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Working with Youth

This week, Bohemian Crossings summer camp has welcomed youth groups to the site to create story poles.  We have been delighted to meet little ones from a day care, a group from the refugee community, elementary classes from a public school as well as secondary-age youth from the local Waldorf school.  Poles are decorated with paint, buttons or are carved.  The younger ones practice first on a large roll of paper before working together to paint a large pole with hand prints and dripping paints.  The older youth scatter immediately into groups of two or three with drills and carving tools in hand.  Adults from the community occasionally stop by and create their own design and pole.  The energy is spontaneous, feels welcoming and diverse.

The Bohemian Crossings team themselves are a diverse group of artists who bring talent for poetry, storytelling, music and the visual arts to the gathering.  After the children wash up from all the stray paint that never made it to the pole, they gather around team members who play the guitar, banjo and

harmonica, singing folk songs from America, Ireland and Germany. They smile, clap and join in with the singing.

The inability to control the result of such unfolding of enthusiasm and energy was at first unsettling, at least requiring in us a shift from our original vision of a sort of unified, cohesive outcome.  Yet what is arising feels potent.  Within the team, there seems to be a blending of the diverse personalities and, at times, competing energies; a sense of order is forming out of what felt initially to be a chaotic, empty space; we feel our connection deepening with the shared desire to create beauty.

The cohesion, however, doesn’t come just from our efforts; instead, it seems to take shape through the youth.  The harmony, the common language we adults have been talking (sometimes arguing) about for the past days is here. What is the common language?  It probably won’t be obviously visible in a public art piece.  Our poles will form a random forest of color and shapes that can, we hope, at least be a physical seed of hope to inspire the unfolding of similar efforts over the years.  No. The common language, the harmonious note is this:  joy – a light that so gracefully absorbs the grey.