Thursday, July 14, 2011

Birth Mandala

mandala color blues yellow 10 cm.jpg

It all began when the ultra-talented Ruth wrote a post about a beautiful stained-glass mandala by Stratoz. I wrote a comment telling her about the ten-centimeter birth mandala I was given when I was pregnant with my first child. I went on to say that I was about to give a birth mandala as a gift and would it not be great if she wrote a companion poem for it? I sent her the image of the mandala I downloaded from Mandala Coloring Pages and colored using PhotoShop, The blues and yellow are a nod to the expecting mother’s Swedish heritage.


A handful of e-mails later, Ruth delivered the most gloriously inspired poem I could ever imagine. Ruth used Koan-like questions to frame her poem. A Koan question or riddle is a Buddhist concept that is accessible through intuition. I  learned about this Zen concept here. It is designed to:
 “act as a catalyst to awaken our true, deep, pure nature... Koans are not rational questions with rational answers. Koans are NOT answered; that would engage the mind, which is our problem…A question like “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” can only be answered if you drop mind and body. The aim of a Koan is to free you from the prison of the mind and the five return to “the original face before you were born.” 
I can not imagine a more apt form to inspire a young woman in labor. Thank you, dear Ruth, for sharing your considerable talents with the world.
Koan-like Questions of a Mother to her Unborn Child

Is there something quieter than sleep?
My whispers circle you like jasmine vine, the way
my arms want to, when my palm will cup your head,
my thumb in the shallow petal of your temple.
Where is the pocket in the nightshirt of early morning?
You didn’t notice just now that I turned over in bed, rolling
first onto my right side, then onto my left.
Leaves everywhere on blue-white cotton.
What shape are you?
In my teardrop body you sleep, sucking your thumb —
puzzle piece in the circle of your mouth.
Paisley baby, paisley thumb,
paisley me, paisley breast. Lace.
What is grace?
I pull myself up, like a camel, into a sitting position,
lean left, push off, grunt, rise, stand, and low into the sway
of this me, your cradle, creaking at my hips.
Do you remember it, that hymn from the old church
through the window as we slowly climbed the stair?

Holding the bedpost, carved like an altar,
my eyes closed, up from the organ
in my chest the music — unnamed song
through the vibrating reed of my watery throat.
Stained glass moon. Bosphorus.
Can you see me in the dark?
My hand rests on the olive of your shoulder,
or is that a heel? Hush, keep sleeping, don’t worry
about positions. You are touching everything
in any case.
Mountain magnolia blossom.


Listen to a podcast of this poem here. (You can hear the birds outside Ruth's office window if you listen carefully.)
Poem notes:
Caravanserai: the fortress-like hostelries for sojourners on the Silk Road.
Bosphorus: the body of water between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul; 'bosphorus' means 'throat' in Turkish; Ruth's daughter Lesley went to school on the European side, crossing the Bosphorus every morning and evening from and to her home on the Asian side.

I brought the poem and the mandala to the baby shower. MoMo, my book club sister and grandmother of the newborn, was in the labor room coaching all the way. Her e-mails to book club had us rooting for the mother-to-be throughout the difficult 38 hours of labor. Last Saturday we received the long-awaited e-mail:
"He is finally here! And my beautiful daughter is just absolutely amazing. I am in awe of her grace, calmness and determination. She has a warrior spirit and inner strength that helped her deliver a beautiful baby boy. It was truly awesome! I will send a few pics tomorrow but I am exhausted and heading for sleep. Thank you all for your kind words of encouragement for my daughter. We felt the power of this women-spirit!"
He arrived at 4:02 PM , weighing in at 7lbs 13 ounces, 20 inches long and healthy, alert, and absolutely beautiful! Would you not agree?

Welcome to the world!

Now this mandala has come full circle. Ruth made her grand announcement that she too will be joining the ranks of grandparenthood.

Congratulations Ruth!
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