I had my camera with me this afternoon walking around Greenlake but it wasn’t the primary reason I was there. I was meeting a friend I hadn’t seen in far too long. As it turned out, the weather cooperated with our plan, and we circled the lake twice without making a dent in the backlog of topics we still haven’t talked about.
On our second lap around the lake, we came across a small group of people working away at this project. They were flying a kite, but the kite ended up in a tree and they ended up building a “structure”. When I asked if I could photograph it, they asked if I would send them a copy, so that’s up next on my list for tonight. A little girl was part of their construction crew and it occurred to me that she had engineered the whole thing in a clever plan to build a home for the fairies at Greenlake. I think I would have done something like that… I know my children would have. I love the strand of daisies hanging along the central support post.
There was something very joyful about this project. Three adults and one child, building something, from random bits of nature, in a public park, with no way of preserving it, for the sheer pleasure of the experience. They didn’t expect anything to come of this project. It doesn’t, by any normal measuring stick, have any “value”, yet it serves to bring people into connection… maybe because it has no “value”. In several of my blog posts, I’ve gone off on long tangents about the virtues of “being” vs. “doing”. Its seems to me that this was an embodiment of “being”. It had no function, no goal. It was certainly doing, but not about “doing”, in the sense that there was nothing to be “done”. Like a sand castle, its existence will have been fleeting, but the fact that it existed remains as a tribute to creativity and to spring beauty.
As I was writing the above paragraph, a poem came to me. I clearly remember the first time I heard this poem. I heard it read… maybe it was in someone else’s car, because I remember running in the house, straight upstairs to my computer, and googling the name Stephen Spender. I love the way he evokes an extravagance of “being” as the highest achievement of living – the goal of “those who were truly great”, such that all one would leave behind is their signature, on the “vivid air”.
I Think Continually Of Those Who Were Truly Great
I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.
What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.
~ Stephen Spender ~
While I was at Greenlake, a couple of Gillian’s friends came over to our house to work on a religion project that was due yesterday. She still hasn’t made it back to school. They were building things too… namely, a large cross. It was being used in a reenactment of scenes from the passion of Christ, in our back yard, which they photographed for a slide show. I didn’t know about the cross until I saw a picture of it posted on my daughter’s Facebook page. I think I’d rather have some fairy houses decorating my back yard!