By Ryan Larson

Buddhist monks have a unique ritual of creating, I think, the most vibrant and visually stunning work of art ever. They place sand of many colors on a table together in a design that looks like what you would see on a Persian rug. The accuracy can be measured by millimeters, and when finished, the mandala is as complex and symmetrical as imaginable. The work done can be measured by a stopwatch, or sometimes, even a calendar. After it’s complete, what do they do with it? They brush the table clean. This is to remind them and everyone watching that all life situations are temporary, and we must embrace the moment while we can.

Five years ago, I met a woman at work. We talked, ended up having dinner and became a couple. Now we’re engaged, and this summer, we are going to get married. Not only have I never been engaged before, but she’s the only woman I’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day with. She grew up in Cambodia. After escaping the Khmer Rouge into Thailand, Governor Robert Ray encouraged Iowans to sponsor Cambodian refugees. Her family received a sponsor, so they were flown here in Iowa to start a new life with an unrecognizable culture and language. She is my sand mandala.

I don’t think of us as an interracial couple. However, we are a bilingual couple. We speak Khmer to each other every day. Her grandkids call her Yay. I have never heard any of them call her Grandma, and I never will. We are also an intercultural couple. She cooks foods such as kah (caramelized pork), the best egg rolls I’ve ever eaten, and bahn xeo, which looks like an omelette, but it’s made out of rice flour. She has a poster of Angkor Wat, the most well known tourist attraction in Cambodia.

We are unable to have kids. Many years ago, I did want to be a father. But with the increase in frustration and decrease in sleep that comes with that, I’ll pass. Before we met, I had been warned that when you start dating someone, if they have kids, it does make the relationship harder. But her three sons are all grown up, so that’s not the case with us.

My grandparents were married for more than sixty years. My parents are approaching fifty. Every romance is temporary, just like a sand mandala, no matter how many decades it lasts. And by not taking the time I have with her for granted, I will strive to be the best husband that I can be.

Ryan Larson lives in Des Moines, IA with his fiancé. In his job, he helps companies lease copiers and printers, some of which cost more than his car. He loves to exercise, read, write, watch tv and eat whatever his fiancé cooks.


One thought on “My Sand Mandala

  1. Very interesting
    Amazed at the power of true love that has no barriers. Very hard for a commoner. One needs to have extra caring heart
    All the best to you both


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