Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sofia's Rib


And so the last day of my three-week European tour finds me on a train in Switzerland on a sunny Spring morning. The Rhine River to my right, a waiting platform with racks of bicycles near the station, a lightness in my heart and gratitude for this marvelous time.

A workshop in Basel with some 40 people yesterday and so many inspired moments of wacky creativity, genuine laughter, serious listening and hot music. Like the athlete in shape or the musician performing nightly, my workshop chops are fine-tuned and I’m in the zone, leading activities I’ve done many times before, but with a heightened sense of presence and clarity and musicality in every inch of my body. Even speaking slowly to folks with English as a second or third language, the jokes hit home and the provoking ideas about humanistic education bring the room to a thoughtful deep listening. A wonderful man in Nuremberg called my teaching “nonviolent,” linking it to the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King and hey, I’ll take that complement!

And so a quick thanks to all the course organizers, all the marvelous students, all the thousands of unseen hands that got me from one place to another and kept me warm, sheltered and fed, my forever gratitude to Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman and Avon Gillespie and hundreds more from that world that made this life possible. I had a delicious lunch at a Swiss farm yesterday, watching an amazing robotic milking machine (even this machine-skeptic couldn’t help but be amazed by this), saw a calf being licked to life that had been born five minutes before (my hosts agreed to name him Doug. Ha!) and thought about the clarity of the farming life, the sense of doing real work that brought milk and life through the daily routine of physical labor and contact with animals, plants, weather. Made my strange life of playing games with adults and kids seem a bit strange. But then later in the workshop, it was clear that this was indisputably my work, “for that I came,” and it brought a different kind of milk to thirsty people. And the woman from the farm came and had a wonderful time!

As for Europe, I fell in love with her 42 years ago and the love affair continues. Standing on the hill in Nuremberg looking out at the “charming” houses (and old! In Basel yesterday, a row of houses had the dates of construction, the earliest being 1291!), I was reminded of a similar moment in Reykjavic, Iceland. I was sharing a workshop with my colleague Sofia Lopez-Ibor, the first of many to come (this was 1995) and didn’t know her very well, but knew we had a mutual passion for this work. Looking down at the city, I turned to her and said, “I like Europe.” She didn’t answer for a little while, then turned to me and said, “What did you say?” “I like Europe” I repeated. “Oh!” she replied, looking a bit relieved. “I thought you said ‘I like your rib.’”

The train pulls into the airport. The inter-airport train signals arrivals with cows mooing. Really! On the same calendar day, I’ll arrive in Raleigh, North Carolina amazed that I had woken up to Swiss church bells and snow-capped mountains. It’s a wonderful life.

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