Monday, February 2, 2009
Every morning, the woman (or staff) of the house cleans the entrance to the driveway, gate or front door. Debris is swept with a broom of brittle weed stems tied together. They bend and place one hand one the small of the back as they swing the broom in a metronomic dance. Piles of trash, dirt and animal waste are pushed to the side. They pour water on the old image left with its footprints and tire tracks from the day before.
In the second image, you can see the careful measuring out done, points of a grid are placed to guide the design which is created by the artist spilling the rice powder from her hand. The designs have many symmetries and consist of either individual designs or closed curves that weave through one another. The design on the right was ornately colored as it celebrated the event called Pongal.
Rangoli is a tradition of these parts. Each morning, impermanence is celebrated with art and beauty as yesterday's design is scrubbed away and replaced with a different one. Once the picture is made, she steps away from it. Within the hour of the one completed above, a torrential rain fell on the city. The colors blurred, dappled themselves into a new configuration with a different disorderly beauty.
My life has become rangoli. I devise a plan, a geometric intermixing of learning and fun, of travel and study, of relaxation and action and calm. Then God giggles and the mandala is rearranged. If I were steady in my attachments to plans and intentions, I would be disappointed most of the time. And I would miss the blur of the colors rained into improvised images, morphed from the map, swirled and spiraled out of the matrix.
For example, I came to Chennai to work with a private teacher in chanting, Sanskrit, and Patanjali's yoga sutras. My sutra teacher's brother died, the Sanskrit teacher was mean (and not so competent, perhaps the motivation for the unkindness). I chant. I study on my own. And, freed from that structure, I discovered other opportunities, things I could not have planned, as I was unaware of the possibilities until life opened and put me in the right place and the right time.
Recently, I told a friend who was facing a betrayal of the love life variety that further out in the mandala of time, he may see the perfection of this splotch on his canvas. Seeing things close up takes them so far out of context and nurtures an attachment to the definition given at the time. The great tragedies of my life have offered the most intricate and structurally supportive components of the mandala so far. So too have the little miracles, frustrations, coincidences and mistakes.
The first design was done in front of a mansion. This one is before an impoverished and very small, dank place. In the center is a meticulously placed clump of cow dung. It holds the flower upright.
I suppose the moral of the story is, take what is offered to you in life, place it in the mandala of the day and know that it will get washed away, redesigned, and become its own part of perfection over time.