What would you spend your whole day creating, even if you knew that your artistic creation would then be utterly destroyed before midnight? Today in Guatemala, as a Semana Santa tradition, the men, women, and children across villages are going to do exactly that. They’re going to participate in the ritual of creating elaborate, intricate, delicate, colorful and sacred street art… that lives for less than a day.
Because today, everybody is an artist in the service of devotion. With weeks and months of planning, with sand and dyed sawdust, with steady hands and wooden stencils, with flowers and pine needles, the streets of Guatemala’s villages will become paved in color and scent for a day, one vivid textured painting after another - a slice of a childhood dreamland.
At first, there will be marked-off patches of pavement with sketches. As the hours pass, each patch will fill with color and distinguishing patterns will begin to take life. Layers will be added as the designs are refined and highlights are brought to the surface.
Smiles will be passed between neighbors with crayon-box-stained hands.
The squares will begin to join to form one rolling colorful carpet as borders sew the patches together. The unique design of each team or each artist will add up to a long, technicolor river that turns corners and winds through the village center.
Dusk will come and finishing touches will be placed here and there by candlelight, until it’s just right, until it’s ready. For one moment, just one, it's finished. Just then, the evenings’s holy procession will begin with the first shuffling steps. Within hours, it will all be gone, nothing but a scattering of colorful dust in the procession’s wake.
And next year, women, men and children will gather together to do it all over again. I'm moved and inspired by this cultural tradition. When the procession passes through town, the art is not destroyed, it's offered. It is "made sacred". The artistic experience isn't realized through its finished form. It's realized through the devotion of creating and then letting go. Can we engage with our own creative impulses in this same sacred way? How about with our life? Can we create for the joy of making colorful and vivid and sacred the moments we live, in whatever way enlivens our spirit, undeterred by the impermanence and unattached to the outcome? This local tradition inspires this month's newsletter writing prompt... and maybe more than that.