Drawing the Circle: a ritual meditation on ‘community’

Every summer, I would go to the eastern entrance to the campus, and I would begin to draw the circle.

Walking to the front arch, I would stand there with the great lawn at my back, facing where the sun would rise, and consider the element of air: the mind | intellect | breath | inspiration | creative breakthroughs | beginnings.  I would invoke all these attributes for the children who were heading my way.

I would walk to the north side of the campus and consider the element of earth: concreteness | stability | the body.  The fact that I was facing the student health center added another invocation: Please don’t let us have any broken bones this summer.  (It rarely worked.)

Around to the west side, facing down the broad avenue that would soon bring families who were entrusting their children to us, with my back to the fountain, I considered the element of water: love | hope | fear | dreams | change | ebb | flow | gateway.

On the south side, with the Fine Arts building behind me, I would consider the element of fire: energy  | passion | determination | transformation | peak experiences.

Finally, I made my return to the front entrance and finished my meditation.  The circle was now drawn.

This was the Magic Square.  And into it we invited 700 of Georgia’s brightest, most talented, funniest high school students.  For six weeks they lived out all the attributes of the elements—and more—and created a community, one that ebbed and flowed and transformed them into something more, something that would remain with them for the rest of their lives.

And then we sent them home.  We exiled them.  We broke the circle and dissolved the Magic Square and broke their hearts.

One summer, on the last day, after most students had gone, a viola player who had formed an attachment to me found me as I walked across campus.  With tears streaming down her face, she asked, “Will we ever have this again?”

“Yes,” I told her, but I didn’t want to lie to her.  “Yes, it’s possible, but it’s very hard—and you have to make it happen.”

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created at an InterPlay “performance jam,” Dec 8, 2014

 

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