Teri Orr: Reset-rejoice-renew
We all need them. Times away from routine. Embracing the serendipity. A break. This week it arrived first in the drumbeat of a text. The neighbors would gather in the grassy circle of the cul-de-sac at the end of day. There would be a fire and beverages. And sure enough, soon enough there were kids and bikes and dogs and neighbors beyond our circle — who wandered in — and laughter — much laughter.
I sent a note to a friend explaining I need to reschedule our get together that night but he was free to join ours. We have this “spontaneous tradition,” I wrote. He responded we should just reschedule our time and he questioned the concept of “spontaneous tradition.” I admit — to the literalists among us — it sounded oxymoronic. But for years now we have gathered like this — last minute — and we are all receptive to the unpredictableness of the call.
You grab what is available — pizza gets delivered for the kids — and weather dependent, you toss a jacket over a shoulder for when the sun sets. The spontaneity is the connector — you most always abandon previous plans because you know how random and precious this tacit agreement is to creating and maintaining community.
Later in the week there was planned dinner across town with women who mostly didn’t know one another except for an event we had worked on together. The gracious hostess had planned everything “just so” and there was no need to bring anything but ourselves to the table. What unfolded over the next few hours involved storytelling and so much laughter and then heartfelt stories with some tears and then more laughter. The beauty was how diverse (for our little community) the gathering was and how connected and bonded we all felt by the end of the night. Life is turbulent and tempestuous. It is always good to know where there are extra life rafts.
And this week marks my annual sojourn to a conference filled with international thinkers who all have ideas worth spreading. Unlike some conferences, where you arrive skidding in on fumes of your last week of life with no prep for a gathering — this time away requires homework. So for months there have been messages about — what to read — what to watch — who to contact — to be ready to gather. We map out carefully our choices during the week, where from sunrise to long, long, long past sunset, our days are filled with big onstage stimulating talks and quiet corner conversations and fabulous food and great adventures and mostly, more than anything else, re-connecting with folks who are all trying to make changes in their far-flung corners of the planet.
It is a week that pulls me through all the others. And it is a network I rely on more and more. It helps me plan performances I want to bring to our community. It allows me connections to people who have connections to people who can help me connect to other people. It is a community who lives to problem solve. There are no small problems or questions or ideas. It is inclusive in a way you wish the entire planet could be. It is always surprising and always exhausting and always makes me feel small — in the very best sense of the word. The gathering is meticulously curated so the guests and speakers eventually become a seamless quilt of hope stitched together with the strength that comes from difficult choices in a complex world. It is not a week for the faint-hearted or those who think they can show up and sit in the back and return emails during a session. Your computer is not welcome in the conference space — nor your phone. Display either and you will be asked to leave. And during the breaks you rarely see folks in a corner with their heads down staring at a screen. You have been exposed in each session to so many big ideas you can’t wait to talk about them as you grab a snack and gaze over the harbor in breathtaking and breath giving, Vancouver.
When the week ends and you realize how little you have slept and how many miles you have walked around the city and how many stories you have heard and told and how many new people you have been introduced to from so many countries, you are exhausted in a way that feels so good. By the time you need to go through customs you know those things most precious you are returning with aren’t packed in your bag but rather your heart.
This week the resorts close and spring break comes to those with children in the school district and there is a kind of forced pause to reset. Time to have a few days where there are no plans. Where you sleep in and stay up late and take a drive or fly away or just crack that book you received at Christmas and have been eying for weeks. In a resort town — we have rhythms unlike other communities and are willing to have all kinds of delayed gratification because the sweetness of the down time is later matched by the excitement of playing host to guests who get to discover our town and all its magic — anew each season. Recharging in the spring should have its own local holiday — a kind of Maypole of good tidings. Ribbons of success after a winter of challenges. But then again, spring is nearly event-free. And there is something delicious in that, too.
However you define “recharge” we are entering the week to start the process. Frantic patterns need time to unravel into seasonal simpler patterns. Stopping on the side of the road to watch the nesting of the sandhill cranes is free and readily available to those who take time to be observant — any day — including a full measure of Sundays in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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After a pipe burst in her home, followed by her furnace going out, columnist Teri Orr is grateful to be safe, warm and dry. And amid the global pandemic, she understands she is one of the lucky ones.