Spring cleaning my mosaic art studio is a ritual that invites 'Drala' into my life and work. Drala is the Tibetan word for the energy that is more powerful than aggression - that energy that resides in gentleness, beauty, and the phenomenon of those things that reach us in our daily lives. Those things that are extra-ordinary - the most ordinary of the ordinary - that once in a while cause us to wake up abruptly in reverent appreciation. Nature can do this. Babies and children. Pets and wild animals too. It could be a moment of absolute stillness and eerie silence within a forest, or a glowing, colorful sunset of hues defying what we thought of as naturally possible. Even things that we've never before noticed, thought were inconsequential or even deemed as trash - like the blown apart steel-belted tire shards on highways shoulders across the globe that I now invite to weave themselves into my mosaics. One day, we wake up!... and there!... there is beauty and the kind of gratitude that escapes language. Nothing has changed but us.
Drala energy is said to be critical to the making of artwork. Without Drala, it isn't really art. And when I am working in too much clutter, in a place where there are so many physical things residing in that same place that I have gotten to a point where I don't even remember what I possess anymore, it isn't easy for the Drala energy to 'land' in that place. Spring cleaning is a re-invitation to the dralas to alight themselves in my studio, amongst my tools and stones and glass.
I spoke about Mosaic as Meditation at the Society of American Mosaic Artists conference in Boston this year. I spoke much about Drala. I also focused on the process of making art, and specifically mosaics, as a way of inviting dralas - the energies more powerful than aggression. I spoke about the Tibetan Buddhist monks who came to DC after 9/11 to make a painstakingly intricate, colorful and beautiful sand mandala over the course of two weeks at the Smithsonian's Sackler gallery as a response to 9/11. A sand mandala is really a micro, micro, micro mosaic. The monks' belief is that this work is an antidote to such horrible violence. And, it is in the process of making the art, not the artwork itself even, that makes the difference in the world's energy. At the end of the two weeks, the Tibetan monks unceremoniously swept the sand mandala into sandwich baggies using regular hardware store paint brushes and children's sand pails and gave them to astonished onlookers, like me, and poured the rest into the tidal basin of the Potomac River.
As I walked past the tidal basin this morning, to see the once a year, fragile and delicate pink cloud of cherry blossoms floating like foam on the edge of this same tidal basin, I thought again of these monks. Like the fleeting cherry blossoms, their gift is not in permanence, but in resonance. It is like that for many of the things in life. The most impactful moments, people, experiences, loves in our lives may not physically endure, but their resilience is in their tenacious echoes.
With each tessera that makes up the andamento, the flow of the line, in a mosaic, there is potential for drala. Tessera are little drala landing pads! So my fellow artists, poets, dancers and creative souls, zamboni off the tarmac of your tesserae - literally or figuratively - cherry trees will blossom