A Tall Order

It’s amazing what you can get on Amazon. Recently, when I was in Lanesboro Minnesota visiting my friend, I learned that the nearby town of Peterson, population 200, had taken up a collection and ordered an 8 ½-foot gnome to honor their Norwegian heritage (and for fun and to drum up business I imagine). (Who knew you could get an 8 ½-foot gnome on Amazon?) Well, the gnome got lost somehow en route, so Amazon apologized and sent them another one. (How do you lose an 8 ½-foot gnome?)    Eventually, the lost one showed up, leaving Peterson with two 8 ½-foot gnomes. (Apparently Amazon thought it was too much trouble to ship one of them back.) Of course my friend and I had to drive to Peterson to see them. One gnome sits in Peterson’s city park and the other next to a sign welcoming visitors to the town. Turns out 8 ½ feet isn’t as large as you think (though still impressive). See photo. If gnomes are not your thing, we later discovered that the company that made these gnomes also sells (among many other items): A Welsh dragon that is 6 ½ feet high and 9 feet long; An African elephant that is 8 feet tall and 12 feet long; A giraffe that is nearly 12 feet tall and 6 ½ feet long; A charging triceratops that is 10 ½ feet high and 20 ½ feet long; and A Brachiosaurus that is 15 ½ feet high and 18 feet long. These huge items are probably intended for cities or companies, but I laugh, imagining one (or more!) of...

Incredibly Out of Touch

Had an embarrassing “old and clueless” moment at the movies awhile back. We loved Incredibles back in 2004 when we saw it with our teenaged kids, so we were eager to see Incredibles 2. The plan was supper and the movie. The first red flag was when I looked up the show times. I was startled to see that we had five choices: in addition to standard and 3D, the film was in IMAX 2D, Dolby, and Prime. We didn’t know what most of them were, but since the only one we knew we wanted to avoid was 3D, we went off to dinner, figuring there would be plenty of showings to choose from when we were ready to watch. Later, when we got to the theater the next show was in Dolby. Enhanced sound? Probably too loud, but ok. Dolby was as expensive as 3D. And all the rest. Except standard. Sigh. Oh well, we’re here now. Select your reserved seat. That was new at this theater. To us anyway. Passing an expanded snack bar and an actual liquor bar—when did that happen?—we found our seats, large cushy recliners, and settled in. (Ok, before I go on I have to say: we do go to movies, even theaters that have reclining seats and a full bar. But mostly to theaters with very basic amenities. Probably hadn’t been to this one in about a year.) After a few minutes of an expected loud and frenetic pre-movie show, the previews began. As this was an animated kids movie, all the previews were for kids movies, all of them animated. All but one of them were...

On Being Silly

Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.                                                                                                                    Ludwig Wittgenstein Acting silly is one of the primal pleasures.                                                                         Marty Rubin It’s such fun to take a lot of people and create something silly.                                                                         Eric Idle A friend was telling me the other day how delighted she was to have discovered someone new who she could be silly with. I was a bit wistful, realizing I hadn’t been silly in awhile and I miss it. We talked about how fun, and how rare, it is to find a true companion in silliness—not only someone willing to be silly, but whose “brand” of silliness meshes with your own (there are so many different ways to be silly!). Kids are often joyously silly together, but adults less so. Were you discouraged from being silly as a kid? My childhood foolishness was mostly unstoppable, but as I matured, it was dampened by the firm lesson from my mother that one should always be dignified. Being silly is rarely dignified. Nor did I want to be thrown in with the usual crowd of silly people, those either empty-headed or drunk. The older I got, though, the more the sheer pleasure of playful silliness outweighed any concern for my public image. Being silly with others just feels too good. More like its original definition (in Old English)...

Soul Song

Do you have a soul song? According to singer/teacher Chloe Goodchild in her book The Naked Voice, the Himba people in Namibia believe that every person’s soul resonates with its own unique expression, its own song. A birthdate is the day the child’s mother decides to have a child, the day she goes off alone to sit under a tree to listen until she hears the soul song of the child that wants to be born. Once she knows the song she returns to the village and teaches it to the father. They sing it when they make love to call the child to them. The mother teaches the song to the midwives and old women in the village so they will sing it to encourage and welcome the child while the mother is in labor. The rest of the village learns the song too, so that later when the child needs comforting or calming, they can sing it. When the child does something wonderful the villagers sing the song to them. When the person marries, the village sings the songs of both bride and groom at the ceremony. And if the villager should commit a crime or violate a taboo, the village circles around and  sings the song as a reminder of the person’s inherent goodness. As a person lies dying, the village sings their song to ease their passing. I love this idea. I think you must feel really seen in a culture like this. And how delightful to be surrounded by so much singing! In our culture, where we don’t invariably learn our soul song, I wonder if the...

Putting It On

It’s Halloween! Are you dressing up? Even as a kid, the juiciest thing about Halloween for me was the costume. I’ve always loved costumes. Over the years I’ve donned them for skits and performances at church and school, for Halloween, and just for play. Every few years I ponder throwing a midwinter costume party. I love how costumes transform and surprise. When I put on a costume, suddenly my voice changes pitch and tempo, I stand and gesture in new ways, and my desires and attitudes shift too. (Try on sturdy cowboy boots and see if you don’t start lumbering along, bow-legged, and begin to drawl. Wrap a black boa around your neck, even over a t-shirt, and notice how your sense of yourself changes, how racy new ideas and fantasies pop into your head. And then adorn yourself with a pink one instead; any changes?) How freeing to let go of the confines of my usual self! How exhilarating, to act how I think I can’t or mustn’t. Or to allow a mysterious Other to emerge and come alive. Even “playing a type” can be fun relief from a tight self-concept. I guess costumes also tickle my creative funny bone. I like the challenge and playfulness of pulling together the ensemble, usually out of whatever I have on hand. I’ve always kept a “dress-up box,” even before we had kids, and still do though they’ve grown and gone. Donning a costume I’ve created and letting it expand me feels like writing a play in real time using my body and voice to generate the script. I especially love...

Deer Delight

For some time now I’ve been working on living more playfully (the irony of this is not lost on me). A frolicking fawn and her mother reminded me recently how it’s done. As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I gathered with a group of wonderful women a few weeks ago at a camp nestled in the woods on Madeline Island in order to bless Lake Superior. One day, as six or eight of us left the dining hall after a meal, we noticed a fawn and her mother. We were surprised to see them standing in the camp’s fenced in tennis court. Women and deer stood motionless, watching each other. Suddenly the fawn began to play, literally kicking up her heels around her mother, white tail bobbing up and down. Despite trying to be still and quiet so as not to scare them, we couldn’t help but exclaim with delight. And keep watching. After a bit, the mother set aside her caution about us and to our astonishment, joined in the fun, the two of them leaping and bobbing, circling each other with abandon. They lowered their heads and lifted their bottoms in little leaps, the way I’ve seen two dogs cavort, circling each other in play. Goofy-looking, and adorable. We were enchanted. None of us, avid nature-watchers all, had seen a mother and her fawn play together like this. We felt honored and thankful to be treated to this gambol which would ordinarily happen (I assume) deep in the woods. The deer’s exuberance was contagious. We felt the kind of elation—love and laughter entwined with the freshest of breezes–one...