Blog Angelique Michaels, Return To Origin Trainee Leader, Indigenous Knowledge Leadership Program
On June 16, Return to Origin facilitated another Youth Connection Day in Muizenberg with a group of kids from Capricorn Park, located on the Falsebay coast and referred to as the oldest informal settlement of the Cape. On the important day marked in commemoration of the significant role that the youth played in the liberation of our country from the apartheid regime, we (our mentor Mbali Marais, myself and fellow leaders in training- Arnoldt Michaels and Lindsay Burch), had the honour of sharing with the group of Vrygrond Community’s youth, some of the teachings that we’ve come to learn through the Program.
The day was devoted to the element of Nature and to themes of emotion, gratitude, trust and acceptance. We learnt of the abundance of nature, of the beauty of receiving the gifts from the environment and of the importance of giving back. To express our respects for the value of nature and our gratitude for its generosity, we gathered clumps of earth together to make a mound at the base of a tree and decorated it with seeds, fruits and flowers. There was something in the collective creation of a spot of thankfulness; something in the dark of the earth in cupped, little hands and in the unrushed, rhythmic movement of bodies quietly collecting items and carefully placing them at the decorated mound that silenced thought and stilled spirit.
The rest of the day centred on emotions and the importance and beauty of fully feeling and exploring healthy ways to express and share them. We spoke about moments in which we feel sad, mad or afraid and about how natural it is to feel these kinds of emotions often thought of as negative or shameful. In spite of the difficulty we may experience in trying to share our feelings or our secrets, we learnt that we could trust nature with them. We can always speak to the abundance of life around us and trust nature to keep our secrets and hold our stories. Each child sat quietly with a tree and shared with it their secrets. We can roll in the earth that is our great mother, stomp our thoughts, secrets and feelings into her and she would hold them. Trees can keep secrets and they can be climbed wildly and hugged boldly for there is always a connection, a deep and old relationship between child and nature just waiting to be rekindled and remembered.
The last of the day with the children was spent creating what we called ‘glad masks’. The masks were beautiful and each was celebrated for being different. Some were painted with striking colour, some boasted flowers, shells and leaves. Some masks had beards and were said to be grandfathers and another daring one sported a long leaf growing out of its eye, but after a riveting tale, we were relieved to know that the leaf was a vegetable and that it was meant to be in his mouth to express the man’s absolute love for eating greens.
The children had the opportunity to perform with their glad masks on stage to crowd cheers and wild applause and we had the honour of listening to each child share with us the meaning of their masks and their experience of the day shared.
For me, the day was one of fullness, of learning from children more than you can ever hope to teach them. In them, I saw what it means to be present, to release and express, to let go; to revel in the madness and chaos when it presents itself and yet, to find safety in the structure of boundaries. There is beauty and necessity in both order and disarray; and there is power in presence and healing in listening.
Things are starting to slow down a bit. The days have assumed a less fleeting air and a steadier pace; one with which my heart can keep abreast.
On the whole, this month has comprised of subtle changes in rhythm, of movement, of moving house, of clearing out. The changes have conjured up frayed feelings, tattered memories, shadows, old skins, DREAMS! And with the slowing of pace, and the space that it creates, there is a kind of quiet I have not formerly experienced. And in it and in the dreams it conjures up, I can hear what feels like a call of the deep, a call to venture from the shallows… A call to adventure.