It’s easy, isn’t it, to get stuck in fixed, habitual ways of being and doing, especially for seniors. Not that there’s anything wrong with that :)  But it does cut us off from a wider realm of possibility and fresh discoveries about ourselves and the environment around us. That’s one of the reasons I’m so enamored of play and its liberating aspects.

In mid-September, I brought an empty corrugated carton to our weekly ElderSparks class. I wanted to start exploring, in a very literal sense, what it meant to “think outside the box.” Whereas I may have found the box confining, others felt there was something safe and secure about it; Jeff was intrigued with the physicality of its inside surfaces; Ruth imagined it as a vessel waiting to be filled; Dorothy, in true Zen fashion, thought that there was something in it already — “a lot of nothing, nothing specific.”

In the end, we decided it could even be a hat of sorts, thereby proving that not everything out of the box was necessarily desirable.

Continuing with the theme of becoming more expansive in our thinking, I turned to Poet’s Poker, which for me, is the Scrabble of fertile ideation. As usual, we started with a deck of cards, each with a single word on it. Everyone was dealt a five-card hand and asked to create an evocative phrase or sentence — 3, 4, or 5 words long — by either arranging the cards they had been given, or replacing unwanted ones in successive rounds. Many of us found personal meaning in the lines that eventually formed:

I grew amidst night dancing.

Enter cotton thing home comforts.

Teaching love what heavy road.

Smell it in pain — grow.

You wish — every soul feared.

 One long breath far love.

Caresses meet you burnt dry.

Wild bird sing cry out.

For a time, I thought we were all channeling Leonard Cohen — a musician/poet who Jeff revealed was one of his all-time favorites.