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  • THE creative young man entered my life one day when everything around us that could was just budding. With him came the mandala. It was a two feet square present of a labor of love. He said it had taken him three months to do.

    It spoke of foreign lands. Tibet. Nothing could be more foreign than Tibet, the roof of the world. And vast spaces. Spaces so limitless you started at the heart of it and could keep on going.

    Chants in an ancient unknown language.

    Fascinating! Yet, was I ready for this foray into the unknown? He gave me a bookmark he had made, with an orange and green mandala. (He was a librarian.) On the empty white space of the narrow rectangle of art paper I wrote:

    H o p e

    Once on board an airplane I had sat next to an old friend, Yvonne, whose grandparents were from India. She had married an American. I could see him in their beautiful blonde-haired baby daughter.

    And what do young women fresh out of girlhood talk about? The inexhaustible subject, Love.

    “What if he wants to take you up the mountain?”

    I forget why Yvonne asked me that question. It’s been too long.

    Now Mt. Everest was looking at me. K2. Annapurna.

    Too high. Love, they say, is like oxygen. The oxygen is too thin up those mountains.

    My husband – for I married the artistic young man – took to drawing one mandala every three days to curb the urge to drink inordinately. He was a faculty member, and worked many evenings as an enthusiastic reference librarian.

    On a trip to visit my folks here I went to a building, by the waterfront of the city, where I had found a place which framed pictures. I liked the place. It looked down on a sea reflecting the blue of the sky above. The man was completely professional and did not show the slightest sign of how odd he must have thought that I was asking him to frame a drawing of a mandala. I imagine his shop framed certificates, graduation portraits, and family pictures, mostly.

    The mandala was another one that my husband had drawn for me when we first started going together. I had brought it back with me after graduation. It had survived the trip and seven years in the tropics. As pristine as the day the mystic of a young man had given it to me. Cheerful yellows, peachy orange, and light, bright, blues. It makes me think of a lotus.

    The mandala went back overseas; I enjoyed it in its border of dark wood on the cream-colored wall, by the arch of the doorway to the living room. Under the pottery blue and sandy antique white of our tapestried clock, the wedding gift of my husband’s college buddy and his wife. He was our usher.

    I had seen different mandalas from slides my new friend had shown on campus. Sr Eleanor, the Religious Studies Department professor, had asked him, the media librarian and one who drew mandalas, to teach her class one evening and he had invited me to attend and learn more about this ancient human endeavour.

    When it seemed that the end of this relationship was in sight, I had wanted to give the first mandala he had drawn for me to the Art professor, Ms Theresa Amiot. He was unhappy. Breaking up is hard to do. I held on to it.

    The concentric rings of our mandala beginning at the heart of it: Meeting. Getting to know you. Falling in love. Counselling. Love letters. Breaking up. Up in the air. Playing it by ear. Getting back together. Congé. Oceans apart. Pen pals. More love letters. Postcards. Reunion. Wedding. Domestication. Growing apart. Counselling. Dance of anger. Growing apart. Separation. Reunited. Divorce. Irreconciliable differences. Final divorce. Congé.

    As a new divorcee, I had a friend. She had moved out of her million dollar house in Connecticut after having divorce papers sent to her husband in his office. He moved to the West Coast. He had remarried. She missed him dreadfully and regretted divorcing him. Especially sending the divorce papers to his office. She missed having him around in her new house.

    She saw in me a kindred spirit. We spent time in some of the most beautiful places. She told me about a lovely woman who held get-togethers for meditation in one of the rooms of her psychotherapy office.

    And so I found myself parking one evening on the lot behind the house that had been renovated into an office. There were a few people. We meditated on cushions on the floor. My friend was right. The woman was lovely. She rang a bell with a golden tinkle. Her face radiated peace and health.

    One man talked about Tibet. Then he said he was thinking about divorcing. A meditation teacher had told him, The question is not To Divorce or Not To Divorce. It is To Practice or Not To Practice.

    The next time I saw him – in the meditation room of the office of the psychotherapist – he was practicing his faith. His wife sat beside him.

    Apart as we now live, my erstwhile husband and I have somehow managed to add another ring to the mandala: Dance of Anger.

    Just before I returned to the States from a visit about fifteen years ago, I visited another old friend, the one who lived in the Vanderbilt-design dwelling. As I was about to leave, she presented me with something heavy with glass and wood-frame she had embroidered for me. I read the neatly embroidered words. It began, Love is patient and kind…

    I knew these familiar words about love. They were from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians. But I did not recognize the last line, Love does not anger.

    I was overwhelmed by my friend’s parting gift. I loved her dainty embroidery. She enjoyed this creative hobby. When she embroidered, peace filled her. She laughed and said she had done it in a week.

    I admired the frame too. Did she have it done at the same place as my mandala?

    Love does not anger. This was different from the biblical translations I’d read. I pondered the words. Love does not anger. What does that mean?

    Suffice it to say, divorce has taught me the meaning of those words.

    In conjunction with Pema Chodron’s global birthday celebration - Practice Peace - Saturday, July 14, 2012, the day Ani Pema turns 76, I am adding another concentric ring to the mandala: Love does not anger.
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