When I was 8 my friend Deborah down in the cul-de-sac said her mom had invited me over to do a colouring contest. Her mother gave us white paper doilies and so many coloured pencils I nearly peed my pants with happiness. Pink! Turquoise! Red! Yellow! Purple! I went crazy trying to get all those gorgeous colours onto my doily. I didn't look up to see what Deborah was up to until I had thoroughly covered that doily in a freeform phantasmagoria of saturated hues, and I was so proud of myself I knew no one could have done a more glorious job. But wait - what had Deborah done? She had restrained her palette to pink and green. She had created a pattern of these two colours and ignored all the other colours in the rainbow! I found it mildly astonishing. What astonished me more was that her mother pronounced that Deborah's doily was clearly the winner. Some part of me understood its sophistication and restraint - concepts that would never have occurred to me in a zillion years - but another much bigger part of me felt sorry for Deborah's doily, and silently thought it had lost all hope of happiness.
The other day I saw mandala colouring books at the drugstore and felt attracted to them. I leafed through and almost bought one, but thought it was a bit silly to go colouring mandalas at my age. Still, when I got home, I kept thinking about the book. My daughter came home from grade 8 that afternoon and, by a coincidence I can't really expect you to believe although it is quite true, she announced her teacher had some leftover mandala sheets to colour, so she had brought some home for me. Mandala colouring sheets and books had never entered my life before that day.
Today, day 65 in my year of daily taking some new action, it was rainy and cold outside, and I thought it the perfect day to colour my first mandala and hang it from the ceiling. I had forgotten all about the story of Deborah and her mother. I coloured the mandala in a pattern, taking care to keep it symmetrical and beautifully ordered. I hung it from the ceiling, but I felt less happy about it than I had hoped to feel, until suddenly, the memory of Deborah and her mother and the art contest flashed upon me. I began colouring a second mandala, and this time I let my pure colour instinct and passion decide what each block of colour would be, with no regard whatsoever for procedures of pattern or shape or symmetry. I just let my gaze fall on the coloured pencils as it would fall on a bowl of mango and pear and cherry and watermelon, and I picked up whatever I damn well felt like picking up, and I coloured to my heart's content. Here is the joyous, disorganized result, a result that makes me feel happy and free like I did before Deborah and her mother educated me.