Twine your work in harmonious union
with the work of this Beautiful World.
Find each other.
Feel your feet rooted to the ground.
Engage minds, hearts, hands.
Plant, water, thank the sun.
Eat together, sing together!
"See the World!" was the theme of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre's 39th Annual MayDay Parade in Minneapolis.
It's an event that never fails to embody story and ritual at their best. And because the MayDay Parade's themes are concerned with journeying, growth, transformation, and the seeking and embodying of the best qualities of the human condition, I have no hesitation in calling it a religious ritual. It feeds my spirit – and the spirits of the hundreds who participate in it and the thousands who line the streets of Bloomington Ave. in south Minneapolis to witness it.
This year's parade took place yesterday, Sunday, May 5, 2013, and enacted an honest, cautionary tale inspired by the Bread and Puppet Theater's street show Hallelujah. It's message is a simple but powerful one:
See the World! When you put fire to the world and when you poison it, the world will cry and the children will die. When you sow seeds on the world, and when you water it and let the sun shine on it, it will grow! And the birds will feed on it, and the children will eat it. And the grandmas and grandpas sing Hallelujah!
As in previous years, I spent time before the parade began walking around its staging area, capturing some wonderful images of people – young and old – as they prepared to be part of what's become a world-famous event. I hope you enjoy the following images as much as I enjoyed taking them, and that you find meaning, hope, and inspiration in both these images and in the snippets of text that I include from the parade program to accompany my photos of the parade!
Scene 1: See the World!
We remember how precious our home is in the vast universe.
We see the Tree of Life joyfully carrying the small ball of Earth surrounded by Stars. The Woods, the Prairie, the Sky, and the River join in the celebration. Your Community Band brings its essential joy to the parade . . .
Scene 2: When You Put Fire to the World and When You Poison It . . .
The labors of our time are pictured vividly. We see our continued complicity in war and violence on our streets; our overuse of fossil fuels with the result of global warming and environmental havoc.
Scene 3: . . . the World Will Cry and the Children Will Die.
Quietly, in the midst of the joyous celebration of MayDay, we simultaneously hold our grief and the vision of a future of health and well-being for our neighborhoods and for the world.
We see the Tree of Life cradling the Wounded Earth. Spirit Beings carry Prayer Staffs that hold prayers for the life of the world offered by MayDay workshop participants. . . . The Tree of Life and all the Spirit Beings are white. White is often associated with purity and light, and in many traditions it is also the color worn in ceremonies to honor the dead, White carries a sense of an open window, of wind, of smoke, of transparent quietness.
Part 4: When You Sow Seeds on the World and When You Put Water on It . . .
Here we celebrate seeds, hope, and gritty yet nurturing labor required in tending to their growth. An incredible force, the seed: such potential inspires a true feeling of awe. But the seed alone doesn't become a tree. In Korea, there is a name for the forces that help the seed to grow. That word translates to wind, cloud, water and lightening.
Deep changes may be slow in coming, as the seed takes time to germinate, but with each planting springs forth the dream of a new beginning.
Part 5: . . . and Let the Sun Shine on It . . .
The children are our greatest joy and promise. Let the laughter come; let the happiness spread from one face to another to another as we celebrate MayDay together! . . .
Part 6: . . . It Will Grow!
Definitions of 'to grow': develop, thrive, change! This is a celebration of constant movement springing up to existence from a source, evolving gradually into being.
The simplest truth is that deep with each of us is a spark, a desire to grow and connect! This is so simple that we sometimes forget that for growth one must allow a thing be itself, to grow in its natural way. Bend to these living beings and whisper, 'grow, grow, grow.'
We are the breath, a wind at work in the world. We are the spinning and the rocking.
We desire connection. We reach up, grow up, grow together as a community. Can we be at one with wild nature? Our work on the planet is the earth's work.
Part 7: And the Birds Will Feed on It, and the Children Will Eat It.
Food is the most basic of our physical needs. The same grain that the birds feed on is transformed by humans into bread. In this way the grain, fruit of the earth, the water, and the sun, connect us to the circle of life and bring us into real community. We honor this community with gratitude, respect and generosity.
In the act of thanksgiving we are all creatures of the world, no matter what our species. Humans, animals, plants, even minerals – with all their inherent potential – are equal in this cycle, and all have a purpose.
Part 8: And the Grandmas and Grandpas Sing Hallelujah!
The grandmas and grandpas, both human and animal, sing hallelujah because they have the wisdom to know the value of joy and gratitude. Life is short. The best thing we can do is find moments of happiness and remember to take in the beauty that surrounds us.
Moose are disappearing from the Minnesota wilderness. The DNR reported a mysterious 35% decline in the moose population from 2012 to 2013. This is a great loss. The Great Great Great Grandpa Moose is a spirited giant of our forests, and a symbol of how we need to live more intentionally. We think of the moose as our ancestor, to remember how we are connected to this creature.
What is our work at this critical time? Are we hospice workers for a dying Earth, or midwives of a new chapter of life on Earth? The process of being with someone who's dying and the process of attending a birth have many features in common. We can only be grateful for this moment, this breath, this incredible capacity to direct our attention. . . . This can be a moment of unparalleled awakening. In this moment we can make a choice for loving life and taking care of each other. In this moment I can honor the ancestors, honor the future beings, honor you, and the beautiful work you are doing.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The End of the World As We Know It . . . – MayDay Parade 2012.
"Uproar!" on the Streets of Minneapolis (Part 1) – MayDay Parade 2010.
"Uproar!" on the Streets of Minneapolis (Part 2) – MayDay Parade 2010.
Getting Started – MayDay Parade 2009 (Part 1).
Celebrating Our Common Treasury – MayDay Parade 2009 (Part 2).
May Day and a "New Bridge" – Mayday Parade 2008.
May Day 2007
The Time is Now . . . – MayDay Parade 2006.
Images: Michael J. Bayly.