Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I’m in my apartment listening to the school children running and screaming and laughing in the small park next to my building. What a teeming picture of life they are! There’s a foot wide gap between the trunk of a large hemlock tree and the chain link fence that runs along the edge of the playground.. As usual, three five-year-old boys have managed to squeeze themselves into this space. I think they like it because it gives them a sense of being hidden from view- although I am quite sure the teachers supervising the playground are aware that they are there (and I can see and hear them clearly, although I don’t think they've ever noticed me.)
They are the picture of conspiracy- whispering, peeking out at the playground mayhem, and clearly making plans for some kind of action. In the past I’ve witnessed the implementation of some of their schemes- sometimes a surprise run-by on the girls making sand castles, or a wild whooping dash amidst the swings moving in high arches over their heads (something no doubt prohibited by safety rules.) Mostly their plans degenerate into high-pitched squeals, giggles and a hasty retreat to the haven of their lair behind the tree.
As I watch them I become aware of a smile spreading throughout my body- a kind of full-body grin in response to seeing them so deeply involved and delighting in these moments outside in the sun and warm spring air. It reminds me of my own two sons- now men working in the world- and the days they spent at the small trailer we had in the wilderness setting up elaborate imaginary games that included building tree forts and making maps of areas where there were “treasures” to be found or “dangers” to be navigated.
As always I am in awe at the power of the imagination and the soul-sustaining delight that comes when we allow creativity to unfold, to construct new worlds and plan new adventures. Surely we need these moments of playful imagining and exuberant expression as much (or maybe more) as adults.
This week CBC radio’s Jian Ghomeshi interviewed Adam Cohen, son of the Canadian poet/songwriter/performer Leonard Cohen. They talked about the reasons why Leonard, at seventy-seven, is experiencing such phenomenal success in the world. Adam speculated that his father’s success results from the incredible hunger for art that enlivens and his father's commitment to doing his creative work for its own sake. (My paraphrasing of Adam's words.)
Watching the children playing I feel my excitement and need for that which sustains my own creative impulses. I feel how great art- poetry, story, paintings, sculpture, film etc.- stirs my hunger to write and inspires me to keep my imagination fluid, open and active.
So, I do something I rarely even consider: I order tickets for a concert- Leonard Cohen in Toronto, in December. And I feel the same full-body smile that I felt watching the children. In part, it's knowing that the concert will offer nourishment for my soul and creative inspiration. But mostly I was smiling because, for me, just ordering the tickets is a huge inner “Yes!” to my own desire to continue to engage my imagination, a recommitment to engaging fully with my own life and my own creative work.
And there’s nothing like being fully engaged with life, the world and our imaginations- whether we are writing a poem or plotting a run around the playground in some new and exuberant way- to really make a soul-smile spread from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes.
Oriah (c) 2012