Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Brief Life of the Sand Mandala

Goshen, Connecticut

I spent a long weekend making pictures at TibetFest 2022, held at the Goshen Fairgrounds. There are many activities, many of which remind me of American Indian PowWows, which I photographed in Connecticut thirty-five years ago. I've contributed many pictures to the venue's Facebook page which you can see here if you're curious:


While people watch the performances of dancers and singers keeping up the tradition of Tibeten culture in exile, a small group of monks carries on the tradition of the Sand Mandala. They use brass tube tools topped by ridges that, by stroking one containing colored sand, with another empty one, precisely place colored sand into the outlined chart on the table. Over the course of two days what they put down is so incredibly more complex than the blueprint, it's stunning. I'm pretty good at hand skills, but I can't imagine how many hours of practice it would take for me to be able to do this in performance (which, among other things, this ritual is).

Hour by hour, it grows to fill the outlines.

Children learn of a sacred practice that may be unfamiliar to them. Though most of the attendees were Tibetan Americans who already knew.

Complete, for its one hour or so of existence.

The table with the finished mandala is moved to the center of the enormous metal barn building rented from the Goshen Fairgrounds for the event.

One of the monks explains the meaning and import of the mandala, and its transience, in Tibetan Buddist culture. Alternating between Tibetan and English.

A solemn ritual is performed circling the mandala with bell ringing and double basso throat chanting. (If you don't know what that is, you need to look it up.)

And then they begin to deconstruct it.

The first sand picked up goes into a glassware vessel.

Then a brush is used to to turn the mandala back into its elements of colored swirling sand. The audience, almost all of them Tibetan, knew this was coming, but couldn't restrain a huge collective gasp filling the air. But that is the lesson. All is ephemeral, except the All to which the mandala has just returned.

Children are encouraged to approach as the sand is gathered up.

They are told to scoop up tiny bits (quarter teaspoon I'd guess) to put into little ziplog bags to take home with them. These are talismans, meant to keep one safe and protect against danger. I think the kids were just having fun, which delighted the monks and is also very Tibbetan Buddhist.

The remaining sand will be ceremoniously poured into a free running river.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Trees by the River, 6/7/22

Naugatuck, Connecticut

There was a large storm system forecast to come in from the west in about eight hours, and there were already strong swirling winds. They fulfilled the folk wisdom that when you see the wind turning the tree leaves inside out, a storm is coming. These were taken from a sidewalk along the elevated Route 8 highway, part of the Naugatuck Valley Walkway.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Major Muffler

 Waterbury, Connecticut

Yesterday, for the third time in two years, my eleven year old Chevy HHR made a trip to the muffler shop. First it was a middle section of pipe that had rotted out. Next it was the resonator and adjacent pipe. I figured this time it had to be the muffler, but it was still OK. The connector from the muffler to the pipes had rotted out so the bad section had to be cut out and basically the first repair repeated to avoid having too many joins in the system. Luckily these guys are reasonable and so far have always had same day service if I call at 9:02 in the morning.

The "modern" de-icing chemicals Connecticut has used for decades instead of rock salt are total car killers. Just a few months ago I smelled gas, and found I had to have the whole set of fuel lines replaced. The vehicle the HHR repaced was a 1997 full size Chevy pickup. At about ten years old, both redundent brake lines failed together so it had to be carried in on a wrecker for the expen$ive replacement of the lines. Four years later I hit some rough pavement out in NY state. The back end got very loose and I figured I'd broken the fourteen year old back shocks. Nope, it was the rear third of the chassis that had rotted out and dropped the shocks.

Side note, the truck had an all stainless steel exhaust system. At fourteen years and 247,000 miles the exhaust system was still pristine when the road chemicals killed the truck. The 5 liter engine was still running great and its mpg had only dropped from 21 to 19. Without the attack of the icing chemicals I think I could have gotten another 100K out of it.

As we move to electric and hybrid electric cars, it may be important to see how much stainless steel is used in their construction, at least for folks who don't live in Florida or Southern California.