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Archive for August, 2014

Let’s Play!

Play is the exultation of the possible.  Martin Buber

It was the trees that first caught his attention, so many of them, and the colorful signs hanging from their branches and the metal star shimmering in the light, and then his eyes caught hold of something else, something made from deck boards nestled among those trees.  It was a stage!  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  Grandma had a stage and he was free to play on it!  And that’s what he did, back in early June, my just-turning-two-years-old grandson, Viren, on this, his first visit over to Joy Center during his six-week stay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this past summer.  He played on that stage and his Grandma (yours truly), she played too.  They stomped and they jumped and they marched and they sang — they did all this until he spied the rocks, the ones behind the stage, the big boulders hauled in from a gravel pit, big enough to be quite a climb for a two-year-old.  There were mountains to summit and fairy houses to explore and wind chimes to ring and he hadn’t even skidaddled over to those front steps and through the door that his Grandma was now holding open for him, the door to a place she called the Joy Center.

And with a beckon and a call, this two-year-old king of play was drawn in because the door was open and there was more to explore.  A kitchen with snacks and water from a well.  A living room with a ceiling as high as the sky.  There were rainbow-colored banners sweeping across that sunlit expanse and a wooden floor and no furniture at all and a perfect place to slide on stocking feet and to plod like an elephant and screech like a monkey and to order your grandma to hop like a bunny.  This place was made for playing, with stairs to practice careful-climbing and a loft that was lofty and a room filled with hats in all shapes and sizes.  This place was made for playing and Grandma, she was feeling quite puffed up, quite ready to it show off in its full-blown glory.  So down they went, down the two flights of stairs, grandma and grandson, to the lower level, to soft comfy chairs and books to read and a whole room dedicated to glue sticks and glitter, to paper and crayons and paints, to so much stuff that by now, this Grandma, she knew that her grandson must be dazzled.  She herself was dazzled seeing all this through the eyes of a two-year-old.  “Grandma must be the coolest grandma in the world.  Grandma works in a playhouse.  Grandma plays for a living.  Grandma plays at living!”

Grandma works at a playhouse!  I delighted in saying this to Viren each time I would leave my home and walk the short distance to Joy Center this past June.  “Grandma’s going to work!” I’d say as I scampered off to a yoga session.  “I have to work now!” I’d sing as I waved good-bye on my way to Out Loud’s open mic night.  Thank you, Viren, I say now as I remember all of this.  Thank you for reminding me that Joy Center indeed is a playhouse.  Thank you for reminding me of what I’ve always known, that play is a noble vocation, that it is expansive and high vibe, and, most of all, that it is downright fun.  Thank you for being the inspiration as Joy Center buddies and I planned this year’s anniversary party.  “Why not set up play stations?” Amber suggested.  “What would Viren want to do?” Raja asked.   So that’s what we did the other day as we celebrated the six year birthday of Grandma’s community playhouse.  We set up play stations, created a nursery school for grown-ups and kids alike, with art and book-making and coloring and writing centers, with a market place of handmade treasures in the loft and a stage outside where we could hula-hoop.  And snacks too because every playhouse worth its weight in fun needs to have a snack station with Sherri’s out-of-this-world-amazing finger-food meals and Adonna’s homemade chocolate!

And then we played.  All afternoon and into the evening.  We played in clusters around the art table creating books and collages.  We played alone surrounded by the trees on the downstairs’ deck.  We played in deep conversation and while shopping for the perfect item made with the loving hands of a friend.  We played while cheering on the hula-hoopers and while taking a turn ourselves.  We played while listening, while talking, while laughing, while eating, while singing, while breathing.  We played in reverence and we played irreverently, and it all felt holy to me, this way that Joy Center was filled to its brim with the power of play.

Joy Center is a playhouse.  This summer, Viren reminded me of that.  And he also reminded me that there are a multitude of ways to play.  Some are rousing and foot-stomping, and some are quiet and contemplative.  Some take you deep inside yourself and some are expansive and wide-winged and as light as a hula-hop twirling through the air.  And at Joy Center you are welcome to experience it all!  Let’s play!

Magic in the Moonlight

Life’s enchanted cup sparkles near the brim.  Lord Byron

Enter the enchanted woods, You who dare.  George Meredith

It felt magical, that walk home around the block from Joy Center last Thursday evening.  The air was balmy and the moon, filtered by a thin layer of clouds, lent a warm glow to the trees and to the road and to the sky above me.  And as I looked up, I wasn’t certain what I was seeing.  Was it clouds that were dancing across the nighttime sky or was it something else radiating out in wispy pinwheel patterns — the northern lights, perhaps?  And what was that sound that I was hearing carried in on the slight breeze?  It was a howling sound, I was sure — coyotes howling at the moon and the pin-wheel dancing sky.  And my heart, it was a happy open-hearted song it was singing and I felt in love with it all, the howling coyotes, the dancing sky, the air I was breathing.  I felt in love with life, rapturously in love with life, and with chocolate, too.  Yes, I felt in love with chocolate too.  Not just any chocolate.  Pure organic fair-trade chocolate, in roasted beans offered in a pottery bowl, and in a steaming blend of water, cocoa powder, and cayenne pepper served in handmade mugs, and in concoction after concoction of chocolate nibs and cocoa blended with spices and honey and coconut in exotic variations.  I was filled with chocolate as I walked that short magical route from Joy Center to home.

And was it the chocolate that made me feel so good, so open, so appreciative of life?  Adonna, our professor/facilitator and magician-extraordinaire of chocolate concoctions at the evening’s Chocolate as Medicine workshop had told us that, along with the antioxidants and the long list of healing properties, chocolate was filled with endorphins and I certainly was filled with rich dark pure chocolate.  So maybe it was the chocolate.  Maybe I was on a chocolate high.  Whatever it was, it stayed with me through my short night of sleep and onto the plane in the wee hours of the next morning as my husband Cam and I flew west to Boulder, Colorado for a four-day adventure celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary.  And Boulder is 5000 feet above sea level and the air is clear and sweet and the trails we hiked on each day took us through juniper and pine-scented forests and even higher into that clear thin air, and is that why the good-feeling stayed with me?  Did the altitude take over when the chocolate wore off?  Was it a Rocky Mountain High causing my euphoria?  Was that the reason I was in love with my beating-in-my-ears heart and my huff huff huffing breath and my limber legs and my sturdy big feet that stepped from Rocky Mountain rock to Rocky Mountain rock?  Was that the reason that I loved the blindingly blue sky and those snowcapped peaks more than words could ever say, why I loved that guy, too, the guy I call “my guy” who was hiking right in front of me?  Was it the altitude that had my heart all a’flutter and my head filled with euphoria?

And I wonder about the Boulder evenings too.   After our days of hiking, sun-soaked and fresh-filled with mountain air, my guy and I would head downtown, to Boulder’s pedestrian-only tree and sculpture-lined Pearl Street where the people promenade and the buskers perform their magic acts and the kids climb the rocks and scamper through the shooting-from-the-ground fountain.  And it was here, in the midst of this hustle, that the five young men and women would take out their string instruments and in front of some store would begin to play.  It was as good as chocolate.  It was as uplifting as the upward thrust up those mountain trails.  This music that washed through me in a glorious buoyant wave, swept me to a place where once again I was in love with it all:  the yogi on the other side of the rock sculpture garden twisting himself into a pretzel and squeezing himself into a tiny box, in love with the scampering kids, the lovers walking hand in hand, the guy with the cardboard sign asking for money, the crowds of people, the full moon rising up above that sweeping sound.  I’ve heard that violin music has the power to open your heart, and the full moon certainly can pull at the inner tides — and is that why I felt so good sitting on a bench on Pearl Street at the end of each day?

And who cares if it’s a chocolate high or a bout of euphoria induced by the thin air in the Rockies?  Who cares if it’s the outward gift of a string quintet or the full-rising moon?  Who cares what it is that sets are spirits flying ?!?  Aren’t we supposed to feel good?  Aren’t we supposed to sing with the coyotes and lift our eyes up to those pin-wheel spinning clouds and to the moon that is super full on a Saturday night?  Aren’t we supposed to fill ourselves up with wonder, with pleasure, with rich-tasting high-in-antioxidant treats?!?  Cam and I scrambled up the last hundred feet of jumbled rock to Lily Mountain’s ten-thousand-foot-summit, to its tiny cramped spectacular summit with its 360 degree view of snow-capped mountains and green valleys and the whole of Rocky Mountain National Park.  And as we sat there on that cramped summit, eating our lunch, admiring the view, our eyes caught something in the air, hovering in the wind, something unexpected and unbelievable.   It was a hummingbird fluttering in front of us, no flower in sight, no logical reason to be there.  The Native Americans believe that the hummingbird is a sign of happiness, an invitation to open to pleasure.  I’m glad to remember this gift that flew into our summit moment.  I’m glad to accept its invitation.  Pleasure is here for us in our foods, our music, in the very air that we breathe


Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado: August 2014

Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado: August 2014


InTune String Ensemble: Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado, August 2014

InTune String Ensemble: Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado, August 2014

Rocky Mountain High: Celebrating Our Anniversary, Rocky Mountain National Park, August 2014

Rocky Mountain High:
Celebrating Our Anniversary, Rocky Mountain National Park, August 2014


The perfect creative stance is satisfaction where I am and eagerness for more.  Abraham-Hicks

It was the weekend after Fourth of July, a Saturday evening, and the sun had just dipped over the horizon as the plane sped down the runway in Minneapolis, on this, the third leg of my travel adventure to Moscow, Idaho.  And then, just like that, the plane was airborne, its nose pointing skyward before leveling off on this perfectly-clear night and offering us, the packed-in passengers, a wide-angled view of the Twin Cities, the Mississippi, and something else, something wonderfully unexpected . . . Fireworks!!!  I couldn’t believe my good fortune!  A week earlier, my husband Cam and I had joined our son, daughter-in-law and two-year-old grandson Viren at dusk on a grassy field for our local display of fireworks, and the two of us, who hadn’t witnessed Fourth of July fireworks in years, oohed and ahhed and traced the bursting and blossoming fountains of sky-shooting color with our fingers with as much delight as our toddler grandson.  And now here they were again, first flower-shaped and large — and then we were above them and I was looking down at bursts of color and then they were gone and we were on our way.

But that wasn’t the end of it.  As we, in our Boeing 737, sailed westward through the nighttime sky among the stars and a full round moon, the country below us remained clear of clouds, and each time that we passed a town of twinkling lights, in North Dakota and all through Montana and into northern Idaho, there they were, the tiny bonfire bursts, more and more and more of them — the country lit up with post-Fourth of July fun.  Just when I thought that it must be over, that there couldn’t possibly be more, it would happen again, the sudden explosion of light, tiny now, but big enough to make me happy.  It was nearly midnight when we landed in Spokane, Washington, too late for the boom boom boom of fireworks, but not too late for another display of wonder.  As I waited for my motel shuttle outside the Spokane Airport, I looked up into the warm summery sky and there it was, suspended in front of me, that full moon that also had followed me across the country, the biggest and roundest moon I’d ever seen, something else to ooh and ahh at, something else to appreciate

Grandson Viren doesn’t quite get it yet, that there is a full moon to admire when the fireworks are over, that a good night’s sleep after witnessing that full moon is like gold in our pockets, that the sunrise the next morning can fill a person with wonder.  He dives into his present moments with gusto.  A trip to the park is heaven on earth to Viren — the curvy slide and the fast straight one, the toddler swings and the swings made for bigger bottoms, the kid-sized dragon with the friendly eyes that rocks each time you climb on its back, the metal bars that are perfect for dangling.  Why would a guy who has just turned two want to go anywhere else?!?

During the week that I spent in Idaho this past month, as Viren’s parents took possession of their new home, as Viren’s aunt and uncle — our other son and daughter-in-law — drove into town and moved into their rental cottage, it was my “job” to hang out with the little guy.  And we had a blast, Viren and I, not only at that park with the rocking dragon, but downtown, dipping our feet, then our legs on the hot hot afternoons into the icy cold fountain at the town’s center square, and on a hike at Moscow Mountain picking thimbleberries and collecting feathers and stones, in the toy store playing with the well-equipped train set, at the Food Co-op eating scrambled eggs and slurping on the smoothie called “monkey”.   We had a blast, until it was time to go, time for the next thing to emerge.  Sometimes it worked to explain to Viren that we’d be back again and that it was going to be fun, this next adventure that we were pointing our noses toward.  Sometimes we’d just wave our goodbyes and call out in our sing-song voices, “See you later, alligator!”  And sometimes we wouldn’t.  Sometimes there was flailing, and crying, and full-out refusals to budge.  Sometimes it just wasn’t easy moving forward to the next display of fireworks.

And I get it, this not wanting a good thing to be over.  At the end of the eight days in Moscow, Idaho, I said my goodbyes to our sons and their wives and that beloved grandson of ours and I headed back through the Palouse Valley to the airport in Spokane to take off on the next leg of my adventure.  I didn’t flail and I didn’t cry and I didn’t throw myself down in a refusal to budge.  I kept on driving through those ambers waves of grain, but, as I moved forward, I could feel it, an inner resistance, maybe similar to the resistance that Viren feels.  Why would a gal want to be anywhere else but here in the northwest with her family?  I called husband Cam, who had flown home to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula the day before.  “We need to buy a cottage in Moscow!”  I exclaimed into the phone.  And I meant it.  And someday we probably will.  But as the day moved forward, I did as well.  I got on that plane from Spokane to Salt Lake, and the next one to Atlanta, and, finally, as the sun was setting over Georgia, onto the third plane that headed back north up the coast to Portland, Maine, and, in the wee hours of the morning, I climbed into another rental car and traced the coast northward to the peninsula I’ve known my whole life, to a cottage that was mine for the week just two miles from our family land.

And what a week it was!!!  The ocean was at my doorstep and the salt breeze blew in through open windows and I read a whole novel and I wrote with my friend Muriel and we swam in the river and I waded each day in the waves at the state park beach.  I ate dinners on the deck of the cottage with friends and family and we watched the changing sky and the sea birds and the boats bobbing on their moorings. And at the end of the week, Cam joined me and that was sweet sweet time too and my siblings came to town and we shared raucous meals and we laughed and the sea entered my bones and I relaxed in the way that I only relax when I’m by the sea in Maine.  And why would I ever want this to end?!?  When Cam and I closed the door to the cottage that last time and headed toward the airport, I could feel it again, the resistance to what’s next.  How could it possibly be as good?!?  How could there be another display of fireworks?!?

And now I’m home again, and yesterday, the air was sweet, the way it can only be sweet in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, smelling of ferns and pine and the fresh fresh lake.  In the afternoon, Cam and I hiked the shoreline of Lake Superior from Wetmore Landing to Little Presque Isle under the tall red pines and on the sandy beach.  Cam dozed on a smooth bed of rock and I waded in the waves that were slapping the shore.  And, as I looked up into one of those pines that rise above the beach, an eagle lifted off and flew above me and I felt it, the ooh, the ahh.  There it was, something else to appreciate.  The fireworks just keep on coming!


Hanging out in downtown Moscow; some of the family, July 2014

Hanging out in downtown Moscow, Idaho; some of the family, July 2014


Maine Cottage, July 2014

Maine Cottage, July 2014


Little Presque Isle: Marquette, Michigan, Early August

Little Presque Isle: Marquette, Michigan, Early August, 2014




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