Garden of Images – Distressed Mermaid Mandala

I drew this mandala during a particularly difficult morning, when I was feeling extra sensitive and had lots of noise and hubbub happening all around me. When I’m in a regular state of mind, leaf blowers are an annoyance. When I’m feeling like I have no skin, they’re an assault to the senses. In the text that (very imperfectly) folds into the curves of this mandala, I try to reconcile the gift of my senses with the challenging things they sense. I never did finish the thought in the drawing, but I do in the caption below.

Image of a mandala with a distressed-looking stick figure mermaid surrounded by stormy water
To see the world and still stand in it is the challenge
I must walk the line between protection and sensitivity
The world will always be there with all its slings and arrows
Leaf blowers, car heaters, trees make me cough.
Sun burns. People say callous things
I persevere

Garden of Images: Mother-Brother-Sister Mandala

This is one of my favorite mandalas. I drew it just after a visit from my mother and brother — the nuclear family I grew up with. We each live in different cities (and on different coasts) and hadn’t been together in the same place for at least three years.

Image of a mandala divided into three parts, each with a tree on a hill that shows both branches and leaves: in one, a stick figure rolls down a hill in the sunshine; in another, a stick figure stands under a tree with wiggly lines radiated outward; in a third, a stick figure stands under a night sky under a full moon
Wednesday, March 5, 2014: The day after my family leaves. The first time we have all been in the same room together in years–


Garden of Images – Women’s Circle Seaside Retreat Mandala

I drew this mandala during a seaside retreat with the Women’s Sacred Circle in Maine this September. We were there during the autumn equinox (Mabon in the Wiccan calendar) and it was a pretty magical weekend. The last morning I was there, I took my final swim of the season. The water was so cold I got pins and needles, but it was worth it.

Scan of a mandala drawn at a retreat with the women's sacred circle
Women’s Circle Retreat at Ferry Beach, Maine, September 2014

Gifts from the Tree Friends in Autumn: Two Oaks, Two Maples

Direct experience of nature is a major theme in my writing. Technology has also figured strongly in my life: both professionally and in my growth as a writer/artist. The image below incorporates both nature and technology. I’ve taken leaves collected on walks during my recent convalescence, scanned them, and color-corrected them to document the bright autumn colors that never seem to translate in untouched photographs. Clockwise from top left, the leaves come from a red oak, a sugar maple, a white oak, and a red maple. The sound of the wind in the leaves, the feel of trees arching over my head and burrowing their roots into the ground, and their life cycle which mirrors the wheel of year are all powerful grounding forces for my body, heart, mind, and spirit.

Clockwise from top left: red oak, sugar maple, white oak, red maple
Clockwise from top left: red oak, sugar maple, white oak, red maple

Garden of Images – The Back Courtyard

Beautiful things can happen when you give yourself permission to let them. But usually it involves digging through a few layers of distraction. It took two pages of maundering before I settled down to make this drawing. Just before I did, I wrote “Never let someone take away your own agency as an artist. You don’t have to give that up — ever.”


Scan of an illustrated May 2014 journal entry - page 3. Detailed drawing of the back courtyard, the view from the kitchen table. by Frances Donovan

Frances Donovan

Garden of Images – Egg Moon Mandala

I often draw mandalas. Here’s one I drew in March of 2014, around the time of the Egg Moon — the same month that holds Passover and Easter in the Judeo-Christian calendar, and around the time of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. In the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, it’s known as Ostara, a festival of the Germanic Goddess of the same name in which eggs and rabbits figure prominently. All these holidays share the themes of rebirth and renewal, a theme that is self-evident to anyone who’s lived through springtime in a temperate (or colder!) climate.


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