It’s easy to get all cranial on the whole planet/culture relationship. It is, in fact, kind of scary not to. Start learning with your body and not your brain, and well, that’s a one-way ticket to . . . this conference. Hem. Earth Matters On Stage. On the stage, bucko, not just in your brain. You better get moving.
For the first weekend here I was a part of the Art Culture Nature Working Group. Ten fellows were selected to lead half-hour workshops exploring the relationship between our craft and our planet. We were essentially encouraged to use the group as a brain trust– but more often than not, we relied on our bodies.
As a group, we moved. We formed sculptures about place, we followed impulses and rolled around on the grass. We took pictures of our surroundings, we worked with soil. All of this wildness took place under the guidance of the workshop leader (and the extreme limitations of time). We looked very silly sometimes, but learned a lot about process and structure.
Later in the week came a workshop about labyrinths, led by Paul Bindel and Justin Simms. I learned that labyrinths are used most commonly not in pursuit of bullheaded monsters, or for escaping Jack Nicholson, but as meditative tools.
There are labyrinths everywhere: 60 listed in Massachusetts alone. Their curling series of lines gives visitors a form in which to get lost, to walk through while their minds drift. It’s a way to pay penance, to build serenity. It’s a task for your body that lets your brain go. Just follow the lines.
As a group we went out to a grove nearby the University of Oregon and built a labyrinth with wood gathered nearby. When it was done– spiraling sticky-sticks winding paths through the tiny trees– we each walked it. You could hear branches cracking and flutes playing and folks chatting as you wove your way around and around and around. A great task for the body, a great chance to digest all the conference info and just go, go, go.