Friday, November 18, 2011

Make a Wish
The group of people that I see on my yoga retreats is very dear to me. It's a lot like summer camp - I actually do refer to it as "yoga camp" to my other friends, because it makes it sound more accessible - except that each of us comes with the gift of an open heart and mind, as well as a willingness to let the other people on retreat see us as we really are... and a promise that we will also try to reserve judgment and see each of them as they really are.
As you can imagine, this is a tricky thing.  On the first night, I tend to size up the group, seeing who I want to spend my time with, who seems worried or anxious about the weekend ahead, who feels more closed-off than the others. By the end of the weekend, when we are sitting in a closing circle and talking about the experiences we each had, we are old friends, having gone through a lifetime of memories and old wounds and loves and losses together in the yoga studio, letting go, opening up.  

In this vein, one of the men who has become a part of this "love tribe" by marrying one of my favorite retreaters, shared that -- although he works in the computer industry for a career -- he has always loved working with wood.  "In fact," he said (at the springtime retreat last April), "I make boxes."  As he described his process for selecting the woods - such exotic species as fiddleback maple, bocote, black walnut, cuban mahogany, beech, rosewood - and for crafting them into these perfect little vessels, it was difficult not to swoon over his vision.  I craved a glimpse of his woodworking and was thrilled when his wife announced that he'd put up a website

What Brian makes are wish boxes.  Ever hear of them?  You make a wish - not unlike a secret prayer or the soft longing that you release as you blow out a birthday candle - and write it on a small piece of paper, roll it up nice and tight, and put it in the box.  There is no "exit" hole, just a single tiny hole on the top where you can stick your wishes, capped by a cork so that they stay in.  As Brian says, "Once it's in the box, it takes root."

I fell over myself when Brian brought the wish boxes to our retreat.  He had been shy about showing them to us, somehow worried that we - of all people! - might judge them harshly or reject them, thereby confirming his tough inner critic's voice (you shouldn't bring them, no one's gonna love them like you do, it's a silly hobby). And, like other artists, Brian's affection for his creations borders on fatherly, because they are, in essence, his babies.  But the response was magical.  Each wish box was unique in shape, wood, size, feeling.  They are each smooth and soft and have the feeling of an heirloom.  I bought two - one for myself, and another for a dear friend who is getting married.  

"Just imagine," I told my husband, "what if your father or your brother had had one of these?  Would you have opened it up?"

"In a heartbeat," he said, and in the quiet space of that moment, we each envisioned him sawing open a wish box overstuffed with dreams for the future, smiling at the wishes that had come true, laughing at the petty wishes of small boys, heart breaking at the wishes that couldn't come true.  A whole lifetime of memories captured in a lovingly crafted home.

My wish box is still empty, but it will hold a place on my Thanksgiving table.  And I will bring it to retreat in springtime again, so that Brian can hold it up and shake it and smile and I hope he'll say, "Yeah, there are some good wishes in this one."

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