"This place still holds its ethos of healing": on Gerri Sayler's PCEI "mandalas"
by Kathlene Roberts
There is a warmth that radiates against my skin, counteracting the cold bite of the swaying wind that surrounds the trail I hike through. The knee-high grasses rustle in tandem with dry leaves that hang from the branches of the surrounding trees. I follow the path as it winds up the hill past the small, empty studio sitting on its perch, until I come to a crossroad. On one side the path runs flat and on the other up and over the steep hill. I decide on the latter. Climbing up the steep hill forces my toes to dig in, leaving marks as I go.
At the top I am confronted with the place where paths converge. The horizon stretches expansively and the warm glow from the sun makes the experience feel welcoming. The view that surrounds me encapsulates the very essence of an edge space as an integrative collaboration; it is clear where the remnants of native Palouse prairie meet the made-ness of humans. There is a mix of houses, a small apple orchard, empty land, and a grove filled with the clever presence of different types of trees. The panoramic view evokes a sense of freedom. Freedom from the hustle and bustle of the cars; freedom from the monotonous. The hillside is 360 degrees of open space. I am alone with my thoughts on this quiet Sunday afternoon, but I can see a couple walking their dog in the distance and I can hear the tinkle of children’s laughter floating across the space, creating a sense of harmony and balance.
The mandala I came to see-Gerri Sayler’s Apple Mandala—is almost completely eroded into its surroundings. It was once made of apples, berries, grasses, and other proximal flora. Although these may not be physically present anymore the meaningful connection this spiral work makes with one’s psyche is not lost. This place still holds its ethos of healing, as Sayler had intended. Grasses have overtaken the space and all that remains is a faint circle that once served as the border for the artwork that was created here. While all that was left were skeletal remains (perfectly fitting the coming of winter) the impact is not gone. In her artist's statement, Sayler explains that her inspiration stemmed from the “Medicine Wheel,” and now, being here in this place, it is clear to me that PCEI was the only place the mandala could have been created: the fields, the trees, the community here make it the perfect representation of “interwoven links between humans and nature.”
Kathlene Roberts is a Senior Psychology/Creative Writing Major at Washington State University.