It was grey, cold and wildly windy yesterday, the perfect excuse for an indoor wet play time. As many bemoan the lack of a summer I am inclined to offer a call to the autumn to embrace me in her abundant and colourful arms. This is a time of harvest and plenty, with branches weighed down, heavy with nearly ready apples, and though the raspberries have all but gone the blackberries are following fast behind and there are bucket loads of mushrooms if you know which ones to pick.
Cosied up indoors with the open fire glowing I was sifting through a paper harvest of words of varying ages and ripeness, displaying varying colours and forms of handwriting mixed in with some uniform black and white print. There were Christmas letters from aunts and others that hadn’t yet been replied to, and so, mixed in with the paper pile was my trusty laptop through which I made immediate contact. There were old poems, session plans, some of which went straight in the fire, others of which were scrumpled up and thrown with (mostly) accurate aim into the waste paper basket to help start the next. A small and select pile grew next to me, waiting for REs – rereading, rewriting, reusing and some would ultimately end up being recycled too, but were worth another look.
Among these was a letter, unfinished and unsent that I began over a year ago and still hadn’t thrown away – so it must hold something of value. It was a letter to Patch Adams who began the conference I attended in May 2011 by telling us how he doesn’t do email, facebook, any of that but he will reply to every regular handwritten mailed letter he is sent. I wanted to test that promise…and I also had something to share:
How important is peace to me? How far will I go to be a bringer of peace? What do I do when I find myself so threatened by the risk of losing whatever good opinion I’ve earned over the years by doing something crazy or uncompromising? How on earth can it be considered good/right/sane for me to consider my own ego’s fear over the needs of the human family and this beautiful planet me live on?
This isn’t about taking risks for the hell of it but this is about daring to take the risks that matter. I’ve always been drawn to people who live their lives so absolutely 100% in a zone of uncompromising passion, self belief and commitment to a cause that truly nothing can stand in their way and Patch is one of them. Julia Butterfly Hill, who lived at the top of a giant redwood for 738 consecutive days to stop it from being cut down is undoubtedly another. But I can’t be Patch and I can’t be Julia or any of the other fabulously wild and wise men and women I could name. I have to be me. I have to do it my way.
At the centre of all these uncompromising lives is a powerful inescapable love. Feeling that intensity of love can make you do wild things, thank God, because you know what – it’s the only thing that can. I remember times when I’ve felt it for a moment, even an hour or two – but I don’t think I’ve yet made it a whole day, let alone a lifetime. But those moments are of great value for they can be grown, cultivated, nourished like a seed and what I remember in those moments is that there was no courage involved, there was no thinking, there was no choice, I was on an inner automatic pilot. I was guided so perfectly and joyfully that there was no need for courage because there was no fear and there was no thinking because there was no choice to be made or doubt in my mind.
I once got a phone call. A group of young people from a drama project I was working with in a South African township had missed their last bus home after a late lunch I’d invited them to. They were tired, scared and didn’t know what to do. I left my house immediately and with no other means, hitched to the bus station and met with the kids to find a solution, which ended up being my lving room floor and a bunch of blankets and cushions. On one level hindsight makes it look crazy because a young white woman hitching in the dark in South Africa is not always safe…but life isn’t safe, and it’s certainly made no safer if we pretend it is and follow all the societal norms to stay comfortable, civilized and calm. In fact the opposite is true, it’s dangerous, this status quo, this ‘well behaved’ society of don’t rock the boat folk.
So this letter to Patch was saved from the fire and so was this little acrostic, because it made me laugh. We wrote this as a group passing it around the circle collecting lines, written by five of us, judging by the handwriting:
Can do attitude
Or just hide under the duvet
Up and on forever
Roaring like a lion
And never giving up
Going downhill laughing terrifyingly
Every endeavour a joy
Have a wild and wonderful day and be alive, be very alive!