Spinning Sands – a profound journey of healing and a masterclass in the state of flow.

Beautiful patterns in the sand.

The first time I saw Karen’s work, I was driving along the coast coming home from running errands in Newport, Oregon. As I came around a corner, I saw a woman in a bright red dress spinning in circles with her arms outstretched in the middle of an intricate, geometric design scratched into the beach. I was immediately captivated by her movements and wondered what she was doing. As I got closer, I saw that she was creating a mandala in the sand with a small rake. I happened to have my drone with me, so I thought I would pull over and see if I could get some drone footage flying above the mandala, looking into the sunset.

Watching Karen from the outlook above the beach, the process of creating the mandalas looks a bit like watching one of those spirograph drawing apps. Her movements are fluid and graceful but also, in a way, feel calculated. As she spun and whirled, she used her sand rake to create intricate geometric patterns in the sand. Each design was unique and mesmerizing – reminds you of sacred geometry.

Here are a few examples from her Facebook page:

Hi Karen, I’m Steven.

I went down to the beach and met the artist, Karen Chalmers, and she explained to me that she was inspired by the Sufi Whirling Dervish dancing techniques. This dancing form involves spinning in circles, and as the body turns, the arms are extended – a mystical form of dance that is meant to help the dancer connect with the divine.

One thing that really strikes me about Karen’s work is that she actually can’t see the entirety of what she is creating until she completes it and stands on the cliffside above to view her creation for the first time. This makes her art even more impressive, as she has to rely on her instincts and the muscle memory of her movements to create something that is both beautiful and symmetrical. She is tapping into a state of flow that we should all strive to achieve.

Here’s a quick video snippet from that day:

Karen’s mandalas are more than just works of art. They are meditative and contemplative, and they have a way of transporting & inspiring the tourists and locals that gather atop the outlook to watch. When she takes a moment to spin and her dress starts whirling, the audience of strangers cheers and applauds for her.

A different design every time.

The designs vary each and every time. Sometimes her design features cultural references or symbols on days of respect, memorials for those who have recently passed, Celtic designs, and many different combinations of concentric, nearly-perfect circles with intertwined spirals and patterns. All of her works of art are a reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.

Focus on the moment.

As the sun slowly set behind us and the water started to reclaim this beautiful, but temporary sacred space back into the sea. Tomorrow, Karen will return with the low tide and start again.

Meeting Karen and seeing her work was a profound experience for me. Her passion and dedication to her craft were truly inspiring. Her art is a testament to the power of the human spirit and the limitless potential of our creativity. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with noise and distractions, Karen’s mandalas are a welcome respite. Whether you are a tourist passing through on vacation or a local on your lunch break, her artworks remind us to take a moment to pause, to breathe, and to appreciate the simple beauty that exists all around us.

Be present in this precious, temporary moment that will soon leave on the tide.

Restoration through creativity.

As I have gotten to know Karen over the last year, we have become friends and I really enjoy spending time with her. I learn something new every time we speak. We both suffer from chronic health conditions that cause us pain on a daily basis. We both use creativity as a tool to navigate the world we find ourselves in.

I have found that very often people who experience such health issues are more open-minded, patient, charismatic, and tolerant. We focus on our precious moments of clarity or wellness, often referred to as “spoons”, on an activity that gives us an emotional ROI and recharges our batteries. And sometimes this expresses itself in a creative way – pottery, sculptors, painters, musicians, dancers, etc. If we’re really lucky, other people also enjoy our work and they also receive a few “spoons” from it as well.

How can we give back?

It is so important that we support our local artists. They constantly create positivity in the world that we can all enjoy at such a little cost – a walk through an art gallery, a tour of a glass artist’s workshop, a maker faire, a music festival, or a walk on a beach at sunset.

Karen has overcome so much, but it has also come at a significant cost in the form of medical bills thanks to the American healthcare system. If you enjoy her amazing creations, either in person or via Facebook, please take a few minutes to show your support. Simply click the button below to contribute a small amount or even just a message of support. Just imagine, if each person who stopped along Highway 101 this Summer to take photos and enjoy watching her spin were to drop a couple of dollars in the “tip jar”. It would be a meaningful amount and secure Karen’s future.

May 9, 2023: Low tide, 9am to 12pm, at Seal Rock State Park

  • Steven Trotter is a graphic designer (UX/UI, web & branding), photographer, and maker living and working on the Oregon Coast.

    https://www.steventrotter.com hey@steventrotter.com Trotter Steven