Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Chinese Acrobats

I am happy to report that the Chinese acrobats who were stuck in town due to the snowfall had the chance to perform twice in the Presbyterian Church Gym. It was cold in there and we kept our coats on. I thought to myself that this might feel like home to the acrobats, central heating of big public spaces being a western habit. Lots of young children, very little verbal communication, Chinese music that makes you amazed at the creativity of human beings. And that feels totally alien to me.

The acrobats were great, and I was reminded of a simpler time when you didn't have glitzy entertainment via the tv or internet or radio, but were entertained by what the traveling players brought to town. And some themes are universal, like one young man being forced by another to keep many, many plates spinning in the air at the same time. The Moms looked sympathetic, the kids helped out by pointing out when a plate was about to fall. "Multi-tasking" remarked one of the women in the back where I was standing. We all nodded.

I ran into friends there, and we repaired to the Middle East restaurant for lunch and conversation. I went to Now and Then and bought some knitting needles and walked home. I am going to miss being surrounded by millions of crystals. That snow was truly awesome to me, and made me feel terrific. But now it's melting and the flowers are starting to bloom, and that will be good, too.

Here's a taste of the acrobats, complete with unicycle:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snowed In

It has been an interesting week. We have had two snowstorms, the first one leaving 24 inches, the second about a foot of snow. When the sun shines on it, you can see tiny rainbows all around. I'm reminded of Russell Conwell's 19th century speech "Acres of Diamonds" in which he urges listeners to give up searching far and wide for wealth and success because the diamonds of opportunity are hidden right in your own back yard.

The crystal structures around me aren't very well hidden. They are mounds of snow. Mounds and mounds of white, fluffy, cold, beautiful snow. The snow muffles the sounds of the city, and since the DC Metro has been out of service for a few days that has been quiet, too. The snow makes us stop. Right where we are. There is no place else to go.

This is the lesson of many great spiritual teachers, from Zen Buddhism to Advaita Buddhism to Meister Eckhart, the Christian Mystic. Just stop what you are doing.

Being snowbound gives us that opportunity. Oddly it hasn't had that effect for me, mostly because when I retired I in some way stopped what I was doing, and have been giving myself time to stand still, as previous posts have talked about. I didn't need to stop being engaged with the world because I have been disengaging for weeks now.

For me being snowbound has been a very social time. I've talked to neighbors, had potluck dinners almost nightly, and had long phone conversations with family and friends. We have all been checking on each other, and taking the time to really talk. And cook. And hang out. This is a lot of interaction, since I am basically an introvert who gets energy from time alone. I want everybody to go back to work so I can stop being so social!

That will come soon enough, and in fact many folks are going back to work today. And I will have a chance to get lonely and crave human interaction and bother all my busy friends with phone calls and invitations. I am wondering about just this issue, because I do miss my colleagues at work. I am building new networks (mostly my retired or self-employed friends) but this is a slow process.

Today I'm going to walk a couple of blocks to the church gym and see a troupe of Chinese acrobats who were stranded in town by the storm. Some neighbors organized a couple of performances for them since they can't get to the venues they had originally planned to go to.

You just never know what is going to show up if you stop what you are doing and see what's next.