I began construction of this riverbank mosaic in July 2020. I called it “impermanence”, with the expectation that its stones would shift in the rain, under the hoofs of deer, or under the boots of fly-fishers. My intention was to watch its changes over time; to record “impermanence” in nature as a way of visualising the transitions of my own life during a time of global change. (You can read more about my design rational in my previous post, “impermanence”.)
Over time, however, “impermanence” has demonstrated a surprising resilience.
In late August, I revisited the bank to see what had changed in a month. The answer: nothing! So I added a ring of stones.
Two days later, I returned to add to the coloured gravel backgrounds and take more photos. Only when I was about to leave did I stand back and notice the band of square stones that a visitor had added to one side.
My return journey in September revealed only minute changes; tiny stones shifted perhaps by deer hooves.
Over time, my contemplative exercise on change has led to reflection on resiliance and hope. That these tiny pebbles on a beach would resist and rest secure, that small shifts and jiggles would add to the charm of the image, that visitors would protect and care for the installation–these are, for me, signs of hope.
To mark the hopeful possibility of resilience in impermanence, I planted the mandala, giving it leaves and stem.
Winter will come, the waters will rise, the stones will shift. And spring will return. ~ Jane
This pebble mandala is located on the rocky bank of the river which borders the family land on which I find refuge, spiritual restoration, and inspiration.
In part, the value of the time I spend in this retreat is the impermanence of nature–the shifts and transformations of the land and all that draws sustenance from it.
The land is constant–but ever changing. During the spring and summer, the woods and grasslands are ablaze with a constantly changing array of wildflowers and grasses; abuzz with bees, butterflies and dragonflies (and mosquitoes); a-prowl with deer, bobcats, bear, and the odd cougar.
The river itself is ancient, carved deep into the rock and soil of the hills. Its source is a high mountain pass, then it meanders down and down, out onto the prairies, carrying precious water to farms and towns on its journey. The gentle summer ripples belie the power of the torrents of ice-cold meltwater that every so often pour down from the mountains, and roar out to flood the prairies. The most recent flood carved huge rocks from the cliffs and left them midstream, tore mature trees up from their roots, rearranged the shore line, and devastated nearby towns.
The mandala is “impermanent” both by nature and by location. The pebbles are arranged on the surface of the shingle beach, and are easily moved–by the hoofs of deer or cattle coming to the river to drink, by rain or by rising water. It is also open to boots of passing fishermen, the eager fingers of children, or the creative impulses of those who come to sit by the waters.
A few months ago, I entered my piece “In the Belly of Sheol” in a promotional for the Engage Art Contest. My art was selected for the project! The prize–to have my work included in a set of Art Cards. According to those behind the contest, “These cards provide a fun and educational way to learn more about art and reflect on the Scripture that inspired each piece.”
Starry night, silent night… a doodle for this year’s Christmas cards. The aurora borealis are my personal symbol of hope. The printed cards were brought alight through the addition of silver stars, and washes of metallic watercolour on the northern lights.
Season’s greetings, and a blessed 2020 to all my readers!
The story of Jonah is both a comedy and a tragedy. Having run away from God, been swallowed by a whale and spit back out on the shore, Jonah finally takes up the call to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh–representative of Assyria, a historic enemy of his people., only to have God repent of his planned judgement when the people respond with penitence.
Here is the challenge for Jonah: those who have traumatized his people will not be destroyed, they are not “getting what they deserve”, they too are the recipients of God’s grace.
Jonah is not pleased: it is for this very reason that he fled God’s call in the first place.
“I beseech You, LORD, was it not my word when I was still in my land? Therefore did I hasten to flee to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in kindness and relenting from evil. And now, LORD, take my life, pray, from me, for better my death than my life.”
Accepting God’s grace for his enemies becomes a step too far; the narrative ends with God in sorrow, and Jonah in a sulk.