Empty playground, November 12, 2020

“Playful” has been a keyword this week. As artists, accessing the playful, childlike centre in ourselves is crucial and too often ignored, particularly in these strange times. It doesn’t feel “serious” to do such seemingly non-goal-oriented work; these are dark times, after all! And yet our willingness to engage our playful spirit is the source of creativity, innovation and joy. As I walked by this playground this morning, I was reminded of the early days of the lockdown, when I spontaneously cried like a baby upon seeing a play structure cordoned off with police tape for the first time. Today, however, the empty playground just after sunrise made me think of possibility, an invitation to play.

One of my dearest friends is dying. I saw him for the first time in several weeks yesterday, in bed and frail, but spirit and humour still intact. My dear sister-in-law, the Wonder Massage Therapist, had gone to work with him earlier this week, and she told me afterwards how playful their session was at times, and how wondrously willing he was to experiment with movement, sensation and imagination. They even sang! He too described their work with reverence, commenting on her inventiveness. This ability to be playful, to be childlike and open to every new experience–even at the end of life–is inspiring to me as both artist and educator. And as so often, life’s lessons translate directly into my teaching work in the voice studio.

With several of my students this week, joy and spontaneity–the hallmarks of play–have been a focal point in our work. Their openness to not being so reverent about their art, but rather, approaching it with inquisitiveness, whimsy and abandon has been key. Too often in the pursuit of excellence and knowledge, we forget that the root of our learning is in our desire for exploration. This week I need to remind myself that the state I wish to visit more often is that of PLAY.