This week I cranked up Earth, Wind & Fire and started hooping—you know, with a hula hoop.
I’m not super flexible, nor do I dance well, but I can spin that hoop in both directions. When I turn up music and that hoop is in motion, I feel free and fun. It offers a perfect play break, especially after an unexpectedly un-playful week that included a series of unfortunate events (broken sump pump, cavities, and engine trouble, among other things).
My hula hoop break reminded me of Laura Boggess‘ secret visit to her neighbor’s trampoline, described in her book Playdates with God:
I slipped off my shoes. Clambered up in the awkward way of a fortyish woman. And I did. I jumped. Slow at first, but with each landing on the heel—each pushing off with the balls of the feet—I went higher. This body shed free the years, and I became unfettered. I became a stranger in my body, but I remembered. Oh, yes, I remembered this. There was sun-warmed elastic beneath my bare feet, and I was loosed to bound free. The earth fell below, and I flew. (26)
That. That’s how hooping makes me feel: Loosed and unfettered, almost like dancing, shedding free the years. Laura’s leaping inspired her to commit to seeking moments with God as playful and open and childlike as she felt on that trampoline. She vowed, “Once a week I would leave my grown-up notions behind, and I would find a place where joy and wonder would lead. A playdate with God” (26). She still documents her play each week, on Mondays.
I hope the one-month #PlayProject spills into the rest of our year and we play a little every day, or at least every week, like Laura does.
Laura realizes that as a grown-up, she has a chance at recovering “the wild joy of wonder” through play. She quotes from Barbara Brannen’s book The Gift of Play: Why Adult Women Stop Playing and How to Start Again:
When you are through playing you are able to retrieve the experience from your memory bank and relive it. You are able to recapture the moment with joy all over again. When you think about your play you can focus on it and feel instantly refreshed. Your play opens your heart. When your heart is open you open your eyes and see things for what they really are. Your spirit is opened and you can feel everything to a greater degree. You are no longer numb to the world, but experiencing it fully and with great glee. (24)
Laura concurs: “For me, play has always been a way of opening up to intuition—that place where the Holy Spirit speaks more clearly into my heart. Play gives me permission to pay attention to this gentle prodding that I might otherwise ignore” (63-64).
That gentle prodding sometimes manifests as curiosity, as it did for Marilyn Yocum when she explored Google Earth, and for Michelle Ortega, when she grew curious about a nearby church’s Jazz Ensemble Vespers. She dropped in to visit, for a #playproject outing:
Day 13 #PlayProject Every Wednesday, I drive about an hour to my office in Princeton and home again in the evening, often not leaving the building from morning til night. I decided to try and explore some of the local opportunities for art and music, and tonight I attended the "Jazz Ensemble Vespers," which included poetry, choir music and a jazz sax/piano duo. A splendid way to end the day- I'll be doing this again next month! #princetonuniversitychapel #vespers #jazzvespers #pianoandsax
If you’re running low on #PlayProject ideas, you can always build an origami phone, like Monica Sharman did:
Origami touch-tone phone (w/model photo) for #PlayProject.
See @annkroeker's Week 1 Update https://t.co/kMuxwDRlay pic.twitter.com/PomeAZI5IY
— Monica Sharman (@monicasharman) January 8, 2016
Or print a Tweetspeak Poetry Coloring page, fun and different from the usual fare, or try writing Ginsberg’s “American Sentence”: a 17-syllable sentence—sort of a haiku, but not. Kim Addonizio introduces Allen Ginsberg’s American Sentences in her book Ordinary Genius. She says Ginsberg, “inspired by the traditional Japanese haiku—three lines of five, seven, and five syllables—invented the ‘American Sentence,’ one sentence of seventeen syllables” (33).
She offers an example from Ginsberg himself: “Four skinheads stand in the streetlight rain chatting under an umbrella.”
Here’s one from me, as I look out the window: “Shimmering snow melts away, leaving patches of wet, gray slush and mud.”
Laura Boggess reminds us to have a poet’s playful, mindful eye that follows our curiosity and picks up on sensory input all around:
When eyes are focused on some point far ahead, it’s hard to see the beauty right beside you. This is one thing children rarely do—miss details. From the tiniest bug, to the shape of a stick, to the smoothest rocks creek side, children are always surveying their environment for the next great treasure. It’s no accident that the word question contains the word quest. When was the last time I gave my curiosity free reign? When did I last let myself get lost in wondering, let exploration lead instead of a goal? (120)
If it’s been a while since you last got lost in wondering, if you are looking so far ahead you miss the details right in front of you, take a minute to pay attention, to follow your curiosity, to play.
Here’s a simple American Sentence:
“The #playproject opens my eyes, mind, and heart to see the world afresh.”
Jump in with January’s #PlayProject and document your fun (drop links in the comments below and be sure to describe ideas that can’t be shared due to privacy settings on social media).
And if my invitation isn’t enticing enough, let Bethany Rohde at WordDoor offer inspiration to take a few minutes out of your day for mirth and merriment.
- The Play Project: A Month of Fun for Anyone (especially writers and other creatives) (introductory and main page, complete with downloadable worksheets)
- #PlayProject Jan 2016 – Week One Update
- Top 6 Curiosity Discoveries – December 2015, Planning for Play (each month I document curiosity discoveries, and December offered a play theme, as I was immersed in planning for January)
- #31 Play a Playful Year (podcast)
Source: Boggess, Laura. Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World. Abilene, TX: Leafwood, 2014. Print.
Oh, this is so fun! I used to love to hula hoop. I think I need to make sure I have one handy for future adventures! Thanks for sharing about Playdates with God, Ann. Your #playproject has been a little shot in the arm for me to be more creative in my playdates. I love seeing how your friends are playing along!
Ann Kroeker says
I’m so glad your words could inspire others to take play to the next level and let it affect their spiritual lives, as well as their work and relationships.
Ann Kroeker says
Oh, and the hula hooping? Definitely try it again! I recommend a homemade hoop from plumbing materials (look online for directions), because they are more durable and heavier and far easier to spin.
Bethany Rohde says
Love hearing how you and others are enjoying your playtimes. The hula looks like an absolute blast, look at you go, Ann! Thank you for connecting with my play post too.
Ann Kroeker says
Isn’t it neat, how creative people can be? You, especially, have taken these ideas and run with them–keep letting us know what you do and how it felt!
Monica Sharman says
That’s funny — I’m pretty flexible, I dance well (if it’s choreographed), but when I was a girl I could not keep that hoop up in ANY direction! Thanks for showing my folding work (that is, play, but play is often hard work)!
Also, “badiyah” is one of my favorite words to sing.
Ann Kroeker says
I love Earth, Wind & Fire and loved watching that one on YouTube!
Also, I agree: play is often hard work (but doesn’t feel like Work).
Callie Feyen says
Ann, this is such a fun project, and such a great way to kick off 2016. I think you have helped me create a habit for the entire year. Thank you!
Ann Kroeker says
Callie, I’m so glad you’re finding value in adding play to your life! Thank you for taking time to pop in and let me know how it’s going for you!