Family Mandala Project

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, my family participates in a work-party co-op with four other families who live within the same 20 mile stretch of highway. We alternate houses every other weekend and work on each other’s household projects (for example, tomorrow we are building interior walls at a straw bale house as well as plastering the inside of the exterior, bale walls. Earlier this month, the men put underpinning on the bottom of a family’s mobile home to weather proof it for the winter, while the women made soup and muffins, finished our family mandala project, and had a birthday party—including rocking homemade Creeper pinatas—for one of the kids inside). Each family gets about 5 turns at their own house per year and goes to another family’s house about 20 times. While we’re not perfect, I really feel like this work party has been one of richest blessings of the past year for our family collectively. I hope to write more about it for an article someday, because we’ve created something pretty rewarding that seems fairly unique. At the beginning of December, we decided to invite the members of our work party co-op over for a winter solstice/New Year family ritual. We wanted to have a family project to do together and Mark and I came up with the idea of creating a family crest or mandala. My dad made a wooden circle for each family and each family designed their own “family symbol” to put in the center. Then, at our next work party we each added our family symbol to every other family’s circle—so, the end result was each family’s personal symbol in the middle, flanked by the mini-version symbol of each other family…

Perhaps a picture will illustrate this better…

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See what I mean now? :)

For my own family’s symbol, it was important to me to communicate that we each have our own paths (labyrinth) and our own unique gifts (tiny personal symbol each), but that together we make a beautiful whole. We had some debate with the kids about what personal symbol to include for them. It was important to me that it be something they genuinely wanted to include and not my idealized conception of what it should look like (i.e. a peaceful waterfall or something!). Lann, of course, wanted a Creeper head and Zander opted for a “Wolfgang” head. Wolfgang is Z’s kind of alter ego/imaginary friend/invented character. Wolfgang is awesome. He doesn’t feature as prominently in Zander’s narratives as he used to, but he was really important for a while there. My favorite Wolfgang story is this: “When Wolfgang rides an airplane, he stands on the wings. And, when he jumps off, he lands standing up on a skateboard. Rolling in lava…” So, that little brown devilish looking face is supposed to kind of capture Wolfgang. The rainbow is for Alaina, the gem is for Mark, the footprints are for Noah, and the seated mountain pose goddess is for me. The four other work party family’s mandalas surround ours (on on theirs, ours surrounds theirs).
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After we got home from the work party, I decided to embellish the white space around ours:

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When we came up with this idea, I originally envisioned them eventually hanging over the front door of each family…

It doesn’t actually work for each family to do that, but it did for us…

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After we hung it up, as I looked at it I said, “hey, this as a whole is our work party symbol!” Each family is unique and beautiful on their own, but when we join together, we create something bigger and more lovely than we could on our own. That basic truth is what underlies the whole functioning of work party and it is cool to see it symbolically represented above the door. I look forward to having these families come over during the year and add more of their handprints to our walls…

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