I am large, I contain multitudes. Walt Whitman
It is the eve of Halloween and Joy Center is having a party tonight! Adonna, who leads Chocolate as Medicine Workshops, has made the most scrumptious of candies, I’ve bought a large ceramic pot to hold a candle-flame fire that we can dance around, and I am gathering the pieces for a costume that I will slip into before the party begins. I am going to be a woodland nymph. It feels right to me, this costume choice. Joy Center is nestled in the woods on land that my husband and I have owned for twenty-five years, a balsam and pine-laden forest that has always felt enchanted to me, a land where an elf or a fairy would be happy to dwell. And I, in my spirit, feel elfish and fairy-like. So it is from my own closet that I find the perfect woodland skirt, a hand-felted and dyed creation made by my friend Libby with wool from her own sheep, and a sparkly autumn-toned fairy-esque top that I save for occasions such as this, and green tights chopped off at the ankle in jagged nymph-like style. And I will top my costume off with a crown of tiny coral roses that I bought in Istanbul six months ago at the May Day time of the year.
But there’s more. As I formed a picture of my costume in my head, I realized that it didn’t feel complete, that it didn’t quite embody what my anticipated mood for the evening was. In the lower level of Joy Center, propped against the tiled hearth of the gas-burning stove lies a sign, a wonderful sparkly red and orange sign, with the word “MISCHIEF” written in strong bold letters across its surface. I love that word. And it scares me just a bit. That’s why the sign stays tucked away downstairs and not hung out on a random tree branch where the other signs created by Colleen have found their homes. I am filled with mischief. My Aunt Jo, my father’s twin, even in old age and ridden with dementia, could see it in my eyes. “You have the devil in you!!!” she, who had always been of the mischievous woodland elfkin tribe, chortled with great affection as she hugged me tightly. And she’s right; I do! When I was a child, my father called me his little mermaid, but he also called me “the Hellion”. Sweet honey flows through my veins and a warm inner breeze uplifts my spirit and my nature is intimate with sunlight and the shimmer on the ocean’s surface and the sparkle in the nighttime sky. And my nature also is drawn to an October bonfire and flames that shoot high and sparks that fly from fingers and fireballs from the tongue. And oh my goodness, what does a good girl do with all this badness?!?
I’ve said it countless times in the fourteen years that I’ve facilitated yoga sessions, and I said it again this week: “Invite all parts of yourself here, the parts you know, the parts you don’t know, the parts you love and the parts that you don’t even like; invite the whole glorious package of who you are.” And as we breathed deeply into our bodies, as we stretched and twisted and paused to receive, I added these words, words that I’m sure I also have said countless times, but somehow felt and believed even more deeply this Halloween week. “We are loved. We are adored. Not just in what we perceive as our goodness, but in our wholeness, in those dark corners and bonfire flames, we are adored!” And as we fanned our fingers wide and roared our mighty ferocious roars in lion pose, I could sense it, a delight wafting through our yoga space. A mighty roar in a yoga session is followed by the sweetness of a purr. And in our off-the-mat-living, embracing our shadows and unclaimed parts and finding ways to express them with satisfaction brings out an even louder purr. I love that about Joy Center, that it is a place that is large enough in its generosity and vision and heart to welcome it all, all parts of ourselves, a place where each of us can embrace our wholeness, our purr and our roar, in a yoga or meditation session, in an art class or a movie night, at a once-a-month open mic evening where all perspectives and art forms can find a home.
So I knew that my Halloween costume needed a garnish, a topping that would make it feel complete. And off I drove, into Marquette to the Halloween Store. I had never been to the Halloween Store before and what a store it was — a warehouse filled with all our shadowy secrets just waiting to be expressed! And I found mine hanging on a rack next to the fairy princess crowns and the sparkly magic wands. And tonight, I will place my garland of roses on the crown of my head, and then I will do it. I will rip open the package and I will take them out, and I will wear them proudly as I hold up the sign that says that mischief is in the air, my red velvet devil horns!