My Voice and the Owls

Now is the time of the seed-fall, leaf-fall.

“No single voice will be able to take control if everyone in the circle has a voice.” –Kay Pranis

I am learning, these days, about Circle Keeping, holding a space for powerful and intense conversations to occur, where every voice has a chance to be safely heard and listened to. It’s hard work, emotional work, vulnerable work. My school believes in the importance of restoration of relationships during times of conflict, and is spending the resources and teacher time to make sure that a cohort of us from the school become familiar with the process, so that it can be used in times of conflict. I hope that I can begin creating a stronger Circle culture in my classroom. I’ve read about it, and participated in many variations of circles over the years, and even implemented elements in my classrooms, but I know this experience will be very helpful for me.

I needed to leave circle early yesterday in order to celebrate a friend’s wedding. We were in the middle of some very hard work, and I left with quite a lot of anxiety. The topic at hand was about definitions of spirituality, which is a topic close to my heart, but also one that has been difficult for me because of the ways in which my own path diverges from the traditional forms of the faith community where I have situated myself. I didn’t feel that I could be truly, deeply, honest about myself. I was able to speak in one round before I left, but I felt inarticulate and bumbling, and weepy.  And then I had to leave, which should have been a relief, but I think something within me felt a need to engage the topic more head-on, in the way that someone had brought it to the group.

This paragraph right here. I have written parts of it and deleted it six or seven times now. This is the forest where I cannot find words. I wander through and pick up little stones, but none of them feels right to express the dance of distancing and belonging that I do in spiritual circles. Perhaps it is because this is a public forum, and I should write the words in secret. Perhaps it is because the words are like little birds that fly away when I try to catch them.

Gratitude List:
1. Hard conversations that help to bring clarity and deepen understanding
2. Dancing. The wedding last night was beautiful, and the dancing was delightful.
3. Owls. Last night when we got home, three or four screech owls were calling and calling, all over the hollow. This morning, the great horned owl is the one doing the talking. We almost never see them, but I love knowing that we live among owls.
4. When I haven’t found the words I need to express my own truth, but then someone across the circle speaks the very words that I needed.
5. Listening. Listening. Listening.

May we walk in Beauty!

Circle Keeping

Same tree as yesterday, another pod beginning to let her seeds fall.

(Totally off-topic: Joss just said, “Mom, you know why my socks go to church?”
Me: “I don’t know. Why?”
Joss: “Because they’re holey.”)

The Circle Keeper places a canvas bag of small pieces of driftwood on the floor beside the center table. One by one, around the circle, the people come to the table and arrange wood. Everyone is silent, except for occasional chuckles and shuffling.  We are not to speak, not to stop until everyone in the circle passes and accepts what has been set up in the center.

First round. We’re tentative, building on each others’ ideas, adding a piece or two at a time. Suddenly someone dumps the bag on the table, and pieces scatter. What to do now? Are we angry? This is just a game. Still, someone has shifted the balance, upset the order. Some people are looking relieved that the order that was being enforced upon the pieces is now freed.

Second round. People re-build, tear down, rebuild. Set pieces under the table. Put them all in the bag but one. Dump them out again. Put one back in the bag. The floor comes into play. We gather and separate the wood. We build bridges and destroy them. We make patterns and sweep away patterns.

Third round, or maybe fourth by now. A circle of wood forms. Shifts, becomes almost a spiral, then a yin/yang. The table is set aside. We’re entirely on the floor. A smiling face emerges. Laughter. Clapping. Everyone passes around the room.

It’s not the meaning I would have chosen. It’s too orderly, too specifically a sign for me. I think it’s way too orderly for the Chaos and Loki folks on the other side of the circle. It’s not the fluid beauty that some of the other folks wanted. Still, I am left feeling like I had my part to play in the creation of this. And it does represent us as a group–in the process of the exercise, we HAVE become a group. We have made choices together, we have made assumptions about each other and shattered those assumptions or shifted them to something deeper. We have laughed together, grinned at each other, watched each other carefully, thought about our own internal reactions. The final image in the center is a wobbly circle, representing us, and with a quirk of a smile that adds a little mischief, which is who we are, too. This is who we will be for three days together.

Gratitude List:
1. The Circle Keeper. Circle Keepers, formal and informal. Wise women.
2. Holding paradoxes. Leaning into ambiguity.
3. Looking through the others’ eyes. Shifting perspective.
4. This boy, who watches and notices, who sees when another child is being mistreated, who cannot help but speak up. Such a balance in him between the technological and the human. He loves his numbers, but he loves people, too.
5. Omelet for lunch yesterday. I think I’ll reprise that one today.

May we walk in Beauty!

Many Words for Together

Gratitude List:

1. We do not walk alone.
2. These circles are wide and many and overlapping.
3. International community.  Singing with international community.
4. How I can sense you here when you are so far away.
5. Words from a friend about belonging together even if we do not agree on everything.

I think I may have just said the same thing five times.

May we walk in Beauty!  May we walk singing.

Gratitude List Dec. 22

1.  A family that makes holiday get-togethers a total delight (Happy Birthday to my dad!)
2.  Being Santa with Jon Weaver-Kreider
3.  Hot chocolate with a candy cane and a splash of vodka
4.  Annie Lamott’s reminder to take care of myself and not to waste my life wearing pants that are too tight
5.  Circles.  I think I have mentioned them before.  But they mean so many things.  So yes: circles.