Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jumping for Joy: Child's Play and Exuberant Aging

Today is International Childrens' Day. Where is this celebrated? I never have heard of it. But children are so worthy of celebration and care, every single day. Every one of us was a child once. What do you recall about your childhood? The things I remember with the most joy are picking blackberries with my mother and brother out in the country, lying on the beach in the sand and playing in the ocean, and walking in the fields near my aunt and uncle's dairy farm.

In ordinary life, it seemed to me that adults often paid very little attention, being weighed down by their various concerns and responsibilities. There was one adult who was different. We kids called her The Beauty Lady. When she walked down the street, she always seemed so happy. As she passed us in our play, she paid attention to each of us. None of us was accustomed to getting that level of attention often. She made us feel as if we were special, as if our world was thoroughly engaging.

Yesterday I was out in our small yard potting some flowering plants and heard two children on the other side of the fence. I'm sure they were looking at me through the fence slats. Then there came a friendly "Hello, we see you." "Yes," I responded, "that's because I'm here." "We found some pretty things on the ground," said a little boy's voice. We want to give them to you."

"Well that's nice of you," said I. And then I saw the fellow's hand and arm coming through a hole in the bottom of the fence. "Look, here they are. Aren't they pretty?" They were lovely-- small smooth ovals of glass, some clear white and others pale blue. "They are very pretty and I will put them in among my flowers," I said to the young chap.

"Look, here I am," he said as his head and shoulders appeared at the top of the fence. "Oh, look at you. You climbed up." He was totally dear. I never got to see his much quieter sister. And soon some other adult was shooing them away. "Get back where you belong," she said, constraining their enjoyment in a way that I remember well from my own childhood.

Children deserve celebration, love, and a world that supports the emergence of their unique gifts. They deserve a world that recognizes and appreciates their beauty and allows them to bloom and ripen fully. A Russian girl is jumping for joy in the photo that ornaments this post. May children jump for joy, and in their jumping bring joy to others.

I am still hobbling along mending my fractured foot bones. Even though I am not jumping for joy physically, I feel exuberant. Exuberant, a word whose roots mean abundant, fruitful, unrestrained. I am invisibly jumping for joy. Why? First, being alive. Then the blessing of passionate creative engagement. Piercing beauty everywhere. The transitory, finite nature of everything. And all this gives me a rather no holds barred style these days.

The other evening, I performed characters, songs and scenes from my musical play A New Wrinkle for a packed room. My collaborator composer Laura Rich presented with me. She sang Sex after 60 and Why My Grandma Belongs in the Elder Hall of Fame. I sang Hip Hop Elder's Rant and Baba Yaga's Raga and shared the lyrics to Are You Gonna Take it with You to the Grave? It was invigorating. I am looking forward to doing more performance events. So far, I have three scheduled, all in Ashland.

Performing is something I really love. I also love writing very much, but it is so solitary. Singing, chanting and storytelling is so different. Performance engages something very different in me. There is a wonderful energetic exchange that happens with the audience, too. I learn a lot from that. I know that performing is something I am meant to do at this time in my life and I'll write more about it as my performance schedule develops.

I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to do what I love. What makes you exuberant? What makes you jump for joy?

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