Mandala workshop in Phoenicia this Sunday seeks post-Irene healing

As August passes into September, numerous area residents are still coming to terms with the hardships visited on them in the wake of Hurricane Irene. With the one-year anniversary of the event quickly approaching, evidence of Irene’s wrath is still visible in our communities.

Artist Rita Schwab, seen these summer days working with her son Lucas to restore their storm-damaged home across from the recently reopened Mount Tremper Post Office, has decided that this weekend is the perfect time to lead a healing ceremony open to the entire community. The Town of Shandaken is supporting the event that Schwab has conceived by hosting it at Parish Field in Phoenicia this Sunday, August 26, beginning at 11 o’clock.

A giant community-created mandala, a symbol of healing in traditional sacred art, will be the focus of the workshop led by Schwab, culminating in an ephemeral installation in the field. Participants are instructed to bring a basket of items from nature, such as pinecones, sticks, flowers, sand or anything natural that they desire, and reflect on “where we came from, where we stand and what is to come,” according to Schwab.


Jude Roberts, composer of several songs about Irene, will play guitar and sing, with Anaïs Wolf on vocals. Deborah Osherow will play harp, while local drummer Fre Atlast will lead a drum circle during the celebration at the end of the gathering.

Schwab is currently not allowed to move back into her home, which is under reconstruction. “It feels like we’re still years away from recovering,” she says of her personal experience with Irene. Funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have long since run dry, covering only small fraction of the damage done to her property and home. Yet her eyes light up with the prospect of this Sunday’s gathering. If ever Shandaken needed an event like this, it’s now – as we lick our wounds, carry on our work, continue to help our neighbors and help ourselves heal.

The Mandala-Making Workshop is open to all, free of charge, on Sunday, August 26 from 11 a.m. onward at Parish Field in Phoenicia. For more information, contact Rita Schwab at