As an avid gardener, I can’t resist thumbing through books to marvel at the creativity of people who take their gardens to the level of living art. Always striving to make our Chakra Garden special, I decided to try my hand at mosaic art because I saw images of interesting mosaics in so many of the gardens I admired. I ordered some basic tiles online, and began looking for materials that I might incorporate into such a project at goodwill or other recycle venues. I figured that when I had some time, I’d spend a night piecing together a few designs, and then it would just be a matter of grouting them and plunking them into the pathways of the garden. Easy breezy, right?
One day, after spending hours laboring outside, I was hot and tired and so decided I would take a break and perhaps start one of my mosaic stones in the cool house. I poured my materials into cooking pans, and began sorting into colors and shapes. That took an hour. I had plans to make decorative stones to reflect the symbols of the chakras to help define meditation areas in the garden. Loving these symbols and knowing them well, I figured, other than keeping to select color combinations, it would be fairly easy. I began.
About 3 hours later, I looked at the clock and realized it was time for work. I had made the first of my designs. Wow – did it really take that long to make one stone? Working in mosaic is rather a meditative craft because I had been engaged in the nuances of pattern and color and creative energy for hours. I felt badly that I had to leave such a mess on the kitchen table, but figured I’d finish the next day. While I’d love to stay home and be creative all day, I had real world responsibilities to attend to. Sigh.
For days, when I had the time, I’d return to work on my new art project, eager to complete all 7 Chakra designs. My mess stayed on the table for a month almost like a huge jigsaw puzzle that you start and can’t move without destroying the image. One day, feeling badly that my project was taking over our life, I decided to just carefully move the heavy pavers aside so we could eat together as a family at the table for once. The elaborate tiled designs rested on a bench nearby where I hoped they’d be safe, but the dogs playing nearby eventually knocked the designs a bit out of sync. Sigh. I had to piece them together again, but couldn’t help but notice that working on these designs the second time around made them a tad better.
On month two, David found time to show me how to concrete the tiles to pavers for endurance outside (he insisted the simple mosaic materials from Micheal’s Crafts wouldn’t hold up), and for several nights I carefully moved each design from one tile to the other slathered in concrete, worrying about speed and proficiency since I had to transfer the design before the concrete dried. With the tiles in grout, some of the design moved a bit. Other parts got buried in concret swallowing some of the detail I loved , and my designs dried in a way that was less perfect than I hoped . Sigh. My finished tiles now sat around the living room for a few more days until we had a night off to grout them. Meanwhile, I was picking them apart, frustrated for mistakes I made on my first attempt at mosaic art. I was bothered when a few lines of tile were crooked after they dried, or the spacing wasn’t right, or glumps of concrete slipped on the edges and I forgot to wipe it clean. And this was all taking so long! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a garden, or so I’m learning. I had to clean the floor and table carefully, because art can be messy. More work that wasn’t fun. And I had to talk myself into being satisfied with my efforts, because in retrospect, I realized I could have done things better if only . .. Of course, experience is our teacher, and I had to make my first set of tiles to learn what I now knew about mosaic art.
A week or so later, David and I decided that even though it was late and we had been working all day, we should finish the tiles just so we wouldn’t have one more thing on our “to do” list. David showed me in his patient way how to grout the tiles properly. We always consider it highly romantic to build anything special together, and every element of Heartwood feels special to us, so we had fun working together. We went to bed tired, our shoulders and backs hurting from bending over, but still, we were excited to be near the end of the project and we spent a good deal of time congratulating ourselves on our creativity and talent and applauded ourselves for coming up with the idea of a chakra garden and making it manifest so well and so quickly. Ha. Silly ego.
The next morning, we took a towel and rubbed at the stones to get the final film off the top and see the final design peeking through. Much of the design was hidden under the grout now because things like the round glass pieces were partly covered now. But while the finished designs were not what I expected exactly, they were beautiful in a different way. Sort of like the imperfections made each stone more natural and less commercial – like real art should be – a reflection of life. Imperfect.
Every morning we take our coffee to the garden to admire what is in bloom and have a few moments of peace together before we have to face our work day. On this morning, we hauled the heavy tiles out and placed them in different positions about the garden, deciding where they would look best. We groaned as we picked them up over and over, turning them around this way and that, stating a case for each place we thought they might rest. Once we decided where and what angle they should go, David buried them in the gravel and at long last, the mosaics were a part of our garden.
I stood back to admire the work. That’s it? I thought. The detailed stones looked dwarfed in the huge garden. These stones are very pretty, but after all that work, they seemed rather subtle and a bit imperfect and not impressive at all. I wondered if these little designs in stone were worth all that work, but imagining the garden path without them made me certain it was. I could focus on each individual addition of our garden, judging each element to decide if it is significant or worthy and I’d always end up disappointed. The collective whole is what makes the garden amazing. The Chakra mosaics, or the koi in the pond, or my grapevine arbor, or David’s swing alone are not what make this space inviting and beautiful, but the balance of all these things together does.
All of life is a bit like this. We piece together our world, either taking great care to do things right and make the art project that is our life as detailed and lovely as possible, or we just randomly grab whatever materials are at hand and hurry through our design to get the job done without much care or thought – our life tiles are simply the hundreds of choices we make every day. In the end the design of our life reflects how we think, act and the degree of care and good intention we put into our choices. The end result of any mosaic isn’t perfect, and perhaps at times it seems like you are doing all kinds of work for nothing, because what seems as if it should be simple is often really hard. It is hard to stick to a project, have patience and do what has to be done. Sometimes you think, here I am killing myself to do the right thing and does anyone notice the differenc
But at certain times of day, the sun hits my mosaic tiles at certain angles, and suddenly the glass and tile all glows and decorates the surroundings with spendor. The time and attention that was given to each of the designs now seems right and true and it becomes clear that a random pattern or something thrown togehter to save time and effort would never have been as inspirational. And it sure wouldn’t be something I could be proud of. The Chakra tiles are not only beautiful, but they send a message that patience and care do make a difference when we are designing our world.
I am glad to have my living room back, and I am glad my Chakra tiles are done so I don’t feel pressured to work on them because they are a pressing mess that needs attending to, but I miss the project too. Believe it or not, I have every intention of making more mosaic tiles for Heartwood now. Soon.
As soon as we have a chance to build a free standing chicken house, I plan to use that corner of the barn to create an art area for messy projects. I’ll set up a mosaic art table and continue collecting all manner of materials – everything from stones and glass pieces to broken plates from goodwill, for ongoing projects. Perhaps I’ll save a corner of that space for paint, clay and glass projects out there too. With David’s workshop now in the barn, and considering his desire to add blacksmithing and other creative pursuits to his work space, we have even talked about closing in the entire barn to make a huge art and tool workshop for ongoing projects that all our guests can visit and enjoy as well.
Life unfolds and continues to take shape, one tile at a time.