Second Rite of Passage: Ginny’s choice, a Quaker Clearness Circle

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I had asked Ginny a few weeks prior to this rite of passage, what offering I could give her at the event?

“A Quaker Clearness Circle!” was her reply.

Now, granted, not every 18 year old asks for one of these, or even knows what one is, but Ginny had seen it done before and was impressed- not like “wow!” impressed, but im-pressed, pressed upon, touched, marked by it.

“I would love to give you one of those,” I replied. “What question would you like to bring to the group?”

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Quaker Clearness Circle or “Committee” is a group of people chosen by someone, in this case, Ginny, to focus on an important question the asker would like to explore. It could be regarding job choice, a move, readiness for marriage, or as Ginny was wanting, assistance in deciding on entering The Mission Year program, where she would voluntarily live in community, serving the poor on the south side of Chicago.

The committee is asked to only ask questions that will help dig deeper into the question. No answers are provided. No answers are expected. It is the gift of community companionship in the form of engaged questions, often with the asker facing away, so that body language isn’t an influence. It is an interesting process. I’ve done it twice now, and it is indeed a rare and priceless gift.

We bestowed this present upon Ginny, and couple of hours later, we ended the Quaker Clearness Circle and the rite of passage. Questions, and questions, and questions. Answered by more questions. Young woman asking a question. Older women fine-tuning it with more questions. Answers in the form of questions. And silence. Thick, heavy silence. Food for thought. Comfort food. Heavy, rich, amazing comfort food and room to digest some of it on the way home. . .

Ginny rite of passage 237

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Small Bites: poem, “Learning to Dance”

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Ginny and John hanging out as brother and sister before meeting up with their dates for the prom.

It’s a great month to create collections of poetry that reflect thresholds in our  lives. Gathering a meaningful collection of quotes or poetry and storing it in a journal or a laptop can become a sacred space or resting place to enter into when you just need to be reminded of those “certain” things that we so often forget- those things that change with the ingredients of time and experience, such as: awkwardness at 13 can lead to elegance at 30, stammering in middle school can evolve into eloquence in graduate school, and a first dance in adolescence can be the doorway into the school of life experience. Here’s a lovely example of this by poet, Charles Fishman. Feel free to sit in the hammock of his words for awhile:

Learning to Dance, 1956

For Marlene Broich

It was the 50s, and all of us

were kids, but you were older—

almost a woman—and you would

teach me to dance. You were

the dark-haired child in a family

of blondes, slightly exotic, wilder,

my best friend’s sister.

In your father’s basement,

you took my hand and showed me

how to hold you—how to hold

a woman. I was fourteen and knew

already how to be awkward. You knew

I was falling into shadows.

When I breathed 
your hair, I was no longer in the forest

but had broken through

to a clearing where tall grasses whispered

and swayed, where white-petalled daisies

and violet clover blossomed in profusion.

You moved me deeper into the music

and made a meadow spring up around me.

Your body showed me that I had strength

to change the moment, if only the quiet

power of a summer breeze . . .

When you said I would be a good dancer,

that I had rhythm

that I could swing,

I held you close: some day,

I would find the one

who would pull me near to her in love,

not mercy; I would dance with her

and learn her secret names.