Category Archives: Mandalas

Layered Textures of a Pilgrimage

Exploring physical textures is a constant theme that runs through my life like a thread that gets woven into every aspect of what I am doing, thinking or creating.  Last month that ‘textures thread’ was ‘grown’ in a digital 3D lab to create a collaborative artwork for the The All Makers Now ? Conference exhibition at Trelissick House, Cornwall.  (see previous post).


a mechanical device that is programmed to reproduce objects out of extruded plastic, fine enough to replicate fine details and surface textures.

Then, by way of a complete contrast from the mechanical manufacturing of 3D digital textures my focus moves to the spiritual texture of a pilgrimage.  On another one of Richard Dealler’s, 6 day guided Pilgrimages following the Mary / Michael Pilgrim Route.  This time across Bodmin Moor from St. Austell to Liskeard, walking between the pyramids of spoil and aqua waters of China clay mining country to the pony and sheep dotted wilderness that is Bodmin Moor.


As the days pass, the biggest pyramid gets smaller and smaller as we get further and further away from our starting point until finally it is obliterated from view by the mist.


I relish the chance to walk once more in silence.  The chance to journey inwards and rekindle that still place within me whilst making visible and felt connections to the natural world around us.  And once more happy to relinquish responsibility for where we are going to our leader, Richard, who has found a new oak staff to walk with.  The one which he had abandoned out of guilt for breaking it free from its mother tree, only to find it again propped up on the gate post where it had been carried by an unknown individual to await his passing by the following day.


Each overnight camp is marked by a different farm animal and its dung: in order of appearance, cow, horse, dog (heard in the distance only from a rescue centre nearby) and sheep.  Waste products seems to have been a theme running through this pilgrimage.  My shadow on a slurry strewn dairy farmyard on our first camp making a beautiful pattern.  The aroma that stuck to our boots hung around for days.


Another theme that begins to emerge is that this land has apparently been fashioned by giants.  Lying on the ground as if some giant had just tossed them there with abandonment, are these huge boulders.  They lie scattered across the fields all across this area and have somehow been built into the field boundary walls.


And then in a clearing in some unidentified wood, there is what is believed to be the largest free-standing boulder in the British Isles.  It lies as if suspended in mid-air, propped up by lesser boulders, huge in their own right.


This daddy of them all is so big, I struggle to find an angle in which to photograph the whole thing.  It dwarfed us all in its magnificence.  When we toned inside its open chamber, the stones hummed back as if in gratitude of our acknowledgement.


In this land of giants, we crossed an old viaduct built out of huge blocks of granite.  What is Richard saying?  (Chance for a caption competition here?)


In the cool, dark woods at Bolitha Falls, we found a spot away from the madding crowd, to sit and eat our lunch.  The deafening sound of rushing white water made having any kind of conversation impossible, anyway.


We made a mandala of pilgrim feet on the leaf litter in the woods.  The trees giving up their old leaves to be recycled into humus as the circle of life goes on.

a mandala of pilgrim feet

We feed our bodies with nature’s bounty, and Christoffer’s delicious suppers,


and the porridge bowls are always polished clean.


We replenish our souls with holy water from sacred wells,


finding solace, peace and a cool retreat as well as reliving poignant memories inside churches we visit,


captivated by human stories of war-time heroes,


or by the patterns and symbols, in the tracery of window panes


and in the crosses we find outside in the churchyards, like this one at Lostwithiel.


Or along the way, where the old and the new jostle for our attention alongside each other to signpost our way.


We walked across many fields of sun-burned grasses,


and barefoot up scraggy hills to relieve blistered feet.


Or stopped to meditate or doze away an hour, propped up by the stones in an ancient stone circle of circles that is the Hurlers and shared sacred heart prayers on a node point buzzing with energy.  Here Richard relinquishes his heavy oak staff for someone else to pick up.   Then on to marvel at the stack of boulders that is the Cheesewring on top of Bodmin Moor where the giants seem to have been at work once more.


But no sign of the Beast.  Only muddy tractor tyre tracks to be found.


and rusting pieces of old farm machinery seemingly abandoned by the wayside.


On the final day, we begin our walk with a shamanic walking practice led by Andrew.  Walking with a creeping, cat-like stalk, this very slow, high-stepping crocodile, connected by an imaginary thread begins its snaking progress along the path.  What a sight this must have been and after I managed to suppress my initial urge to giggle, it did provide an opportunity for us to stop and really observe the details in the landscape around us.  To appreciate the ‘accidental beauty’.   Something that I felt up until that moment, because of the pressure to reach our destinations, had been somewhat missing.

And those observations, for me, summed up the sensory textures of this pilgrimage: noticing the variety of grasses with their different seed heads swaying together in the gentle breeze.  Noticing underfoot, the contrast between the dry, ruminant-nibbled grasses and the cool squelchiness of the boggy patches of moss and reed, or the sharp, stoney graveliness of the farm track, remembering the ‘trudge’ through the rain on our first day.  As we turned in unison to gaze upon the slope of the hill rising before us, seeing it as if for the first time: the fields divided by remains of old, crumbling stone walls now dotted with pristine white, sheared sheep, no doubt washed clean by the very squally wind and rain that had blown through the night before.  It was a biblical scene to be sure.  The symphony of bleating notes as ewes and their lambs call to one another, echoing around the hills.

In this place of sleeping giants and semi-wilderness, and in this very moment, the silence is both deafening and beautiful, the scenery both harsh and nurturing.  Wiping the sheep poo off my boots, I am minded to relinquish the old, the wasted, in order to replenish the new as the cycle of birth, death and rebirth is an ever-present element that is woven into the textural fabric of our evolving lives.  Every breath we take is an acknowledgement of that.



For more WordPress photo challenge: Texture here



Filed under Digital, Mandalas, Paths of Enlightenment, Pilgrimage Walks, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Healing Chakra Walks on St. Michael’s Mount

light coming through the C16 stained-glass window, in the chapel dedicated to Archangel Michael, St Michael's Mount.

light coming through the C16 stained-glass window, in the chapel dedicated to Archangel Michael, St Michael’s Mount.

For the past few weeks, I have been creating a special Chakra Walk  to take place on St. Michael’s Mount, the culmination of the St. Michael’s Way.  I offered to run one of these walks in aid of Freedom from Torture, the former medical branch of Amnesty International, with kind permission from the St. Aubyn family and help from the management team on the Mount.

I want to limit the numbers to 12, so I have decided to run two walks and have chosen 2 dates that coincide with a favourable tide as  walking across the causeway is an important element of the walk.  Hopefully, one of these dates might suit you?

chakra walk - plain doc copy

If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in doing one of the walks, or you just need more information, please do get in touch with me:

email:,  or call me: 01736 874388

or download the above flyer: chakra walks – with contact details.

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Filed under Mandalas, my sketchbook pages, Pilgrimage Walks, St. Michael's Way, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks

Spider’s Web: A Dream Catcher Mandala

Good Morning!  This weeks WordPress photo challenge is ‘Good Morning!’ and for some reason I immediately thought of cobwebs.  I see them every morning as little gossamer-threaded carpets glistening with dew in the grass when I take the dogs out first thing in the morning and I can’t help but smile at the spider’s industry whilst most of us have all been tucked up in our beds.

web-covered gorse catching the early morning light

web-covered gorse catching the early morning light

The fact that a spider’s web has featured many times in the past few days has not gone unnoticed.  I was arrested by this beautiful web that appeared overnight on the back of my car recently.  The fact that it had appeared on my instrument of transport seemed particularly poignant.

spun web on the back of my car

spun web on the back of my car

Is this a reminder that my journey is in the process of change?  Seeing a web brings attention to the elaborate construction of our lives, and the power to repair broken threads or build new webs when required to do so.  The fact that a friend recently saw me becoming entangled in a web when he envisaged a situation I have become involved in made me sit up and take notice.

the same web basking in the glory of the early morning sunlight

the same web basking in the glory of the early morning sunlight

These delicately exquisite constructions are usually made overnight thus making me think of them as dream catchers that allows us to filter out negative influences.  I think this is why they have been brought to my attention recently.

For other Good Morning! photos, see here.


Filed under Mandalas, my sketchbook pages, The Artist as Pilgrim, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Getting Lost in a ‘Labyrinth of Solitude’

The other evening whilst I was sitting quietly in a circle with friends (see entry for 19th September), into my head popped the image of a labyrinth.  The strange thing is, it was imprinted onto the right side of my forehead and this seemed to be important for some reason.  With it came a long line of black chevrons closely spaced together.  The chevrons were the ones you get on the road to indicate a bend ahead and point in the direction you need to go, although these ones were not pointing in any particular direction.  It seemed perfectly logical to marry the chevrons with the image of a labyrinth which after all, is all to do with going round in circles.

I'itol: The Man in the Maze, comes from the tradition of the O'odham people who reside in the Tohono O'odham (Native American) Nation of Southern Arizona.  This symbol (actually a a unicursal figure) is said to represent a person's journey through life with it's many twists and turns that represent choices we face.  The journey is one from darkness to light and the man at the top depicts birth and a guide for your journey until you reach the centre where you die where you are transported to the afterlife.

The I’itol symbol: The Man in the Maze, comes from the tradition of the O’odham people who reside in the Tohono O’odham (Native American) Nation of Southern Arizona. This symbol (actually a unicursal figure) is said to represent a person’s journey through life with its many twists and turns that represent the many choices we face along the way. The journey is one from darkness towards enlightenment and the man at the top depicts your guide who is with you on your journey from your birth until you reach your death at the centre from where you will be transported to the afterlife.  I wonder where I am / you are on that journey?

The next day in my studio, I open the page in the book I am currently working on (about my St. Michael’s Way Walk), which is all about getting lost.  Getting lost is only a problem and a cause for anxiety when there are constraints on time, such as reaching your destination within a calculated time-span or arranging to meet someone at a specified time and not being able to make it.  Then it struck me that getting lost is very much like being in a labyrinth.  And I am reminded of a quote by the Mexican writer, Octavio Paz, in his book of essays, ‘The Labyrinth of Solitude‘ in which he delves into the minds of his countrymen, describing them as ‘hidden behind masks of solitude’:

“Man is nostalgia and (in) a search for communion.  Therefore, when he is aware of himself he is aware of his lack of another, that is, of his solitude.”

'Stop, Look, Listen, work in progress

Stop, Look, Listen’, work in progress

And the more I think about it the more I realise that getting lost is in fact getting found!   It is only in that solitude that I am able to find my true voice.  Far from being fearful of finding my way back to the path, I am beginning, more and more to relish the peace that being alone brings: a space in which I can commune with my creative urges.  Perhaps we should learn to cherish those moments of getting lost more: how else might we stumble upon the unexpected, discover new directions or see a familiar thing from a different angle?  Often, getting lost, forces us to ask for help, something a lot of us are not very good at doing.

Stop, Look, Listen, (paths over underlying bedrock)  work in progress

Stop, Look, Listen, (paths over underlying bedrock) work in progress

Although this post doesn’t strictly speaking, fit into a conventional ‘photo challenge’ I felt it was appropriate.  For other ideas on this weeks Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns, see here.

P.S.  23rd September.  Walking the dogs today I notice that someone has been out flaying the edges of the paths (as they are wont to do).  In the debris lying on the ground, I rescued a few sprigs of purple heather (Cornish Heath) which I decided to take home and put in a little pot vase.  Being mildly aware that ‘someone’ has prompted me to do this (I often get this feeling), when I got home I went on-line to find out what the flower meaning for heather is, only to discover that it is ‘Solitude’.  What a lovely poetic endorsement.  Thank you!


Filed under Dpchallenge, Mandalas, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, St. Michael's Way, The Artist as Pilgrim, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Inside the Passion Flower: A Mandala for Love

The inside of a Passion Flower is a sexy thing: with its male and female parts clearly designed to entice visiting insects, targeted by a ring of pearly white petals and a halo of blue, white and purple radial filaments.  It has always been one of my favourites.

I grew this vine from a cutting

I grew this vine from a cutting

A Wikipedia extract:

The “Passion” in “passion flower” refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:[citation needed]

Blue Passion Flower (P. caerulea) showing most elements of the Christian symbolism

I can appreciate all the Christian symbolism and in the past I have picked these beautifully structured flowers with their purply-blue and white petals that represent the higher chakras associated with communication and connections with the spirit world, to place on graves and even in the burial of a much-loved horse that was a very sad loss for his grieving owners.

However, for me, the passion flower signifies physical passion and love.  I was given a cutting by a former lover and planted it where it could grow as a canopy over the garden gate leading to my house.  It flourished as did the relationship, the passion flower serving as a LOVE Mandala to welcome the many, many visitors who passed underneath its spreading habit before crossing our threshold to the sacred space we shared in our home.  Sadly, times have changed and I no longer live in the old Farmhouse but I’m pleased to say the passion flower continues to flourish.  In fact it is so prolific that it has to be regularly hacked back so that people can reach the front door, even despite being regularly battered by the winds blowing off the moors.   This is some comfort to me and serves as a reminder of past loves.  In the language of flowers, the passion flower represents faith and belief.  For me, that is faith and belief in the power of love.

still prolific!

still prolific!

I’ve just taken a look at the pictures on line and am amazed by all the different varieties.  But for me, none of them are as beautiful as the humble(?) Passiflora caerulea.

For other views of this week’s Photo challenge: Inside, see here.


Filed under Mandalas, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, Wordpress Photo Challenge

La Fontenelle

I often use old exhibition cards as handy post cards for writing notes on.  I had used one such card to write a thank you note to a neighbour – as you do.   He mentioned it when we saw him a few days later as he was intrigued by the title of the painting, Fontenelle, and was curious to know its meaning.

I had actually taken the title from the name of a small lane, no more than a dusty farm track called La Rue de la Fontenelle, which leads down into a small valley where there is indeed a small pond (you have probably gathered by now that everything in Jersey – where I was living at the time – is on a small scale) and which you pass by on your way to Le Couperon via the dolmen.  (The very same pond where I nearly lost one of my dogs who got stuck in the weed after deciding to chase a moorhen.  The moorhen got away and the dog managed to wriggle free before being drowned.)  The word fontenelle comes from the diminutive version of fontanel in (Jersey) French meaning “little fountain” or the head of the water, as in a spring.  Hence, ‘Fontenelle’ seemed an apt name for my painting which for me represented a ‘little fountain of knowledge’.

The word, fontenelle (fontanel), is also the soft spot in the top of a baby’s head which during birth, enables the bony plates of the skull to flex, allowing the child’s head to pass through the birth canal.  This gap in the top of the baby’s skull eventually closes over after about 18 months.  The fontanel may pulsate echoing the heartbeat, and although the actual cause is not known it is quite normal.

What strikes me now as interesting is that the position of the fontanel is also the position of the Crown Chakra which acts as a channel from which we connect our higher spiritual self with the wider world of the universal spirit.   It is magenta in colour (which unintentionally at the time, matches the dominant tone of my painting).

With these thoughts in my mind, I am off to visit my daughter next week where I will have the chance to feel the growing baby in her belly which she says is kicking like mad.  Not long now before this new being makes its way into the big wide world.  Is it too fanciful to imagine that this little baby’s fontenelle will be pulsating with special spiritual energies from the universe?  (see my later post, New Arrival)

Post Script. Update, 10.5.2012.  Georgie just sent me an amazing video of a newborn having his first bath…..and I also attach this post about how chakras behave during pregnancy which is on the same blog.  Special mention: babies are usually born presenting their crown chakra to the world first, via their mother’s root……talk about coming full circle!

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Artists making Mandalas

Andy Goldsworthy

Da Vinci, flower of life

paper collage created by Deborah O'Keeffe

zig-zag kaleidoscope star quilt

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Filed under Mandalas, my sketchbook pages