It started with rocks.
Keely was coming to visit and I wanted to find a creative activity that we could share. I’ll never know where the idea came from, but I thought gathering rocks from the river together and then painting them would be something that we would enjoy. I found that mandala dot painting was a thing, so I bought some stencils, acrylic paint and dotting tools.
We spent hours on the deck, talking, painting, showing each other our work. There was a lot of laughter. It was one of those glowing golden days that will always be tucked into my treasured memories box.
I became obsessed with mastering the technique of dot mandala. For six, eight, ten hours a day I painted dots on rocks. I took over the dining room table. I gathered rocks in town, when I traveled. There were rocks in the kitchen sink, stacked on the deck, piled in the spare bedroom.
I learned to start with a dot in the middle. I learned about the sacred geometry that is the basis of mandala. I learned which paints worked with the technique, which kind of rock surface was best.
I found the joy of creativity and art again.
My move to Pagosa Springs that year had given me the opportunity to create space for new. To throw out patterns and habits that reflected who I had been, not who I now wanted to be.
I stopped playing pickleball and immersed in yoga. I bought a drafting table, special lights, magnifying classes. The upstairs became my studio. I read about chakras and energy , and went down a path into what Steve calls “woo woo stuff”.
Kat and Keely helped me hide them in Little Rock and took a basket full of them to Louisville for distribution.
If you came to our house, you left with a mandala rock. When we went to Arkansas and Alabama we transported baskets of rocks. I gave them as gifts to friends, family, salespeople that I connected with, perfect strangers were given rocks.
One of my rocks is part of the memorial to Breonna Taylor in Louisville. I cried when I saw it.
Friends in Alabama hid some rocks along the TVA hiking trail. An old friend of Steve’s found it and they reconnected on Facebook as a result.
I ordered marble and slate tiles to paint for use as coasters. Then ceramic tiles for purely decorative display. I painted ornaments. Next came canvas.
When the pandemic hit, I was searching for ways to help. I donated tiles to a local restaurant to be sold, all proceeds going to help their staff.
Over 40 tiles were sent to Louisville as a fundraiser for The Louisville Youth Group, an organization that supports LGBTQ+ youth.
And then it happened.
This was my first canvas. I laid it on the table in my studio, which was stacked with tiles. As I was moving things around, I put one of the round tiles on top of the canvas and I did a double take. Because of the sacred geometry of the mandala, the lines and shapes worked to create a new mandala. A 3D mandala tile and canvas. My heart started beating faster and I knew I was on to something. I had come up with a completely different way to create art.
There was a learning curve. The obsession deepened. Hours were spent “playing” with tiles. Finding which designs worked with what, how the colors blended or contrasted. How to put the pieces together securely but with the ability to interchange.
It’s hard for me to let go of these pieces. Each mandala is a glimpse into my soul. I paint with the door open to my mountain, the dogs sleeping, the horses letting me know every time I walk outside that they would like a cookie please. Noodles honks contentedly and noodles around in the pasture beside the deck. New Age music plays a background to the call of the birds and the skitter of the Abberts squirrels.
I paint my interpretation of the seasons in Pagosa Springs. I paint the flags of LGBTQ+. I paint my love of the culture of the Southwest. I paint gratitude and love and joy. I paint with a specific person in mind, hoping to infuse my art with my love for them.
I’m running out of wall space.
UPDATE: I’m now living in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can find my art at
The Bramble Market
Dandelion Home and Garden
2 thoughts on “The Mandala Year”
Amazing Michelle. I enjoyed the story and your work is just beautiful.
Thank you Beth! It has been too long since we have talked. Maybe a phone call soon?