The hardest part of making my prayer flag was deciding which prayer to use! I had a number in the running, and finally decided on one that I've used on a regular basis in my own life. It's the Zen Night Chant from the Upaya Zen Center:
"Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time passes swifty and opportunity is lost.
Let us awaken
Do not squander your life."
I relate to this prayer both in my own life, and as a wish for the people of the world. It speaks to what I have learned about how I want to live and love, understanding that life hangs on by a thread and things can change in an instant. It speaks to the power of grief to awaken the fires of truth and compassion within, recognizing that hearts break...break open...leaving an opportunity for growth and healing.
It just felt right to use this prayer - it felt easy to infuse the flag with all the depth and wisdom I read between the lines. And so the creating began....
First, I had to buy a vintage train case to hold all my supplies....Ok, maybe not an essential step, but a FUN step. I wanted something that I could hold everything in easily, and something that was easy to transport. Voila. It's perfect. And cute.
Next I chose the material. Traditionally prayer flags are bright, but I felt drawn to more earthy colors, so I chose a light beige as the base color, with brighter accents. I cut a piece of material 5" x 11" and then folded the top edge over 2" ish and pinned it. This will become the casing where the string will be threaded through to tie the flag to a tree. Then I used a simple running stitch to close the top casing. It doesn't look as professional as a if were sewn by a machine, but I kind of like the "homemade" feel to it. Considering this, I also did not hem the sides and bottom of the flag, but I suppose you could if you had a sewing machine. I left the bottom edge of my flag slightly frayed - it made it look a little more used or natural or...something....
For the accents, I cut two smaller squares of a sheer aqua blue material, to be glued onto the flag as an inset; one to write my prayer on, and the other to draw* a tree.
* By "draw" I mean that I printed a drawing of a tree from the internet and used it as a template to trace onto the material. I may be creative, but I'm no artist.
The tree is symbolic of a verse from a poem that I love by E.E. Cummings called I Carry Your Heart:
"...here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart..."
And, finally I put it all together. I glued on my insets with the prayer and tree. To brighten it up, I decided to cut out a yellow flower, and to sew on a red button. Yellow because it is a color I find cheerful, and a red because it feels primal and instinctual.
Lastly, I threaded a piece of twine through the top casing and my flag is officially complete!
Next weekend is our trip to Vision Quest Ridge in Nordegg, Alberta. I'm packing this flag and will hike it up to an ancient vision quest site where I will tie it in a tree to spread my prayer with the wind. Next time you see it, it will be blowing in the wind.
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