available to my art. I don’t want to denude anything, of course—I grow my garden so that it’s beautiful and pleasant to be in—so I only take bits that are abundant. I carefully consider whether I can spare the flowers.
There’s a kind of sacred geometry to these, I think, as is so with all mandalas. I enjoy playing with forms. Each mandala has something wrong with it, a kind of wabi-sabi element. Somehow, this delights me. Even though I really do try to make them symmetrical and geometrical and “right.” Tiny pieces sometimes move out of place. Usually I don’t see their flaws until after I’ve taken the photo and walked away, or the wind has moved all the bits around and destroyed the pattern. Then I take a deep breath and decide to love the mandala anyway.
Some mandalas are simple and some are complicated. I’m enjoying exploring shapes and textures, as well as colors and all their myriad combinations. Sometimes I use bare ground or my lawn as the background. Other times I’ll find a place under a tree where there’s bark or needles. I think the background contributes to the overall feeling of each mandala. So far, every one of them is unique in many ways.
The wind is my enemy when designing a piece. Various sun versus shadow conditions can also be tricky, I’ve learned. Time of day matters, too. If it’s too late in the evening, I find my photo isn’t as nice because of low light. If the day has bright, bright sun, I often can’t tell by looking at my viewfinder if my photo has captured it properly. After taking shots, I play with the brightness, saturation, shadows, and other elements of the photo to try to pull out the best qualities of each mandala. I’m no whiz at postproduction, but I get in there and mess about anyway.
Even if I’m using many flowers of the same type, or many leaves from the same tree or bush, each one is different. I like that these same-element groups don’t always behave the same, or look quite the same, or have the same size, color, or texture, but when viewed as a whole, sort of cooperate and can be taken together.
I think most of all, what I like about making these is that they make me happy. They’re little earthy prayers of my own making, arising from my wild mind and creative soul though the work of my hands, arranging materials that delight me. They are quieting, when my mind is racing. My mandalas give me a moment to stop everything, take a few moments outside, and make something beautiful, even if it lasts only a little while.
I also love that they make other people happy. So, dear friends, thank you for the encouragement and kind words. I think I’ll keep making my garden mandalas for a while longer.