you have to do
You do with play."
There are all sorts of wonderful, magical
quotes, sayings, adages, maxims, bywords, proverbs and aphorisms
in the world. You can buy them lettered on beautiful posters and
hang them on your walls. We read them, we think about them, but
how often do we LIVE them?
The following was a birthday part for
an artistic, aesthetically minded fourteen-year-old and six of her
friends. It illustrated to the girls that “artist” is a broad, active
verb, that words can be put into action and that it is a lot of
fun when they are. It was also a totally magical time that none
of the girls (who are now in their twenties) have ever forgotten.
We took the poster by SARK entitled “How
To Be An Artist” and between 4:00 p.m. one afternoon and 4:00 a.m.
the next morning we experienced it; each line, each concept, each
Some of the activities are specific
to our location, but could easily be adapted and changed to fit
yours with a little creativity and thought. We are lucky to live
in a small town where it is quite safe for a group to be out in
the middle of the night with an adult. As this is most definitely
not the case everywhere, the timing of some of the activities may
need to be shifted to daylight hours in some areas.
We did not do the activities in the order
they appear on the SARK poster, but rather in an order that best
suited all the activities I had planned. I will explain them, however,
in the order they appear on the poster.
Each girl was given a satin sack at the
beginning of the party and they collected mementoes at different
places as the night went on. At the beginning I gave each girl a
8X11 copy of the SARK poster printed like a coloring book in black
and white and a set of markers. As we completed each item they colored
it in on their poster. When we were done they had a completed color
poster and got to keep their markers too.
MOON BATHS . . . WILD IMAGININGS, TRANSFORMATIVE
DREAMS, AND PERFECT CALM.
STAY LOOSE. LEARN TO WATCH SNAILS. PLANT
IMPOSSIBLE GARDENS. INVITE SOMEONE DANGEROUS TO TEA. MAKE LITTLE
SIGNS THAT SAY “YES” AND PASTE THEM ALL OVER YOUR HOUSE. MAKE FRIENDS
WITH FREEDOM AND UNCERTAINTY. LOOK FORWARD TO DREAMS. CRY DURING
MOVIES. SWING AS HIGH AS YOU CAN ON A SWINGSET BY MOONLGHT. CLUTIVATE
MOODS. REFUSE TO BE RESPONSIBLE. DO IT FOR LOVE. TAKE LOTS OF NAPS.
GIVE MONEY AWAY. BELIEVE IN MAGIC. LAUGH A LOT. CELEBRATE EVERY
GORGEOUS MOMENT. TAKE MOONBATHS. HAVE WILD IMAGININGS. TRANSFORMATIVE
DREAMS AND PERFECT CALM DRAW ON THE WALLS. READ EVERYDAY. IMAGINE
YOURSELF MAGIC. GIGGLE WITH CHILDREN. LISTEN TO OLD PEOPLE. OPEN
UP. DIVE IN. BE FREE. BLESS YOURSELF. DRIVE AWAY FEAR. ENTERTAIN
YOUR INNER CHILD. YOU ARE INNOCENT. BUILD A FORT WITH BLANKETS.
GET WET. HUG TREES. WRITE LOVE LETTERS. (SARK)
1. STAY LOOSE - We arrived at the parking
lot of the Middle School at about 11:30 p.m. I choose this place
because it was a large parking lot and because some of the kids
were still in Middle School and all of them had been. They got a
wild kick out of dancing around the parking lot at school in the
middle of the night; it was much more fun than any generic parking
lot would have been. I turned the tape player up all the way and
they danced wildly to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”, The Beatles “Twist
and Shout” and finally snake danced all around the parking lot to
Harry Belafonte singing “Jump in the Line.”
2. LEARN TO WATCH SNAILS - I bought
several large snails from the garden supply store. We arrived at
the Japanese garden at Lithia Park at about 6:30 p.m. I played Debussy
on the tape player and put the snails down on some flat rocks. The
girls lay down on their stomachs and watched the snails for much
longer than I thought they were capable of. Here they got their
first memento; a small sea shell to remind them to slow down and
watch the snails.
3. PLANT IMPOSSIBLE GARDENS - My husband
cleared a small patch of garden in our back yard. The girls wrote
“Wild Wishes” on biodegradable paper and buried them in the soil.
Then they planted wild flower seeds all over the wishes and watered
their “Impossible Garden” well. We played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
while they worked. (In a fun kind of irony, the only thing that
really bloomed well from all the wild flower seeds were bunches
and bunches of pale blue Bachelor’s Buttons!)
4. INVITE SOMEONE DANGEROUS TO TEA -
This was intricate and involved an inside joke. At an earlier time
one of the girls declared that my daughter’s had too many inside
jokes that she wasn’t in on and she was going to make up an inside
joke. They informed her that you couldn’t make up an inside joke,
they just happened. “I can too,” she declared pointing where my
daughter had spilled her pie, “LOOK! Lezlie spilled the cherries
on the table! That is an inside joke now.” She was right, it was,
and it is. I used that joke for this part of the party. My elder
daughter was in on this and was prepared. Our next destination was
the pie shop, but we were lingering on “the bricks,” the plaza outside
the Shakespeare Festival. Suddenly one of their male friends (an
actor) came from out of nowhere, rushed at Lezlie and declared in
a huge voice “YOU! YOU! YOU spilled the cherries on the table!”
then he stabbed her with what is called a “Romeo&Juliet Dagger”
. . . a plastic dagger in which the blade retracts into the handle
upon impact. Immediately after falling down “dead” Lezlie sat up
and said, “Adam you are dangerous! Would you like to come to tea?”
Something like this might not be advisable in a regular town. In
a theater town people sort of expect odd things to happen and are
not particularly phased by them. Somewhere else you might get arrested.
We took Adam to tea and while we were there we made a list of dangerous
people we would like to invite to tea. The girls caught the spirit
of this wonderfully and listed wonderful “dangerous” people as opposed
to horrible dangerous people. Alas, I don’t have the list, but I
remember that our pal Will Shakespeare was at the top of a list
which also included Gary Larsen, Dr. Seuss, John Lennon, Conan O’
Brian and Tom Stoppard. That would be quite an interesting tea.
5. MAKE LITTLE SIGNS THAT SAY “YES” AND
STICK THEM ALL OVER YOUR HOUSE. Each girl received a package of
tiny pastel colored labels. They sat down and wrote YES on each
one. They put their finished notes into their bags and then they
split my daughter’s notes up between them and stuck them all over
our house. There are still a few around eight years later. And yes,
there were a couple of parents who wanted to kill me.
6. MAKE FRIENDS WITH FREEDOM AND UNCERTAINTY
- Using a list of synonyms and words similar to “Freedom” and “Uncertainty”
the girls wrote progressive stories. They would write for five or
ten minutes until I said “Stop!” then they would fold their stories
into paper airplanes and fly them all over the back yard for a few
minutes. When I told them to stop again, they picked up one airplane
and went on with the story that they found there. These stories
turned out really quite incredible and they had a lot of fun writing
them and reading them aloud afterward. They also became quite good
friends with the words “Freedom” and “Uncertainty.”
7. LOOK FORWARD TO DREAMS - Each girl
received a small dream diary that had some basic dream analysis
information in the front and a small “dream pillow” full of herbs
and essential oils conductive to sleep and dreaming. We sat in a
circle and talked about dreams that the girls had experienced in
the past and what they might have meant. Each girl told about the
best dream she had ever had and then invented a dream she would
like to have.
8. CRY DURING MOVIES - Everyone wrote
down their four favorite movies which make them cry and their four
favorite movies which make them laugh (Activity #16). I tabulated
them and later in the evening I rented the top two from each category.
This turned out to be the activity for the next afternoon when they
9. SWING AS HIGH AS YOU CAN ON A SWING
SET BY MOONLIGHT - I actually planned the party to coincide with
the full moon, primarily for this activity. We took a vote on which
elementary school in town had the best swings and it was no contest,
Walker Elementary won hands down. We went to Walker to swing in
the moonlight, drink sparkling cider and blow bubbles. A few drops
of glycerin into commercial bubble mix makes the bubbles last much
longer and catch the moonlight like magic. While some of the girls
were swinging the others blew bubbles all around them, then they
switched places. This was very magical, while the tape player played
Cat Stevens “Moonshadow” and Kim Robertson’s “Moonshadows” on the
Celtic Harp. We went directly from the swings out onto the huge
lawn for the Moonbaths below, using the same music.
10. CULTIVATE MOODS - Because this party
happened when the Shakespeare Festival Greenshow was dark, the small
outdoor stage was empty. We used it to play a rousing game of Charades
using mood words.
11. REFUSE TO BE RESPONSIBLE - I found
a very strict natural foods book at the library and then made the
girls sit and listen while I read to them what they should and should
not eat. There were a lot of sidelong glances until I told them
that sometimes (and only sometimes) you just have to refuse to be
responsible and I served them chocolate pizza.
12. DO IT FOR LOVE - This was the final
activity of the night, and really it was almost dawn. We went up
to the balcony that surrounded the 100 year old theater at our High
School. I gave each girl a candle safely contained in glass and
we sat in a circle and lit them. Without saying a word, I turned
on the tape player and it began to play “What I Did for Love” from
A Chorus Line. There wasn’t a word that needed to be said, the message
was very clear and I must admit there were a lot of tears at this
point. I gave each of the girls a necklace with a heart shaped stone
so they would remember that in the end, an artist always does what
they do for love. I saw those necklaces around throats for the next
13. TAKE LOTS OF NAPS - When this one
came up all it said was “Tomorrow!” and that was just what happened!
14. GIVE MONEY AWAY - Remembering the
adage “See a penny pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck”
the girls walked all over down town dropping pennies. They were
careful not to get too many in one place so it didn’t look suspicious.
They really loved this activity; loved thinking of all the people
who would find luck picking up their pennies.
15. BELIEVE IN MAGIC - What would you
do if you were magic? We have a fire pit in our back yard where
we had a big fire that night. Each girl took a pinch of “Fairy Dust”
threw it into the fire and said what she would do if she were magic.
We went around the circle several times until everyone had several
turns. I made the “Fairy Dust” by scraping the heads of wooden matches
into silver glitter. There was not enough spark to be dangerous,
but when the glitter hit the fire it sparked and crackled which
was most magical. We used a big pot of “Faery Dust” at the fire
and then each girl got a small bottle (without the match heads)
to take home. This activity was nearly identical to #22 so we did
16. LAUGH A LOT - As explained in Activity
#8, everyone write down their four favorite movies that make them
cry and laugh. I tabulated them and then rented the top two in each
category. The girls watched all four movies the next day.
17. CELEBRATE EVERY GORGEOUS MOMENT -
I’m sure I can’t describe this so it sounds nearly as fun as it
was! All during the whole party, as we were driving around town
in my big van, every once in a while I would pull the van over,
hit the tape player where Three Dog Night would sing “Celebrate”
and we would toast to that particular gorgeous moment with sparkling
cider in tall champagne glasses. I found champagne glasses at the
$1 store so I was able to use glass glasses which the girls got
a huge kick out of (and they didn’t break a one and got to take
their glasses home as a memento.) By the time I had done this half
a dozen times they were all laughing hysterically whenever I would
all of a sudden shout, “What a GORGEOUS moment!” and pull the car
over. Then they would pass the cider around and get it up their
noses because they were laughing so hard.
18. TAKE MOONBATHS - After swinging in
Activity #9 we went out onto the large lawn behind the Elementary
school and laid out blankets. The girls took a “Moonbath,” while
I read them beautiful creative visualizations and they took lovely
journeys in their minds. Then we did Activity #19.
19. HAVE WILD IMAGININGS, TRANSFORMATIVE
DREAMS, AND PERFECT CALM. While the girls were taking their “Moonbaths,”
after they had done some relaxing creative visualizations, I read
them specific words for each of these concepts and gave them tiny
scent pillows filled with essential oil conductive to that particular
concept. Wild Imaginings: Ylang ylang and jazmine. Transformative
Dreams: sleep herbs with tangerine and vanilla. Perfect calm: lavendar
20. DRAW ON THE WALLS - Children, teenagers,
and adults for that matter really like to do things that they are
not normally allowed to do. I set aside one piece of April’s bedroom
wall and told the girls that they could draw on it with markers.
They had a wonderful time and truthfully the wall was so brilliant
that we left it that way until it was so faded you could hardly
see the marker. April was twenty before she painted over it.
21. READ EVERYDAY - This one was also
a hit and many of them followed through with it. Each person wrote
down their four favorite books on four pieces of paper. We mixed
them up and everyone choose four. Then you were supposed to read
those four books during the next year. I was pleased and sort of
surprised that these close friends listed lots of different books
and this activity gave all of them new reading material and insight
into each other.
22. IMAGINE YOURSELF MAGIC - This was
done in conjunction with Activity # 15. To have them “imagine themselves
magic” I had them actively visualize each person’s wishes and actually
see themselves and the other person accomplishing the magic.
23. GIGGLE WITH CHILDREN - I have a
son who is seven years younger than his sister. He was seven at
the time. The goal of this activity was to tell him a joke and make
him laugh. There was a prize for the one who made him laugh the
most. A fourteen-year-old’s humor and a seven-ear-old’s humor are
not the same and the winner was one who remembered this and told
him something silly on his own level.
24. LISTEN TO OLD PEOPLE - Once again,
this one was a great deal of fun. I called my mother and father
who live in another state while another activity was going on. I
then causally told one girl after another that she was wanted on
the phone. When the girl answered the phone my Mom and Dad were
ready for her with all sorts of inside information about her such
as, “So, we hear you’re in love with Brad Pitt.” or “How is it you
keep cutting Orchestra and getting away with it?” The girls were
completely befuddled for some time until they figured out that the
“old people” had been tipped off.
25. OPEN UP - We sat in a circle and
went around answering questions truthfully and quickly. If someone
didn’t want to answer they could say “pass.” We used questions such
as: “I would love to go to..........”, “My best food in the world
is...........”, “Happiness is......”, “I need........”, “I want...........”,
“I like.......”, “Best in the world I like to...............”, “I
wish I were more......”, “I get really mad when............”,
26. DIVE IN - Each girl got a light
flying balsa airplane. While at the Elementary School we climbed
to the top of the “Jungle Gym” and flew the planes off. As they
let their plane go the girls said where they would go if they were
in the plane. They had so much fun that they climbed down and got
them and flew them again and again so they could go lots of different
places. And . . . . I remember Laura flying a plane to Paris, and
she ended up spending a semester there during college. My Lezlie
flew a balsa plane to England - and that is where she is today.
27. BE FREE - This is a concept that
may require explanation to those of you who come from warmer climes.
It’s called a “Freeze out.” Where I grew up, in Utah, a Freeze Out
was flirting with disaster at certain times of the year, which was
exactly why teenagers did it. It involves rolling all the windows
of the car down while driving relatively fast, preferably down a
hill, for the duration of a song on the radio. In January, in Utah,
with a song that lasts more than 3.5 you can end up with frost bite.
If you Freeze Out to, say, The Doors “Light My Fire” everyone in
the car would probably go into hyperthermia. Somewhere in the early
1970's it became mandatory to Freeze Out whenever anything by Credence
Clearwater Revival came on the Radio. (And yes, I suppose my friends
and I could have had some sort of collective obsessive/compulsive
disorder.) So, up we went to the top of nearly vertical Park Street,
rolled down all the windows, cranked up “Bad Moon Rising” and down
we came. I didn’t even go too fast, but with the windows all open
it felt like I did. I stopped at the bottom of the hill, put on
the emergency brake, turned around and looked at the girls with
their long hair blown all over everything and said, “What a GORGEOUS
28. BLESS YOURSELF - This was another
activity done around the fire. The girls wrote blessings for themselves
on small pieces of paper. They blessed themselves with something
nonmaterial that they felt they needed, something that they wanted
and something that they were glad they had. They then read them
out loud if they were comfortable doing so, threw the paper in the
fire and sent the blessing up in smoke.
29. DRIVE AWAY FEAR - Again around the
fire. We sat and talked about things they were afraid of, about
the difference between being physically afraid and psychologically
afraid. They wrote their fears on small pieces of paper and we sent
them up in smoke. I then gave each girl a Bear fetish, which is
the symbol for courage and we talked about how they had the capacity
to drive away fear.
30. ENTERTAIN YOUR INNER CHILD - We had
a “sack lunch” picnic supper and played on the playground equipment
at Lithia Park. I also set up my son’s Fisher-Price toys in the
front room and the girls played with them while they were taking
turns at writing on the wall and building the fort.
31. YOU ARE INNOCENT - This activity
was also done at the fire. The girls wrote down something that was
bothering them, something they had on their conscience, something
they couldn’t forgive or something similar. We then silently sent
them up in smoke. No one had to do this. We talked briefly about
riding yourself of things like that and how carrying them doesn’t
32. BUILD A FORT WITH BLANKETS - As
simple as it sounds. They used the kitchen table, all the kitchen
chairs and every spare blanket in the house. It was really quite
magnificent. After it was done, they all got inside and I read them
a story while they had a snack before we went on. They all said
it felt cozy and familiarly like their “childhood” - which seemed
very far away to them at the time.
33. GET WET - Blessed with a beautiful
park with a river that has a “wading place” we went there, waded
in and got wet. It was early May however and near midnight and the
water was cold so it was a bit of an adventure.
34. HUG TREES - Also in our lovely Lithia
park is a beautiful grove of large, evenly spaced trees that I call
the “Immanent Grove.” (Named after the grove of trees that moves
around in Ursula LeGuin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea.”) We sat in a circle
with a candle and I read them Chief Seattles Message in which he
asserts that the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.
The girls then very reverently walked through the grove hugging
and patting the huge beautiful trees while the tape player played
Celtic Harp music softly.
35. WRITE LOVE LETTERS - They each wrote
two love letters - one that they would really give to someone or
send to someone and one that they would burn. They each enveloped
one letter and sent the other up in smoke. They really got into
this one - such is fourteen! ~ Following is the Time-line that I
established to try and get everything done. I didn’t make it - since
it says we should have been home at 2:40 and it was actually 4:00
before we got home. However, it did help to have the time line as
something to tell me where to go next and about how much time to
spend at each site. I broke it into 11 “sets” just for my own organization.