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!


Ruth said...

Ohhh! Oh my. Can you believe how beautiful he is? What a photo, my heart is singing, my mouth is smiling, my heart is laughing, my head is jumping into the clouds. Of course this is partly because of how I feel becoming a gramma and that little poppy seed who is growing in my daughter as we speak. But truly, I feel so very connected with this beautiful boy, and with the women in his life — you, his mother, his grandmother, and all who have shaped their/your lives. I am overwhelmed with contemplating how a person is shaped, into that blossom!

Thank you for such very kind words here, and for sharing my poem. I realize it is obscure in its koan-like way. I encourage anyone who reads it, to also listen to is, and to let the left brain go, just let the images be.

Marilyn Miller said...

Oh the words and podcast brought tears to my eyes. What a loving tribute for this new, gorgeous little one. You gave a beautiful gift.

Vagabonde said...

I took my computer with me and you are the first blog I visit. I visited because I saw “birth mandala.” Congratulations to your friend. This is a beautiful baby. My daughter also had a baby – yesterday at 10:00 am. She was hoping to have a 14th of July (Bastille Day) baby but he came a day early. He was 9 lbs 4 oz and is also very cute. I just come back from the hospital again. Unfortunately I am not so creative to write a poem or draw a mandala but I can still sing a lullaby in French…

Kala said...


Margaret said...

Truly a beautiful baby - just look at him gazing at the world. Ruth is amazing and so are you! What a special time, congratulations.

Chesney said...

There is nothing more beautiful than a new life....congrats...he is so perfect and precious!

Lisa Gordon said...

What a precious little one. Congratulations!!

Ginnie said...

How special for me to see sister Ruth honored here at your site, DB. Congratulations to all who are honored here at this joyous birth. Look at that priceless smile, which surely was forming for weeks before he was born!

Margaret Almon said...

I love these convergences of creativity and spirit! I was awed by Ruth's interpretation of Stratoz's Praying in Four Directions, and am glad to see her gift continue to unfold. Thanks Dutchbaby for making the connections, and the cool mandala.

Lisa Gordon said...

This is truly so very beautiful, and so is this precious little one. Congratulations to Ruth!

Victoria said...

Marvelous poem... the colors of the Mandala caught my eye (having recently returned from Sweden)... the poem is beautiful. What a wonderful gift for a new Mom! (and listening to the podcast was a treat!)

Relyn Lawson said...

What a marvelous gift. You are such a thoughtful friend.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Ruth,
You know how appreciative I am that you shared your talents with us here on the left coast. Once I gave my right brain the right of way, even my left brain grew to appreciate the beauty and depth of your words. Thank you for introducing me to the concept of a koan; it is quite remarkable.

Your emphasis on the sound of words in this poem reminds me of some of Gertrude Stein's poems that are meant to be read out loud and received as pure sound.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Marilyn,
Ruth's podcast moved me too. It is a melodic gift.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Vagabonde,
I am honored that you chose to read this post first after the momentous occasion in your family. Congratulations on the birth of your new grandson! I am still a few more years away, but I already look forward to becoming a grandmother myself.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Kala,
Thanks for dropping by!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Margaret,
Yes, Ruth is indeed amazing. My coloring-inside-the-lines project pales in comparison.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Chesney,
So true, it's the essence of innocence and possibilities.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Lisa,
Thank you for your kind words.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Ginnie,
I am continually bowled over by the depth of talents in your extended family. I feel privileged being able to showcase a tiny portion here.

I love the notion of the fetus smiling for weeks prior to birth.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Margaret Almon,
The convergence of creative spirits is what blogging is all about for me. Thank you for your contribution of beautiful mosaics and welcome to Dutchbaby!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Victoria,
I'm glad you recognized my mandala colors as Swedish. That certainly was my intent. Thank for taking the time to listen to the poem as well.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Relyn,
Speaking of thoughtful, thank you for the beautiful postcard from the Grand Canyon!

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