Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day 2: Forming the Circle

We Clasp the Hands
Wendell Berry

We clasp the hands of those that go before us,
And the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other's arms
And the larger circle of lovers,
Whose hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures,
Passing in and out of life,
Who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it
Except in fragments.

This morning we stood together on the lawn in front of the lodge, our toes in the grass, our fingers entwined, joined in a circle in which we honored our personal ancestors as well as the family of Hawaiian people who helped make this retreat center sacred ground.  Bronwyn Cooke, the director of the center blew the conch shell in the four directions and intoned a beautiful and powerful Hawaiian chant that calls on us to be present and listen deeply. Part of the translation is an aspiration: "may we be granted the possibility of hearing the wisdom of the song."  Following the circle we finally descended the hill to the yurt and began our first formal session. Richie told a beautiful story drawn from Africa about a tribe in which each newborn is greeted with a song given to their parents even before their conception; a song which encourages them to the day of their actual birth, follows them throughout the ups and downs of their lives, and finally sends them on at the time of their death. Following the story each participant offered their aspiration and intention for the week and placed a shell or rock on the altar as a symbolic offering of themselves to the process and to the practices.  These were fragments - broken bits of shell mostly - worn down or incomplete, yet perfectly themselves, like each one of us.  

The songs continued through the afternoon as we left the retreat center to hear the local "kapuna," the elders who pass on the culture of Hawaii through their music and hula.  It was a joyful and powerful event to see the old women, the young children, the locals and the transplanted residents, all singing, dancing, and playing the music that hold the community together.  In so many ways we today we tasted the music "so subtle and vast that no one hears it except in fragments."  Tonight after dinner we sat together in darkness as the electrical power on the island failed.  After such a full day, it was surprisingly easy to find peace and harmony with what life was offering us. Tomorrow we will continue to move deeper into that vast and subtle music of our lives, played through our bodies.  


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