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Sand Mandala In Florida…

I want to share a small story from inside our holiday travels from home to Minnesota to Florida then back home…

We were a traveling quartet consisting a delightfully determined doyenne in her mid-90s, a gay couple noting our 20-year relationship at ages 65 & 70… plus our Downs brother Mark, 56… who has thus the most unique abilities of us all… despite that each of us presumes ourselves as being the one keeping us all together… We are right!

I amused myself viewing us as some current emanation of archetypes from Commedia dell’arte :

Our knight Stephen leads, taking charge to attend the timing of our route while further easing our rather necessarily elastic procession with thickets of tickets, tags & so forth… without which… really… we would be quite adrift! Thank you my dear. I appreciate your Otto.

Who am I except to love the challenge being concierge for Helen… who often needs my arm for support while also using her faith and cane with facility… relying only sometimes on using a wheeled chariot. All the while keeping an eye out behind me to appreciate Mark reliably, stoically tracking with us… quite present in his own traveling mode. He clocks decades of travel on several continents with his speedy family… I take joy & an amused heart with him.

The day before our own last one in Florida we took brother Mark to the airport in Tampa to meet his plane taking him directly back home to Minneapolis after our warm week. Stephen is permitted to accompany him to the gate, finding their lunch once comfortably beyond the potential delays of security. Helen & I then had a generous hour for our own lunch together. We’ve bonded significantly more deeply this visit. I am older than her first son, thus making me eldest after her… if in-laws count.

I love telling the story of her, standing in Soundcliff’s kitchen some years ago while I was dancing my usual cooking duties. Hands on hip, she declared, “Gordon, you are not the daughter-in-law I had hoped for… but… you’ll do just fine!”

I’ve long loved my mother-in-law!

I know, actually, that I enjoy a rare function in this family… I am more genuinely an “out-law”… I can bridge to variously useful exits from intractable habit…

Once Mark’s plane is lifted out of our caring reach we reunite into our long-comfortable trio…

We’d read about a sand Mandala being made by a Tibetan monk at the Museum of Fine Arts in nearby Saint Petersburg. While we’d also debated the Dali Museum… showing an exhibit of M.C. Escher’s work… we chose the rarer, more temporary thing.

This small “comfy” museum displays its own surprisingly definitive style… but after discovering we needed to make a bit of a hike along its old Floridian Spanish-Deco facade from our parking spot… past the now closed original central entrance… trekking-on to the far other end to find the current entrance through a newer addition, I walked ahead to secure a wheelchair to meet a well-exercised Helen at the door. She’s a trooper, yet was happy to be invited to ride-in to see the monk, whose work occupied the center space of the entrance forum… but, he wasn’t there!

In spite of the published schedule the artist seemed to be on “monk time”… leisurely in returning from lunch to the working exhibit we had come to see. When, after waiting a reasonable amount of time, we inquired what the friendly desk person might predict… admitting some disappointment. He cheerfully refunded our admittance fees.

We wandered deeper into the museum to await his arrival, discovering delightful, sometimes disparately displayed, tidy, if small, collections inside. Soon, one of the attendants actually sought us out to report the monk had returned & was back at work on the Mandala. We joined a small group who were also interested.

While none of my photographs are in good focus, one can see that the painting has obvious thickness as the sand is carefully piled upon the surface. They show his slow progress on what was to be a week-long process of carefully sifting of colored sand out of pointed tubes into a complicated delicate design which will then be destroyed… a very traditional religious practice as a prayer in the of the ever-temporary permanence of the present.

I appreciate the skillful blending of colors in this small flower’s detail…

I made several videos of him working, realizing he was as interested in chatting as he was in making artistic process… I wonder if he will completely fill all that area seemingly “blueprinted” on his work surface.

“The Venerable Losang Samten, renowned Tibetan scholar and former Buddhist monk, [who had] served as an attendant to His Holiness the Dalai Lama” [quoting the museum’s site] might predictably have been  aloof… yet in this reality he proved to be genuinely friendly & quite appreciative of our interest.

He made easy eye-contact with his small audience, but came quietly first over to honor Helen’s venerability by showing her a small bowl of white sand, explaining that it was from a local beach. Did he somehow know she had been enjoying that beach for decades?  Other more brilliantly bowls contained watercolor dyed sand, while many more are naturally colored, using as example some from Sedona…  familiar to me, of course, as I explained I had lived there. When I requested to see, he gently handed me his tools to observe that there were several sizes of openings to allow more or less quantity of sand grains creating lines of various thicknesses.

When Helen inquired to learn he was Tibetan, she mentioned having visited his country. He obviously was joyfully impressed…  happily posing with her!