Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Courage to Recreate

Full Courting Moon

Full Courting Moon 2009: Courting Moon - I took a break!

This post also talks about Easter, which I discussed in last year's post Easter.

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Sorry this post is late in getting out to you, I've just been too busy playing to write :) Two weekends ago was the West Hills Friend's annual retreat at the Oregon Coast and then this weekend was full of Easter festivities. I have been to a pancake breakfast, an Easter pageant, a no talent show, a one woman play, an Easter egg hunt, craft nights, a mimosa brunch, two bbqs and at least half a dozen hikes in the woods (including one where I found a pile of stones and spent some time balancing them, one of my favorite kinds of play) in the last two weeks. Oh, and there have been plenty of naps, too.

Courting Moon asks questions about how we re-create our life through the magical third way between work and rest, play. Johan Huizinga, a 20th century Dutch historian who wrote an early text on play in humans, defines play as "a free activity standing quite consciously outside 'ordinary' life as being 'not serious' but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly." Play is does good things for our brains, our spirit, our morale and even our problem solving abilities. Play often includes the opportunities for happy accidents, things that don't go as planned and make us stretch to worth with, around or through them. Like when the frisbee gets stuck in the tree and we have to problem solve a way to get it out. It also allows us time to free associate and make connections that we may not have made during the course or ordinary time. My sister has introduced me to an amazing mind-body yoga/dance/meditation/flailing practice called Shiva Nata that seems to revv up the connection making process through movement. It is fun and hard and hilarious - the hallmarks of great play.

As the moon swelled towards full this month I realized that the big question for me was not one of how to incorporate play into my life - the above list of activities shows that I am pretty good at that already - but how to channel that play into transformation. Play gives us the raw materials for transformation in the form of experiences and connections, but true life changing re-creation requires additional conscious effort.

Taking those conscious steps to change your life, even when the need for change or the path forward is evidently clear, can be very difficult. What's the old saying? Only a wet baby likes change? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? A known evil is better than an unknown evil? We don't start down the path of re-creation until that risk seems worth more than the stifling or constricting place we currently are. Transformation takes courage.

At worship sharing during retreat I was moved to speak about my feelings shyness and nervousness at the beginning of the weekend. These feelings take me by surprise because I live with them so rarely in my daily life. I happily chat up strangers at the grocery store, meet new students and teachers with confidence and generally show my sassy, irreverent, thoughtful self to most people I meet. Sometimes, though, feelings of fear and nervousness blindsided me in situations I didn't expect them in. I'm coming to realize that this happens when the people involved mean something more to me, when I am risking letting them into my fenced off inner garden. I really am the confident girl I project myself to be to stranger, but I have no fear that they are going to judge or wound me so I have no fear of letting them see that. The people I really care about though - my new church friends, third dates with cute boys, admissions counselors for grad school - these people can wound me, and I protect myself through shyness and nervousness. Luckily, as another Friends said during the same worship sharing, we can move into that fear, remind it that it is not doing what it so desperately thinks it needs to do, and come out the other side into a clearer, sweeter place. At retreat the Courting Moon's energies were at full power and it was evident that play and recreation are fantastic paths through that fear to a deeper connection.

All kinds of transformations take courage to begin. John Woolman, a well loved early American Quaker, worked his entire life against the enslavement of African American people on this continent. Reading his journals, I get the feeling that he would have just as soon stayed at his farm in New Jersey and tended his garden and orchards but he spent many years traveling through the colonies. He was racked with doubt as to whether he would say the right thing, or that his message would be heard, but his faith in his calling gave him the courage to take the steps he knew he needed to. He struggled his whole life to, in his words, make love the first motion. Rather than berating slave owners, or lecturing from a pulpit, he cultivated relationships and spoke from his heart, lovingly and tenderly. His desire to see slavery abolished did not happen for almost one hundred years after his death, but he transformed his life, and the lives of many people he spoke with in his travels. I'm not sure if John Woolman would have called what he did play, but many people see traveling as great paths to both recreation and re-creation.

Like last year, Easter Sunday at West Hills Friends included an original production of an Easter Pageant. This year Jesus rises from the tomb to remind people who have realized they are not who they thought they were that there is still a way forward. Jesus' rebirth, like all rebirths, allow us to move through what seemed like a dead end. In the play, Simon Peter says "I thought I was a rock, but I am broken and crumbling." Jesus reminds Simon Peter that big rocks get in the way, but crumbled rocks can pave the way forward. Our Jesus wore a sparkly purple dress coat and gave out goodies while we danced in the aisles. Re-creation, recreation and transformation with an amazing soundtrack.

What is your favorite kind of play? What connections, lessons, transformations have you made through creative, free form, time-out-time play? What kinds of transformations take the most courage for you? What did you do for Easter? How is spring shaping up where you come from? I hope the weather is nice enough for you to get outside... and play!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Re-creating during the Courting Moon

New Courting Moon

I've actually never posted for the New Courting Moon before, but here is my one lonely post about the Courting Moon:

Courting Moon 2009: Courting Moon - I took a break!

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This month's new moon is the Courting Moon, an intercalary moon that is added every few years to keep the solar festivals in their proper lunar month. One of the beautiful parts of Annette Hinshaw's calendar is that both the moon cycle and the solar festival cycle tell the story of the God, the Goddess and their Creation and that both cycles stay in sync. In a purely solar calendar like the Islamic calendar, festivals move around the year because the 29.5 day lunar cycle doesn't fit perfectly into the 365.25 day solar cycle. Every calendar that needs to keep it's solar cycle aligned with it's lunar cycle, like the Jewish calendar, has to add an intercalary month or period. I wrote more about this phenomenon two years ago during the last Courting Moon.
Like the last Courting Moon two years ago, I am feeling the energies of this moon as a question about how we re-create our lives through recreation. Keith Collins at The Inner Coach calls recreation the "third way" between work and rest and is a way to creatively work out how to live the life your soul asks you to live. I find this to be a huge task to pick up, especially in a month like this all full of sunshine and sleet, flowers and mud.

The Flower Fed Buffaloes by Vachel Lindsay

The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prarie flowers lie low:
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us long ago,
They gore no more, they bellow no more:--
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low.

April is National Poetry Month and I have been using my Facebook page as a "ministry" outlet again by posting lots of poetry. I have been having a great time reading many different kinds of poems ranging from classic children's poems to very modern poems about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. In his article Recreation and Re-Creation, Keith Heidorn laments the fact that arts, music and even sports and science are being relegated to the halls of academia or other haunts of the highly skilled. "How many of us still sing outside the safety of the shower or the car in rush-hour traffic?... And poetry, according to Adrienne Rich, is being 'hoarded inside the schools, inside the universities' because the priesthood believes that the average citizen can't understand poetry and thus, it should be left to the experts." He goes on to insist that art is an act of re-creation, of giving physical substance to our innermost feelings. We should not give that away or let others take it from us. Posting poetry to Facebook almost feels like a renegade act, but one that is deeply fulfilling.

The Rainy Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

In addition to poetry, my other re-creational outlet this month has been working in my garden. This year I am back to just one garden but expanded it to three beds. I planted quite a few hardy greens last summer and autumn and was pleasantly surprised by how many survived and even thrived with minimal protection over the winter. I've spent a number of pleasant hours in my garden in the past few weeks pulling weeds, planting starts and seeds, massaging compost into the soil and just generally puttering about. I love watching everything poke its head up out of the soil, old friends like the persistent and perennial lemon balm and new plants that might be flowers or they might be weeds. Or they might be both. I've discovered some runaway garlic and raspberries from my neighbors yard and am excited to see if the gangley grape plant bears fruit for us this year. I get so much spiritual nourishment from my garden and playing around in it really is one of the great joys of spring.

Daffadowndilly by A.A. Milne

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
"Winter is dead."

How are you re-creating your self through
recreation this spring? Are you planting a garden? Reading poetry? Enjoying a sport or an art or time spent with dear loved ones? What are you reading that is re-creating? What are you writing? What life is your soul asking you to create through your recreation? What's your favorite poem? How are the flowers coming along wherever you are this spring?