First rite of passage: the language of symbols

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Japanese “Girl Day” doll balancing the buckets of life.

I found her on Ebay and she was absolutely beautiful. A Japanese “Girl’s Day” doll, bearing the face of a sweet child while hefting two watery buckets. She looked like a silken interpretation of the scales of justice. The doll was managing both youth and adulthood as well as balancing both beauty and hard work, all on her kimono-graced shoulders.

That’s her. I thought. That doll is my daughter at 14. Young. Determined. And yet, trying to figure out her life still blushing with the pink hues of childhood. I knew that when choosing this special gift, it painted a picture, created a symbol, of where she might be right now in her life. I also kept in mind when looking for that special something, her great admiration for all things Japanese. I knew this would be a winner.

On the day of the rite of passage event, along with the girl doll, there were also other symbols that gestured toward my daughter’s own uniqueness and the theme of “coming of age”: a collection of beads to string together “the stars and moons” of her life, a candle moving from room to room to gently reminding us all of the ongoing presence of light in our lives, and a swath of diaphanous fabrics draping around shelves and furniture, subtley nudging us toward thoughts of mystery.

A well-given, or well-placed symbol is a thing of beauty. It does not demand explanation, but when given, it brings rich layers of meaning into its form, shape, presence. The small acts of placing thoughtful gifts of your own awareness into the path of others, are offerings that are deep and lasting.

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Beads to string the “moon and stars” of your life.

First rite of passage: unwrapping the gifts of mentorship

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Sharon and Ginny amused with a question in the “room of blessing”.

I wholeheartedly believe that in the world of those who live and those who learn, every person has something to offer. There are value-laden opportunities in almost every conversation and around nearly every corner. Mentoring isn’t just about sitting under the bodhi tree of wisdom, it’s also about sharing vulnerable stories about adolescent crushes, demonstrating how to replace a chain on a bicycle, or teaching a kid to cook broccoli. According to dictionary.com, a mentor is really just a “wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Someone who has something to contribute. Someone worthy of trust in a given area, whether it’s quilting or quantum physics.

So in the spirit of mentorship, in preparation for this first rite of passage, I had an assignment for each participant: fill a 4 x 2 inch wooden thrift store Chinese herb drawer with as much wisdom as you can. You can do it with objects, pictures, symbols, words, trinkets, whatever you want, but just make sure each item represents to you something of value to teach Ginny about womanhood.

Simple. Anyone could fill a 4 inch box. Simple, but ultimately, extremely profound. Only each individual could fill a 4 inch box with themselves- the wisdom, insight, enlightenment, and creativity that comes from that singly unique soul. Every stone explained, every word expanded upon, every trinket from today or time past would open up Ginny’s world into the wisdom and inspiration of one soul’s walk on the edges and main thoroughfares of womanhood and humanity. And in doing that, I knew that mentorship could be contained within the perimeter of the palm of a hand, but also leave indelible lifelines.

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the simple, but incredible magical, Chinese herb chest