I spend my fifth day at the Glen Workshop in Santa Fe deep in relationship with fellow travelers. It is our day off. It is a day for fun, relaxation, and relationships. It is a day for margharitas.
Relationships and Work
Before I can head into town, I need to meet up with my songwriting group and hash out some lyrics. I need to write a new song with this assigned group, and we need to sing it on Saturday. In just two days. I've had bad experiences with 'group creativity' before. It's often led to a 'lowest common denominator' art by committee. Collective art can try so hard to respect the ideas and contributions of every member that it winds up a pale ghost of everyone's gifts.
By some miracle, we succeed. I have some thoughts as to why.
At our first meeting, we sit with a question. Why have we been brought together? What special benefit can we gain from this mash-up of four creative minds? What do we each bring to the table?
Some themes emerge. We are all good with wit, so we will write a song that has some comedy to it. I'm good with writing hooks and setting a groove. I can organize well. China knows music theory. She's scary-good at it hearing something and knowing all the directions that something can and cannot take. She has perfect pitch. Mark is hilarious, and good with words and rhyme. Claire doesn't play an instrument, but writes well, especially when it comes to narrative. She is also good and bringing disparate streams together. She will manage the story arc of our song.
Claire shares an idea for a poem that brings together the experience of a bar with the experience of a church. We decide to make our song about this fusion of two conflicting experiences. Our character is looking for salvation to slide across the counter of a western bar. This is his altar. He confesses to the bartender, while the old piano clanks out sing-along secular hymns. There is grace. There is bread and wine. There are stained windows. There is the radiant light of neon. There is leaning and kneeling.
By the end of the week we get a song we're all pretty darned proud of. I can still sing it.
"Pour me one more round of sweet salvation"
Next come the margharitas.
Relationships and Play
I leave the group to meet Edward next to the koi pond. We head down the road, towards the city of Santa Fe. We start down Canyon Road, a mile long street lined with over 100 art galleries. The work is vast as an ocean and strong as a fire hose. I can only drink so much. We meet Ed Larson at his folk-art base camp. The studio has no doors. Nothing is protected. Nothing is defended. Ed Larson's creativity is generous and contagious.
Outside, rough-hewn figures inch towards the parking lot. A giant fish hangs from the entry. Dozens, if not hundreds, of paintings in every shape, size and colour draw us into the space. This little gallery is a piece of installation art itself. It is like stepping inside the manic mind of the artist. There is an undeniable sense of play. Of fun. Ed Larson is inside, and we chat. In his sweet southern accent, he agrees to sell me a small painting for $40 when I return. But, he says, if I really need it I can just take it. He's heading out for lunch. He won't notice if it's gone when he gets back, he practically winks.
On his way out he opens up the chest compartment of a Billy the Kid carving. There is a tiny painting of Picasso inside. 'Every artist has a little Picasso inside' says Ed.
Play. Generosity. Unquenched creativity. Edward and I leave inspired.
I want to be on Canyon Road with Edward more than anyone else. Edward who has taught me how to see art. I want to view this vast collection with Edward's eyes. He turns out to be a good guide. He makes good choices. We see great art. We have fun.
We meet up with fellow-Canadian, Kim, and Elena. We wind our way through downtown, to the Railyard, towards Site Santa Fe. We never make it there. We get caught in the rain.
We duck into a bed and bath store where the owner shares her ideas of what a sexy man should smell like. We don't agree. I'm not at all sure why she tells us this, but it's a joyful bit of serendipity brought on by bad weather.
Finally, we make it to Maria's, the margharita-mecca of Santa Fe. They serve over 160 different varieties, not that any of us can tell the difference. One tastes like chocolate. One is blue. Beyond these clear signals, we are the lost tourists of Margharitaville.
The drinks are delicious, if a little strong. We aren't sure whether to blame Maria or the high altitude for this. Santa Fe is 7000 feet up, after all. The food is delicious, if indecipherable beneath a blanket of melted cheese.
We get a ride home with China and Claire and Kristin, full of good food and laughter.
Sometime on the way back I realize this is why I am here. To relax. To enjoy. To make friends. To bless and be blessed. To play. This are gifts I never knew to ask for.
But there is one more feast.
Relationships and Beauty
We make our way to the Thomas Parker Society, a not-so-secret, non-exclusive gathering cloaked in secrecy and exclusivity. Edward mistakenly calls this the Thomas Crowne Society. This annual, unofficial Glen Workshop event brings a couple dozen people together to read to one another. We share wine, and home brewed beer from Todd. The evening is all banquet and gift, and well worth sitting on the few free inches of kitchen linoleum.
This is the kind of night where you laugh one moment and cry the next, moved in every direction by the sheer power of language and fresh friendship.
For my part, I read selections from Skymall, the in-flight catalogue of junk you never knew you wanted. I get the laughs I hope for.
Even this late night gathering isn't enough for those hungry for connection, so we end the day where we began – down at the koi pond.
Now it is dark and quiet. We start our own Thomas Parker Jr. gathering. Those who didn't get a chance to read have their chance now. We all listen. We are all listened to.
In this listening, the light of Christ refracts through relationship. This listening – this hearing and being heard – is the work, the play and the beauty of relationship.
I am quite certain that these beautiful, broken relationships pave our confused and crowded road towards the Kingdom.