To Be Five in Summer

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To get to the pool, race past the boy in the superhero swim trunks. Carry your purse in the crook of your elbow, goggles and nose clip and a whole package of bandaids inside. Look both ways. Watch for reversing cars. The cow with the long eyelashes propped in the yard is so last month, why even mention it? While your mother finds a chair in the shade, sprint to the water. In! In! Until the lifeguard’s whistle means it’s time to get out. In the kiddie pool, the hose is for battles. Crimp and explode until your mother says stop or you’ll have to go home. You are smeared with sunblock and schooled in how to keep water from your goggles. Even the shallow end is still too deep, so daddy stays close.  The diving board was fun until you did a double bounce and then it was terrible. Terrible! You want the orange noodle, not the blue, a squirt of ketchup on your hotdog from your Uncle Rene. But you leave it on the table and leap back into the water. You will swim and swim chasing your cousin Lala who is taller and more thoughtful and all the way from California and who will save you if you go too far. Back home there’s a hula hoop and Incredible Hulk hands and a diary you would write your greatest wishes in if only you knew how to write. Lighter fluid drifts sharply to your nose, Pharrell’s “Happy” to your ears. Someday these Sundays will fade, become one giant day at the pool in which you ran and leapt and splashed and someone’s football sailed over your head and the noodle you wanted was always yours and parents bounced babies and told long stories and the water was only invitation. One more jump before you go. No, wait, just one more. And then you walk home, towel thrown over your shoulders, learning the gifts of the shady side of the street.

August 9, 2015

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After The Tree Play

080615Make yourself into a tree, into branches and wind and leaves, into safety and sturdiness. If I am ever less than a mountain, writes Lucille Clifton, a phrase I hear again and again when I ask applicants to read aloud. Make yourself into a mountain, into forest, into something that carries on after yourself. My tree, says the girl in the play, my tree that was here before me. Spread your fingers wide. Clamor and call. Sway in the wind. Howl. When you walk across the floor, the pottery on the shelf rattles. Floors made of trees here before you were, pottery made with hands here before you were. Make yourself into a tree. Leaf. Rings. Spotlight. Applause.

August 6, 2015

Praise Song: Children at Play

042515Praise how a field, any field, means run! To the trees and back and–panting–let’s go again. Up and down on one leg or leaping like a frog or hand on the head because we are unicorns. Praise a pickup game of soccer behind the barbecue restaurant. Praise piggybacking the little kids as we sprint. Praise dusk coming on, the air April thick, parents waiting at picnic tables while the children keep going, keep going. Praise their breathlessness. Praise how fully they enter the action. Praise their dampened hair as we hug goodbye in the parking lot.

April 25, 2015

Praise Song: Live Music

0410151At City Hall, Tibetan monks start building a sand mandala that four days later they will dissolve and distribute, pouring their art into palms to be released to the wind. It is like that with live music–drinks on the table, lights focused, picks moving across strings, and the sound gone at the second it is most realized. Praise the moment of creation, and praise the moment after, when all that remains is the memory. Praise Peter Mulvey bringing his full heart to a small stage on Friday night. Praise how he once was a 19-year-old busking on the streets of Dublin with my friend and how he chose, after that, to go all in. No bets hedged. No alternate plan tucked in his back pocket. Nearly 30 years later he is driving from gig to gig–two guys, two guitars, a new song every Tuesday. Praise the tenderness of his lyrics. Praise the high notes, and the low. Praise the Cactus Cafe, which almost didn’t make it yet still remains, every seat a good seat. Praise the synchronicities that brought us to sit with old friends at a round table. Praise chords, words, rapport, all offered up. Praise how we follow them into the moment, into the song.

April 10, 2015

Play

0122152Sometimes in Free Minds we take things a little seriously. We are talking, after all, about Plato and Shakespeare, about missed chances and new opportunities, about how capitalist culture insinuates itself into the Friday evening football game. But tonight Mr. Sidney, as the kids call him, helped us lighten up. We moved the tables to the edges of the room, put our bodies in the middle. We clapped invisible balls at each other. We made homes with our arms and then crouched to sit inside them. “Shelter!” called Patricio, and the houses moved. “People!” Ben yelled, and the people ran to find new homes in which to crouch. “Community!” said Joanna, and the room burst into movement, new structures popping up everywhere. Laughter, commotion, and Mr. Sidney managing it like the calmest conductor, towering tall in his gold pants. We finished his session feeling a little sweaty, a little lucky, a little closer to each other. Play–done right–is serious business too.

January 22, 2015

Old Intentions

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If you came to our New Year’s day open house last year, you may have written an intention for 2014 on a tag and hung it from a branch. Maybe that intention became real last year. Maybe a new intention has arisen for this one. Here are the intentions we’ve held onto for you, still attached to their shiny ribbons.

Spending more time in my garden

Improve my voice and percussion; improve animal communications skills/volunteer
More dancing
Music from a violin
To prioritize experience over stuff
Let gratitude grow and envy recede
Clarity, peace and progress
Embrace my faults
Stay in my own hula hoop
Delve deeper into the mystery
Play with contra dance band more regularly
Good luck and good strategy
I intend kindness to myself and others
Saying what needs to be said
Be joyful, be thankful, love
Believe in myself
Happiness

If I were hanging intentions on a tree this year, I’d write: Practice. Reverence. Play.

January 2, 2015