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Month: June 2016

Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters

Lucky-Cat-Mandayla.comMy family was visiting last weekend so I am a little behind on my blogging. But I did manage to draw a mandala while they were here.

It was inspired by the Lucky Tree penny slot machine I was playing at the Hard Rock Seminole Casino on Saturday night with my parents. There was a tree at the top of the machine that kept raining gold coins down onto the reels that were covered with many of my favorite Asian symbols. One of the bonus rounds included matching a few different kinds of “lucky cats.”

I vow to do a “lucky cat” mandala every time I see the cute little figures when we go out for Chinese food. Every Chinese restaurant seems to have one. I finally got around to drawing one on Sunday night.

I also incorporated the lotus flower and image of a fish jumping out of the water from the game. As the drawing started coming together, I noticed that the transition from the flower to the fish was very believable. That’s the thing about circles – they have a way of bringing everything together. The vines and greenery beneath the sea and above the surface are similar. The primary difference between the two is, well, water.

Water is one of the things we all have in common. The lotus flower and the fish need it. People need it. But not too much of it, at the wrong time. They say a child can drown in a teaspoon or tablespoon of water. Like fire, we have to respect it, because it can be used for great good, and we need it to live. But it can also be associated with great tragedy.

The Disney gator attack this week brought a lot of issues surrounding water to the surface. I first learned about it when I woke up in the middle of the night on Tuesday, and checked my phone for the time. It was after 3 a.m. A chilling alert from my CNN app told me that a 2-year-old boy was snatched from the water’s edge by a gator at Disney’s Grand Floridian resort. I was so disturbed that I woke my husband up to tell him about it. And I couldn’t get back to sleep. The image of a toddler being attacked by one of these disgusting creatures while his parents watched and fought helplessly was too heartbreaking to dismiss. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Strangely enough, we had coworkers visiting from out of town that day at work. Two of them were talking about going for a run near or on their hotel’s golf course that night. I warned them about the gators, which are a fixture at Florida’s golf courses. One of them said he heard crocodiles are more of a threat to man.

This story is too painful to face head on, so the over analysis begins. When we examine it intellectually, stay in the shallow waters, if you will, we can try to avoid the raw pain of the tragedy. I’ve been doing this myself, and going over the whole thing in my head, trying to figure it out. We all want to know if this could have been prevented somehow so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

As a Floridian, I stay away from man-made or natural lakes. And being near a nasty lake in the dark is even creepier. But little kids love them. They can entertain themselves in a mud puddle. The messier and muddier the better. And anyone who has ever observed a child this age knows they are spontaneous. Gators are fast, but so is a two-year-old.

There was no reason for the parents to assume their child was in danger at the hyper-regulated Walt Disney World Resort, or its highly expensive Grand Floridian property. Disney likely spared no expense to create an inviting beach front area, complete with white sands, at their $500+ a night resort. And who could imagine family-friendly Disney building a beach in an unsafe area? As much as I love all things Disney, and I am a huge fan, I think they created a false sense of security that contributed to the loss of this little boy’s life.

So the online debates and blame began. The signs said “No Swimming,” where were the parents? He wasn’t swimming, though, he was wading in the water. How close to the water is too close? To most of us, “No Swimming” is about basic water safety, not fending off gators. Public pools often have signs that say “No Swimming” after hours because life guards are off duty.

Simply adding the word “alligator” to the same sign gives it an altogether different meaning. I suspect no one would have been hanging around that beach after hours with a warning like that. And given everything I know about Disney, they would have been concerned about ruining the “magic” for the guests. And that is something they don’t take lightly.

People have also been saying that Disney can’t possibly warn about all of the inherent dangers at the beach. But they do exactly this on many of their thrill rides. Children under four feet tall, pregnant women, people with heart problems, for example, might be discouraged or forbidden to ride Space Mountain. And the natural world, including the humans in it, is exponentially more unpredictable than a themed attraction.

So many of us have visited Walt Disney World, surrounded by the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon, and don’t want to think that this tragedy could have happened to us. It’s terrifying. I can recall renting a speedboat with my friend there when we were teenagers. And let’s just say that I’m not the safest driver, on land or sea. What kind of danger would we have been in if our boat toppled over?

If only they had obeyed the sign, and weren’t in the water. At night. These are just a few of the comments being uttered by well-meaning, good parents whose own children break bones, get concussions playing sports, and routinely disobey speeding and traffic signs themselves. Life isn’t perfect. Neither are people.

It probably didn’t make much of a difference that the little boy was actually in the water. Gators don’t read signs, and know no bounds. The boy could have just as easily been snatched from the shore. That’s yet another  competitive edge these beasts have on us – they are exceedingly fast and cunning on water and land.

As much as Disney would like to have complete control over the guest experience, they can’t and don’t. Who knows when a gator or lightning will strike? Signage aside, it really was just a terrible, freak accident. If it sounds like I am arguing both sides of the argument, it’s because I am. Or because there may be some blame or human error in what was a largely an unpreventable, unfortunate, horrific event.

Perhaps Lane Graves’ death will lead to the resort beaches skirting Seven Seas Lagoon being shut down permanently. And maybe this is the way to go. There is a precedent here. The incident bears some resemblance to some of events surrounding the closure of Disney’s first water park, River Country.

The old-fashioned watering hole was closed after 25 years of operation in 2001. It was becoming  obsolete with the debut of the hipper and chlorinated Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks. But it probably didn’t help that it was linked to the death of an 11-year-old believed to have been infected at River Country with an amoeba. This incident aside, it’s worth noting that the popular water park, fed by Bay Lake and connected to Seven Seas Lagoon, as far as we know, had no alligator-related deaths during its 25-year tenure.

In the end, it was the water that ultimately took young Lane’s life. I know we all breathed a small sigh of relief when the boy’s body was discovered in tact. And in knowing the Graves family, whose name I just realized is sadly prophetic, didn’t have yet another even more disturbing image to live with for the rest of their lives. I hope they can somehow find peace, support and empathy from people who are wise enough to acknowledge that maybe no one is to blame. And kindness is the best, most appropriate response in a time of great tragedy. jt

Stolen Stars

Stolen Stars

stolen-stars-mandayla.comIt’s not uncommon to have some regrets in life. And as a night person, I definitely feel like I am missing out on prime time. I would love to stay up all night if I didn’t have to get up in the morning.

I was blessed to have a few periods in my life when I could indulge my inner night owl, my true self. I did some of  my very best writing at Penn State in the middle of the night. My thoughts and ideas are so much more vivid and clear during this quiet and special time. I can feel things more deeply too, and tap into a level of creativity that I don’t often have access to during the day.

Maybe it’s because people feel cloaked in the dark, but I’ve found that many people talk about more abstract, intimate and interesting topics later at night that they wouldn’t feel comfortable discussing during the day. Sadly, I rarely stay up late even on the weekends anymore because it’s too difficult to get back on track on Monday. It’s a trade off to survive in the 9-5 work world.

I understand the practical origins of the day schedule. Prior to the advent of electricity, people had a very specific window of daylight time to get things done. I guess it’s just another hangover from the past that we haven’t worked through yet as a society. We celebrate so many differences now. But I can attest that people who don’t get up early, look tired or aren’t at their best in the morning still get labeled as lazy.

When morning people see me going for my third cup of coffee, they will typically say something like “wow, you really like coffee.” Not so much. I probably wouldn’t drink coffee at all if I was a morning person. Mornings are such a painful and jarring interruption to my natural rhythms, which tell me I should be sleeping. I guzzle caffeine until I can get into a vaguely functional place.

I have gotten a lot better and am able to wake up much earlier now than ever before. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. I’ve always joked that elderly people get up really early to to make sure they are still alive. They are so excited that they get another day to play that they just stay up, no matter what time they originally awoke.

I started my mandala with a star in the middle tonight because it’s one of my favorite night time symbols. It ended up looking more like a flower with a ring of stars around it. I also worked in a few crescent moon shapes, a family of zzzz’s to denote sleep and a drawn shade that retreated as the drawing progressed. A ring of eyes that were all sleeping, except for one, were also part of the original layer.

The eyes ended up morphing into shapes that resembled hammocks which makes sense. More sleep and relaxation references. I put palm trees on either side of these shapes to anchor them and grass underneath. A magic wand emerged from what was a shooting star. To me, this speaks to the magic that occurs in the middle of the night. And there are a bunch of little circles and dots to represent what the same stars look like from far away. It’s all about perspective.

It’s just after 9 p.m. and I’m getting ready to go to sleep. I wish I could stay up later to continue writing and drawing but it’s a school night, as they say. Goodnight moon. And the rest of the world. jt

Catch and Release

Catch and Release

Catch-and-Release-mandayla.comI have been wanting to do something with two fish interwined. The interplay between the dark and light fish reminded me of the yin yang, so I brought that into the center of the drawing, too.

The expression “catch and release” kept coming to mind. And I realized the concept is just as much about the fish as it is the fisherman. The wise fisherman is happy to hold the fish or enjoy the catch. Or he takes only what he absolutely needs and leaves the rest for others. Or tomorrow.

This balance exists in sea life, too. One part of the larger body gives itself to the fisherman, while the other, the taker, gets free take out, and escapes for another day.

As I started automatically drawing waves in the next layer, I was reminded how the waves follow the same natural rhythm with their ebb and flow. So I drew some of the waves going out while the others were coming back in. It also makes sense that all of this is occurring within a circle because our lives are so cyclical, with all of us obeying the ever-changing, great circle in the sky.

I also imagine the polar opposite fish are in a codependent relationship. It looks balanced from a distance. But when you get a little bit closer, you can see that one is sucking the life and color from the other. But it’s important not to feel too sorry for the giver, because they are getting something out of the relationship, too, or they wouldn’t be there. They are just happy to be needed.

If one of the two tries to flip the script, it upsets the false balance, and throws everything off. They will try to draw each other back into the circle without boundaries. If this doesn’t work, the taker will scramble to find another life source. And the giver or rescuer will likely attract another lost soul. It’s very difficult for either party to escape their role.

I started drawing clam shells in one of the rings that ended up looking more like loaves of bread. And this reminded me of the New Testament story about the loaves and the fishes. It’s a really positive story about an outpouring of abundance in the form of food. This makes sense, because the sea is a source of so many different kinds of nourishment. They say it has healing powers. And I believe it.

On a personal note, I’m really surprised that this is what I am seeing in my mandala drawing today. I guess you never know what you are going to find when you look beneath the deceptively smooth, tranquil surface of the sea. jt

Symmetry Is Overrated

Symmetry Is Overrated

rooster-mandala-6-4-16-mandayla.comI’m still a little stuck on the rooster after spending last weekend in Key West. It’s funny because in Pennsylvania, where I’m from, chickens and roosters are commonplace.

I can recall taking a class trip to a 4H club in grammar school. Our tour included learning about the chickens and the incubators. It was actually really interesting. The baby chicks were definitely a highlight of the trip, but in an educational kind of way.

But in Key West, the roosters are celebrated and doted over. You see them on t-shirts, hats and restaurant signs. I guess it’s just the novelty of seeing a farm animal walking the streets and literally stopping traffic.

Contrary to popular belief, the popular belief I held at least, was that roosters crow in the morning. Not so. One song bird was serenading us at 1 a.m., which would have been annoying if we weren’t on vacation with the option of sleeping in.

And it’s all about the roosters in Key West. Aside from the “Funky Chicken” shop, there were very few references to chickens aside from the ones highlighted as protein options on restaurant menus.

Brad and I talked about this, and he reasoned that it’s because they are the ones strutting their feathers, and making all the noise. Sigh. Sounds familiar.

Anyway, back to the mandala. When I first started drawing mandalas, I was attentive to maintaining symmetry across the circle. It wasn’t long before I became bored with this. I used to draw a lot, but one of the reasons I traded my pencils in for a laptop is that I find I can get my point across much more quickly, succinctly,  and exactly with words. It can take a long time to deliver a similar message with a drawing. And even then, it’s always subject to interpretation. And if you are going for that level of natural imitation, why not just take picture?

Roosters are wild animals, and shouldn’t be confined to a mold. Their feathers aren’t symmetrical, and their unique patterns and colors are what set them apart from each other. Kind of like fingerprints define people, in addition to their other obvious variations.

I let the rooster’s freak feathers fly outward in my mandala, and a bunch of Easter eggs found their way into the mandala. Just like they do in video games. 🙂  I love Easter and Easter Eggs, so this is not surprising. Eggs are  fascinating to me like mandalas. They have a smooth rounded outer shape with a whole world and life going on behind the scenes.

And it’s the chickens who keep this life alive until it’s ready to emerge. It may be one of the few occasions in life when a parent can literally sit on their child without hampering its growth.

Some fire shapes also entered the circle, perhaps representing the warmth inside the mandala, incubator chamber. And how we use fire to enjoy the food provided by the “incredible, edible egg.” jt

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