Year of the Sheep... or Goat?
My dragon shadow puppet was a big hit a couple years ago, when we celebrated the Year of the Dragon.
But this is the Year of the Sheep, or is it The Goat? There seemed to be some confusion, so we went straight to focusing on chopsticks.
I had 4 groups this year and I only had one person who refused to attempt the task of picking up "yarn noodles" with the wooden sticks. Dot, just shook her head like I was crazy. "Now what are we gonna do that for!" She hooted with her Louisiana accent.
"Because it's a whole lot of fun!" I teased back. Dot cracks me up. She rolls her eyes at half the things I attempt to share. I usually agree with her that my ideas and "experiments" are often sort of ridiculous. "But sometimes you just have to take a risk Dot and not worry about looking silly! You might end up laughing!" Dot, still refused, but she did end up laughing... at us.
It was funny to see all the techniques we came up with. Mr. Davis even gave it a try and he is totally blind. Margaret had no idea what this was all about, but she carefully, one by one, draped each yarn strand over the chopstick and seemed quite pleased.
We had two-handed attempts and a couple, who barely have use of their hands anymore, were determined and successful. For some, the activity became an exercise, for others it was just something whacky to do while we chatted and warmed up to one another.
Chopsticks for Music!
While we had the chopsticks out, I shared a song I used to do with my own kids. The chopsticks became rhythm instruments as we sang about tea and rice and finally fortune cookies. Dot, who does love a little music, suddenly was happy to pick up those sticks and join in! I rewarded all efforts with fortune cookies and we shared our fortunes and agreed, they need to come up with better ones!
We did a lot of wondering about all the uses for a gong. Some had seen gongs in symphonies. A few imagined how they might be used in ceremonies. Kathy remembered seeing a gong being used to end intermission at the theatre
We had some fun taking turns with the gong. Since our cookie fortunes had been so lame, I invited everyone to hit the gong and create their own good fortune for the new year.
I told everyone, it could be like wishing on birthday candles. But instead of making a wish and blowing, we could think up a fortune or wish and then strike the gong. Some like the spotlight and verbalizing their thoughts and others are less comfortable sharing. I assured, "You can keep it a secret, just like when you blow out candles!"
It was a treat watching the care Mr. Davis took as he reached out to find the gong with his hands. Since he can't see, he held metal edge, then aimed with the soft mallet. He taught us all a quick lesson about vibration, when his strike made a thud against the gong. He let go of the gong for his second try and managed to hit the bull's eye! The smile on his face matched the perfect and pure sound of the vibrating metal!
Fortunes and Wishes
Ken struck the gong and wished "Good wealth and health to us all!" Dot kept her thought a secret. Maria wished that her eyesight would return and dear Joyce spoke softly, "I wish my son would get his life turned around."
Good health and love for family, were the most popular shared thoughts.
And the Sound?
Even my loudest group got quiet and thoughtful as we took turns. It was surprising to see how focused each group became as they noticed that everyone had their own style of striking the gong. It became clear there was no right or wrong way with this group and they seemed to appreciate each other's sounds and thoughts, sometimes even applauding. "Oh, she made a beautiful sound! Did you hear how long it lasted!" It was sweet to see how they supported each other.
A Special Visitor
With my last group I shared one small tile from my grandmother's old mahjong game. We were looking at the tile when a young doctor entered our room to check on a resident.
She noticed all the stuff on our table and asked what we were doing. It turned out, the doctor was from China and she was so delighted to see us celebrating her culture. She had a hard time pulling herself away as she l got caught up looking through the photos and books and props. We took advantage and asked her a few questions.
What Did I (we) Learn?
I had to chuckle at what we learned from our surprise guest when we asked, "So is it the year of the goat or sheep?" She told us "both", which annoyed Dot, who grew up on a farm. The doctor explained that the year of "Yang" means goat, sheep or ram, depending on what area you are from.
There. Now we know!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.