Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Whenever the Dalai Lama visits a place, he is preceded by a small group of monks who construct a sand mandala prior to his visit. After his departure, the mandala is ceremonially dismantled, the sand gathered up into a silk bundle. The bundle is taken to a nearby body of moving water, preferably a river or large stream, where it is released back into nature.

Sometimes, our relationships resemble the sand mandala by default. We assemble them carefully, and when the time comes, we dismantle them and offer their basic elements back whence they originated.

About a year ago, I began putting together a figurative sand mandala. It was born of memory, and took shape over the course of several months before it fixed in place on May 15th. It only survived a couple of months before the lines of the figures began to blur, and I found myself frantically sweeping at the edges, trying to keep the image from distorting into an indistinct lump.

Around midsummer, it became obvious that it was a fruitless chore. I put far more effort into avoiding the impending disruption of this fragile thing than was merited; it was superficial, something transient that represented a long-abandoned reality. It's December now, and a year has passed from the first moments when I gathered the elements together to the point at which my little stab at recapturing something I wish I'd never lost was no more than a pile of sand.

It slipped through my fingers against my will, but grasping at sand never yields much. I'm torn between sweeping what's left of it up and pouring it away, or jealously guarding the vague remains. In many ways, I am as much the sand as the keeper of it, allowed to slip away again.

The third time is the charm. It's time to accept my irrelevance, fold my tent, and nurse my bruised feelings for the last time. Well, that's what I tell myself, anyway.

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