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FARMINGTON — Using plastic containers filled with seeds, Farmington residents Desiree Deschenie and Makinsey Cole helped construct a mandala near the Riverside Nature Center on Saturday.

Mandalas are circular designs that symbolize the idea that life is never ending, as well as carrying spiritual significance to some individuals.

Deschenie and Cole were among a small group of volunteers who completed the design at the Xeriscape demonstration garden near the nature center.

Donna Thatcher, the nature center’s coordinator, said this was the first time a mandala had been constructed in the garden, and she got the idea after reading about a similar project completed at the Open Space Visitor Center in Albuquerque.

"I thought that it would be a fun thing to try," Thatcher said adding it also provided an activity for visitors.

She said the mandala was 10 feet in diameter, and it was outlined in chalk before seeds were applied.

The majority of the circle was covered in a seed mixture that resulted in a tan appearance while sunflower seeds were used to create a dark border.

It was divided into four sections using seed pods from honey locust.

Each section depicted birds, fishes, turtles and butterflies, and the images were composed from sunflower seeds, cracked corn and sorghum.

Peanuts were placed in the center, which added texture to the design.

Rather than dismantling the mandala after its completion, as is traditionally done, the volunteers left the design so birds and wildlife could eat the seeds.

"All the different birds and animals will find things they like. It's sort of a New Year’s present for our wildlife and fun for us," Thatcher said.

Deschenie and Cole were among those who worked on the design from start to finish while other individuals walking the nearby trail stopped to help before continuing their exercise.

"We both like mandalas, so why not?" Deschenie said.

For Cole, the experience added to her first visit to the nature center.

"I do love animals and thought it was a good idea to bring in the new year by treating them," Cole said.

As the small group completed the mandala, a herd of deer watched nearby.

Later, one of the deer approached with caution, then started eating some of the seeds from the design.

"That was cool," Deschenie said after the animal left.

“I wasn’t sure if we would be that lucky to get to see some wildlife come check it out before we even moved away. It was a very handsome deer,” Thatcher said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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