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cairn of my heart. [d.r. thursday]

stacking stones – from david’s children’s book Play To Play

like a 1960s romper room book, if you turn my notebook upside down and open it from the back you will find a list. it is a list of projects, stacking up. this list is unlike my other lists, unlike the cleaning-the-basement and attic and closets list, unlike the practical bill-paying list, unlike the job-application list. this is a list of creative projects, things either already started or on the plate of my heart, waiting to be addressed, waiting to begin. it is not unlike a beautiful stack of stones, a cairn of my heart.

and so every now and then i turn over this old yellow college-ruled spiral with craig sharpie-printed on the front, a leftover from some school year. i flip it to its cardboard back and open it like those backward books and add something to my growing stack. unique rocks, with no detailed explanations…they make me dream. they are the play to play.

yesterday at OT i mentioned our smack-dab cartoon. my OT was surprised. apparently, drawing and publishing a cartoon in any format is unusual. when i told her it was one of a few cartoons we have done together, j asked me to describe it. i told her that it was about being smack in the middle of middle age and, since she is, i showed her last saturday’s smack-dab. she laughed aloud – a lot – and said, “so you don’t just go to the grocery store together?” that made me laugh aloud since it seems the cairn of our life together is the stacked stones of these projects we do, holding hands and jumping, in creation, on trails, and, yes, in the grocery store too.

it is with some certainty that i know i will awake with new ideas, that blowing my hair dry – for some reason a time of great creative juju – will bring new stones to stack, fresh energy to explore.

it was in one of those moments i came up with starting a ukulele band where i was employed. i had, on a whim, purchased a tiny black soprano ukulele while visiting with dearest friends in nashville, indiana. i started messing around with it and, one morning while standing in the bathroom in front of the long mirror blowing my hair dry with thoughts swirling in my mind, realized that everyone should (and could) play the ukulele and that there could not be a more perfect addition to the music program i was directing. when i offered ukulele packages for sale through pacetti’s, the local music shop, and announced a rehearsal starting date, i suspected that maybe 3 or 4, or maybe even 6 would sell. all told, we sold over 60. our band gathered each week and in the summer met first in the local lakefront park and later, for years, on our back patio, more sheltered from the wind that would blow our music here and there. it was joy – total joy – watching people who had never played any instrument pick up their brightly colored ukuleles, learn chords and songs and play and sing in community. amazing stuff.

a couple days ago facebook brought up one of those memory photos that show up as you first open the site – this one from three years ago. it was a photo from ukes on the summer patio that someone had taken and posted of me. in the middle of the patio, perched on a stool in front of a music stand loaded with music and clipped with clothespins, ukulele in hand, i was in full laughter. for this was a cairn. and, judging by the laughter that always surrounded us in those rehearsals and others, it was a cairn for others as well. i re-posted it and felt wistful. grief is like that.

just as backpacking seems to bring ardor to our trail-pal-on-video-who-we-have-never-met joey coconato, these projects-following-the-cairns bring us a sense of who we are, what we are. there are times that the flame of a project wanes, the idea conks, just the thought of it makes us laugh till we are snorting. but those other times – the times we can see the cairn clearly, we head to it, it keeps us on track – those are the times that we are playing to play, that we are being true to who we are.

*****

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PLAY TO PLAY ©️ 2005 david robinson


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play to play. [d.r. thursday]

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when i asked d for a summary of this children’s book he wrote and illustrated called PLAY TO PLAY he told me that the gorilla teaches the little girl the value of playing simply to play, not to win.

my son played tennis.  after growing up playing competitive baseball and soccer he decided, as people who are gifted athletically can, to “take up” competitive tennis.  he didn’t just go hit the ball around.  he dove in.  he was persistent and worked hard.  i drove him to lessons, individual and group, to high school team practices, to tournaments.  when he was in college i drove to his matches, regardless of where they were.

not familiar with the psychology of tennis, i, too, dove in, in my own way.  i read articles and books, asked questions of his various coaches.  an individual sport, tennis is a mind game and i needed to understand a little bit of what was going on inside my zealous son out on that lonely court.  indeed, sometimes it was hard to watch, hardly breathing in the stands.  when wendy wrote to me the other day that she just wanted her son’s hardworking football team to win and that she was unduly stressed, i could totally relate.  it’s your heart out on that court, out on that field, out on that diamond.   so much pressure.

a couple years ago we had the opportunity to once again see the boy play softball.  on a league in boston, that team, and another he played on, traveled all over the place to play, including paris.  they were all adults, all working hard and playing hard.  the thing i loved most about watching him now was watching him laugh.  laugh.  teasing and laughter were a part of this ball-playing.  they were playing to play.  winning was a bonus – and they actually did that often – but playing seemed to be the point.  it did my heart good.

we often forget the point of play.  we often forget TO play.  in days of great stress, days of worry and sorrow, play seems so far away.  it seems unlikely and unworthy of our time.  but i suppose it would do us all well to remember how invaluable to our well-being playing is.  how giggling or fun and games, teasing and laughter make us feel.  and how they do our heart good.

the illustrations in this little book are dear and the lesson important:  just play to play.

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PLAY TO PLAY ©️ 2006-2019 david robinson