Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Glimmering Girl at the National Conferences: Part I

                               I  went out to the hazel wood, Because a fire was in my head,
                               And cut and peeled a hazel wand, And hooked a berry to a thread;

                             And when white moths were on the wing, And moth-like stars were flickering out,
                             I dropped the berry in a stream, And caught a little silver trout.

                            When I had laid it on the floor, I went to blow the fire a-flame,
                            But something rustled on the floor, And some one called me by my name:

                            It had become a glimmering girl, With apple blossom in her hair
                           Who called me by my name and ran, And faded through the brightening air.

                           Though I am old with wandering, Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
                           I will find out where she has gone, And kiss her lips and take her hands;

                          And walk among long dappled grass, And pluck till time and times are done
                          The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.

It has been a most extraordinary five days in Cincinnati, Ohio and I am at least ten posts behind myself. But working backwards, yesterday afternoon was the generous opportunity AOSA (American Orff Schulwerk Association) offered myself and my new fellow Distinguish Service Award recipients to have 15 minutes to lead an activity for the Closing Ceremony of the annual National Conference. For anyone who knows my work, I’m big on openings and closings and try to attune to what’s needed to bring a sense of closure to the music (literal and metaphoric) that has been playing, search for the just right closing notes that gather the themes and bring them to their natural conclusion. Since this gathering was in a large, cavernous, cold, echoey Conference Center hall that felt more like a large basement than a cozy concert hall, the first challenge was to create the intimacy the occasion called for.

Instead of going up on stage, I stayed on the floor with the folks and opened with my favorite Yeats poem, Song of Wandering Aengus (above), to describe how this life in Orff Schulwerk beckoned me like a “glimmering girl with flowers in her hair who called my name and ran and fade through the brightening air.” I don’t remember my exact words, but went on to say something like this:

Yeats poem suggests a life of “wandering through hilly lands to find where she has gone and kiss her lips and take her hands and walk among long dappled grass plucking the silver apples of the moon and the golden apples of the sun.” She’s not your wife or your girlfriend or your secret lover, she’s the destiny you were born for, the one who understands how you’re put together and recognizes the particular gifts you have to offer the world. In a poetic “Where’s Waldo?” you spend your life searching for her everywhere you go. She doesn’t just hand you a GPS blueprint, but makes you work to find her, throws wrong directions in your way, observes your determination to persevere when you’re lost.

In my case, in turns out that I meet her every time I’m in a room with a group of people, be they children, teens, adults or elders, who can hold hands and gather in a circle and respond to whatever impulse I throw out.  And then the wild rumpus starts!  And one of the places we meet is at these AOSA Conferences, all 36 that I have attended since 1976. And I can name them all. That’s part of what gives a clue that this is a place I was meant to be and somehow AOSA is the organization I’ve needed to be a part of. (And this is a good time to thank all those hundreds of people over the years who have done the behind-the-scenes grunt work to make such things possible, given up from two months to two years of their attention to making sure there is a centerpiece on each banquet table and a mallet for a every glockenspiel.)

But let me be honest here. It hasn’t been all peaches and cream. Any place groups of human beings congregate guarantees its share of disappointments, gossip at the water cooler, in-faction fighting as to who has the true word, betrayals, midnight assassinations. AOSA is no exception. And I certainly have had my part in it. Haven’t we all? It’s just the way human beings are put together and there’s not a single organization I can think of that gets a free pass.

But here’s the good news. By day, you may be speaking ill of someone who treated you bad or did what you felt was a horrible workshop and in the folk dance mixer at night, suddenly, they’re your partner. Or in the workshop, you find yourself in a small group with them having to create a dance or make up an opera where everyone dies from someone with Restless Leg Syndrome. And that makes a difference. Your mutual humanity gets restored, there’s a check and a balance to the division of who’s in and who’s out. As we know from reading about people in bands or the movie The Black Swan, art does not solve human conflict. But it does give us a place where it is held in check and where for some brief moments, harmony is restored and love or compassion or at least tolerance becomes possible yet again.

Thanks to AOSA for this award in the face of my own sometimes cantankerous outspoken moments. For me this is a symbolic gesture that my trespasses have been forgiven—by some, at least! Where apologies are appropriate, I offer them publicly now and only hope people understand that my intention each time I deeply questioned something that was going on was to open up or enlarge the needed conversation that felt to me like someone else was wanting to shut down and for the wrong reasons. I don’t like being in rooms with elephants and I don’t think it’s healthy for any of us. Sometimes the elephant I named turned out to be a mouse and sometimes a mastodon, but again, that’s just the fallible nature of us mere mortals. We just do the best we can. And AOSA gifting me this award helps me feel that I haven’t done too badly after all.

Thank you. 

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