created with love by Lore Raymond
The Universe has a wondrous sense of timing, as I smiled with delight when seeing this image a few days ago on Facebook friend, Lore Raymond’s page. Life is my playground and I welcome into it lots of willing playmates who usually cooperate, don’t throw sand, share their toys and refrain from running with scissors. Every day, I encounter new ones and every day I express gratitude for those who are already there, as well as those who are about to step into the sandbox. This weekend, I felt blessed to have folks in both categories.
For the first year, I attended the annual event Firebird Festival in Phoenixvile, PA. It is a community gathering that focuses on the concept of the Phoenix rising from the ashes and has become legendary in its scope. My friend Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg is the artist who orchestrates this shindig and builds the bird. Last minute decision after the seed was planted. I meandered back and forth in my thoughts, tired after gym ‘playout’, wanting to take a nap, desiring to take part in the ritual of seeing the bird in full flight (symbolically speaking) and then letting go of my worn out beliefs, fears, hesitations, doubts, limitations and watching them go up in flames. Hopped in the Jeep, headed Southward. When I got nearby, I was delighted and frustrated that there were so many people and cars. Took a deep breath and called on our family parking angel, seeing what we call “an Uncle Jimmy parking spot” since my mother’s brother Jim always found the perfect spot. It took nearly 30 minutes of driving around, enjoying the scenery until I found a parking lot with ONE SPOT left. It was just a few blocks away from the main festivities. I knew I would see friends there and within moments, I was greeted by my friend Laura Bertin. Throughout the evening, I saw oodles more as I slowly wound my way through the playful, colorfully garbed crowds (one man with a rainbow-hued, 6″ or so mohawk), others with silly hats and fun costumes. There was an air of anticipation, since they had all come to see the big bird burn. Tiny kidlets (including few month old Elliott perched on his father’s shoulders, eyes wide in delight) watched in wonder. A host of drummers kept the beat, including Ron Kravitz, Bill DeHaven and Daniel Brouse. Since I had left my drum in the car (silly me), I used the edge of the stage as a percussion instrument.
Another opportunity to connect with kindred spirits…I turned and saw my friend Gael Chiarella Alba who I have not greeted hug to hug in a few years. She was there with friends of hers and invited me to come back to her house for what turned out to be lively conversation about my favorite subject of ‘life, the Universe and everything.’ and yummy food. Even though I had not met these folks in this lifetime, it truly felt like we had done this before, so naturally did it flow~ Looking forward to seeing them again.
Phoenix before the ceremony (I took this one)
Phoenix during the celebratory conflagration. (Photo credit Daniel Brouse, 2012)
On Sunday, I went to Circle of Miracles; one of my interfaith spiritual communities and heard the marvelous ‘child in a grownup suit’ Marlene Sandler share her thoughts about the importance of play. For her, it became a survival skill, having experienced childhood abuse, health issues and depression. It wasn’t until she befriended a dog named Teddy, a cat called Marmalade and a pony with the moniker of Harriet, that Marlene truly came alive. They each taught her, not only the value of play, but HOW to play. No wonder she became a talented animal communicator, therapist, healer and teacher. Marlene invited us to engage in a practice that wolves use to create safe space….howling; which the group of forty some of us did, with abandon. She then shared the dynamics of the ways in which animals and people play, and how to become more adept at it. One fascinating tidbit she offered was that typically those who commit serial murders did not learn to play (and obviously, they didn’t learn to play well with others): She gave each of us a baggie filled with a few pieces of candy, a dreidel since it is Hanukkah, a photo story of a polar bear and husky that learned to play together and an index card. She asked us to take 30 seconds and draw a picture of the person next to us. Such fun! And then she reminded us that as children, we likely would have engaged in the experience without judgement and as adults, likely were being self critical of what appeared on the the 3 x 5. I actually just had fun sketching my friend Monica Gager.
According to Peter Gray: “Play in our species serves many valuable purposes. It is a means by which children develop their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and moral
capacities. It is a means of creating and preserving friendships. It also provides a state of mind that, in adults as well as children, is uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving, and all sorts of creative endeavors.” I agree wholeheartedly. This 54 year old has bubbles, crayons, costumes, facepaint, feathers, and all sorts of other toys in her life enhancement tool kit.
Later in the day, I headed to the home of Cass Forkin and Bill Belknap who also are playful adults. They invite a group of us to gather to celebrate friendship, set intention for next year, support each other in our endeavors, enjoy yummy food, honor the holidays of light and just have fun. No surprise, tying in with the theme of the morning’s celebration at Circle of Miracles, their dog Bailey was a playful participant in the festivities.
I led the group through a ritual during which we lit candles and went around the room, sharing what it is we had experienced in 2012, how it had impacted our lives and those with whom we came in contact and what we intended for the new year. With each thought shared, we blessed the intention by howling like a supportive wolf pack. Since some of us had been there that morning at Circle of Miracles, it was all the more powerful and expression of solidarity and support. Among us were musicians, health professionals, teachers, artists, writers, organizational developers, CEOs, speakers and engineers, all with a common purpose…to make a difference in the world.
“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” -Alan Watts