Body of Play – 2

reach - pastel Books, images, dreams, affirming messages are coming into my life, seemingly randomly, synchronistically.  These threads are being woven, are still loose and unfinished…this writing will leap from idea to experience to image… more is being given than I can yet know.

While waiting at the mall for my teenage daughter and friend to be done shopping, I wander the bookstore, come upon the book Play:  How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, MD. (2009) In this book, I read “Properties of Play:  Apparently purposeless (done for its own sake), Voluntary, Inherent attraction, Freedom from time, Diminished consciousness of self, Improvisational potential, Desire to continue. (pg. 17)  And later, in the same book, in a discussion with biologist Bob Fagan about why animals play:  “In  a world continuously presenting unique challenges and ambiguity, play prepares these bears for an evolving planet.” (pg. 29)

Like the bears, I am responding to the challenges and ambiguity of ever evolving life, by playing.

In my therapy practice, I am developing a program for trauma survivors with eating disorders. In Peter Levine’s book In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, I underline page after page with nuanced and inspiring statements about how healing from trauma needs to be approached “from the body up.”

I am drawing an image from a favorite folk tale about a girl who dreams of touching the stars.  I draw her over and over, not satisfied.  I need to keep drawing the arc of her reach so that I can feel my own body reaching for my dreams. I make a chalk version of this image.  Still frustrated, I use the camera to look at the chalk drawing from different angles, different cropped views, trying to see what is essential in this image of reaching for the stars.

Reach For

The morning before a day of play, I have a dream. I am asking an artist this question: How do I change direction in my art making  – when I know I am stuck in a rut – without shutting down my process through being overly critical of myself?  I wake before the artist answers.

Instead of drawing more dancing women, I start the day talking to myself in the shower.  “Body of play, body of work, body politic, body image, embodied, disembodied, corporate, corporeal, body of Christ, anybody, somebody, nobody.”

I dance in the shower.  An idea for a new direction comes to me. Draw lifesize dancing women.

But not yet, something says, not yet.  I need a break from drawing. Don’t rush this process – don’t force.  I write in my journal.  I doodle. I read. Books that inspired me years ago recross my path.

Doodle 1

From The Reenchantment of Art, by Suzi Gablik:  “The emerging new paradigm reflects a will to participate socially: a central aspect of new paradigm thinking involves a significant shift from objects to relationships. It is what the philospoher David Michael Levin describes as ‘the rooting of vision in the ground of our needs; the need for openness, the need for contact, the need for wholeness.'” (pg. 7)

From Studio Art Therapy: Cultivating the Artist Identity Within the Art Therapist, by Catherine Moon:  “A relational aesthetic is characterized by a concern for the capacity of art to promote healthy interactions within and among people and the created world.” (pg. 140)

A few days later, a free evening, unexpectedly.  A friend has introduced me to the music of Baaba Maal. I down-load some of his music and it makes me want to dance.  So I dance.  Years ago, as a kid with childhood rheumatoid, I danced to 45’s, hit singles from the early 1970’s.  Hours of dancing.  Later, in college, in the early 80’s, I was in the middle of the crowd at every dance party. When my daughter was little, a toddler, we danced, sometimes both of us naked in our living room. I wasn’t going to let myself get too busy, too grown-up to stop dancing.  But the times between dancing get further and further apart.

It feels so good to be dancing again.  Why have I waited so long to let myself do this?  I close my eyes and move.  I start to feel it happening – this shift I have felt since I was that young girl dealing with an illness that scared me.  The way the music becomes part of my body.  The way my body becomes reverent while dancing.  Elated and reverent.  And the way I almost see – definitely feel – other dancers, ancient ones, a ring of them encircling me, protecting me, when I keep dancing, keep my eyes closed, go deep enough into the music.  The guardians of the dance.

I realize I want to make something to honor them.

Doodle 2

Doodle 2

Another Wednesday arrives.  I tape a large sheet of butcher paper to the wall.  Use my new Crayola markers, in a pack of 50 colors with 12 scented ones.  I draw a large Guardian figure, fill of movement, energy, welcome.

I have kept most of my doodles and sketches out of sight after making them, feeling that it is too soon to let others see my play creations.  I leave this bold, bright, big guardian figure up on the wall of my living room.  I don’t want to curl the paper up and put it away – doing that would take some of the life and energy out of the process.

Since making her, I have found myself increasingly aware of how grateful I am for this time to creatively play.  It is essential to me.  Having lived without it, having found my way back, I know now how absolutely essential it is.  I don’t want to stop – in between times of play, I am preparing for when I can return, I long to continue, I look forward to what happens next. I love the improvisation. The relationship. With myself, with more than with myself.  With the process.  With living.

I find myself thinking: I must guard this, protect this, cherish this.  I must be the guardian of my own dance!

Guardian 1

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