NewsPositively Hampton Roads


Sand art gives doctors and nurses at Sentara a moment of calm

Sand art.PNG
Posted at 4:03 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 17:46:39-04

NORFOLK, Va. - In a small corner of the lobby at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, a cluster of nurses and doctors gawk over a glass table.

"Sand mandalas can take months to create. This one will take four days," said artist Katie Jo Suddaby.

The tiny vibrations of the chakpur artist tool Suddaby is using sort of puts you in a trance as the tool shuffles sand to coat the surface.

"It is kind of a meditative moment in our hectic, busy day," said nurse Cheryl Hewlett.

Suddaby is creating sand art in the form of a mandala, a circular symbol, using sand to create stillness and a moment of zen for these frenzied front-line workers.

"It is a reminder that we do need to be still in order to process and be still losing so many people to this new virus," said Suddaby.

Suddaby, who traveled into the event from New York, says part of being involved with the sand means slowing down and being meditative.

"Just a moment to breathe and be," she said.

Something that's hard to do with COVID-19 patients on every floor above.

"One nurse's beeper went off. She said, 'Oh... reality still exists,'" said Suddaby.

As the picture continues to form, more stop to admire its beauty.

"I just love to see how it's coming to life," said an onlooking nurse.

Suddaby is the only non-monk in the Western Hemisphere to make these mandalas, using the traditional Tibetan technique that is truly mesmerizing for those zeroed in. It is part of Project Lavender at the hospital, events crafted to help nurses and doctors and medical staff with spiritual and self-care due to the pandemic.

"Grains of sand and putting together it and weaving a story - it is like the story is part of our story. She is melding with us and becoming one," said Hewlett.

Each tiny granule is starting to give way to what these medical staff has endured over the past 18 months.

"You work hard on things, put your all into them, but then you have to let them go," said Suddaby. "I chose this image as a moment of rest you can tell everything around them is chaotic they get one moment to be together and show all we have is each other."

After a few hours, the colors and small crystals start to reveal another type of moment - the sand showing two nurses dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE), joining their heads.

A transformation reminding us not to get caught up in the permanence of any moment.

"We all deserve that one moment of calm," said Suddaby.