Friday, January 1, 2010
Pazzo! Pazzo! Pazzo!
Happy New Year!
We have had a stupendous celebration here at Little Portion. Continuing a tradition I started 10 years ago (I didn't start it as a tradition, but a Millennium Celebration has morphed into a tradition, praised be!) the brothers put on a big meal and chapel celebration to observe the change of years. We have found a willing crowd of folks looking for a sober party in a cozy environment, with a happy spiritual emphasis. 55 people came for vegetarian lasagna, ham (something for everybody), salad and cream puffs with chocolate sauce. We drank liters of Martinelli's sparkling cider til the sugar rush had some of us ready to dance.
Our friend Jack Lictra of Jack's Waterfall was waiting for the mood to come together, and about he 9:30 he and Br. Tom got us into the chapel, singing, dancing, drumming, telling stories. At midnight I got to play Father Time and rang the chapel bell. But nobody noticed, the cacophony in the chapel was deafening. We couldn't hear the bell at all. I hope the neighbors enjoyed it. I cannot think of a better way to say goodbye to a year than to be together with friends, share delicious food and make music together.
Yes, it was a bit wacky. One guy asked where Dionysus was; that's pretty remarkable for an alcohol free evening. But opening our hearts and bodies in rhythm and music, listening to stories sung and spoken can unleash a sense of joy in the human spirit that I am sure warms God's heart. Dancing around the fully lit Advent wreath I thought of King David dancing before the Ark of God. I treasure an idea of Francis as God's Troubadour. He sang beautifully and touched people's hearts. Jack sang like an angel. Actually he called all the angels and exhorted us to widen the circle of our love and understanding. Tom sang of the mystery of love and asked us to open ourselves up. Ken Corsbie gave some classic calypso storytelling, and I shared a humbler campfire-type tale of my family's vicissitudes with a goat for sale. Br. Ambrose reminded us of mythical continents and held up the vision of joy and adventure. And then we drummed. And hummed. And gave God glory and thanks. Then Max sang an exquisite blessing and we welcomed 2010.
Here's me and Jack, wearing our Kangas. Cool dudes.
This morning we kept another reckless act that has become a tradition. Five years ago I decided instead of reading about people swimming on New Year's Day, I'd do it myself. Taking a brother along with me with a camera (who would believe I did it otherwise?) I broke through the icy edge of Long Island Sound and dove in and out in about a nano second. It was an extraordinary baptismal experience. It coalesced for me my efforts to live New Year's Day the way I wanted to spend the rest of the year.
So it came to pass: let go of the old ideas about what might be fun, the constriction or reluctance to be uncomfortable, take a risk and do something off the wall. The benefits are immediate. I've never felt so alive (or glad to be alive) after an icy dip. I bragged about it to some friends, and the next year there was a hardy gang of about 10. This morning I think 40 people were on Cedar Beach with cameras, and about 24 of us ran across the snow-crusted pebbles and dove into the water (all ages, men and women). In and out! No dilly dallying!! I find it helpful to shout and chant in order not to think, trying to whip myself into a state of whoopee. Driving back to the friary for hot chocolate a friend looked at his watch in astonishment. We'd only been at the beach 6 minutes! "It felt like an hour!" he said. That's living in the moment, full of derring-do. Sipping hot chocolate, the swimmers were high spirited. Nobody could believe they'd done it. We were all really glad we had.
I pray I can stay in the moment this year, seek out chances to be with friends, take a risk on living outside conventionality, and to remember to sing and laugh when I am tempted to hide out and avoid whatever life has got to offer.