To Draw a Circle

It’s a stunningly Carolina blue afternoon, the day between Christmas and my birthday, and I’ve been lucky enough to grab an hour’s hoop practice in the parking lot beneath the huge blue water tower.  The mild, sweet climate (so unlike New York at the moment!) and a couple days’ rest with family made my movement feel intensely fresh and alive.

This past weekend with my brilliant colleagues in the New York Flow Show–some of the most dynamic engines of the flow arts community–reattuned my awareness to the uniqueness of the community we share.  As implausible as it may seem, there is something about spinning things that brings you together into a particular spherespace where time unfolds at a pleasantly navigable pace and the world of things makes a new kind of sense.  It’s a special community space that not only reflects inclusivity–the capacity to contain all–in its very iconography (the circle, the sphere) but also embodies this principle in ways that amaze me as they emerge, and inspire me to keep reaching within myself to practice the arts most important to our survival as human beings: patience and tolerance.

This month, a soul-warpingly horrific event changed all of us. The morning after the shooting, my first very conscious thought–before I even remembered where I was or what had happened–was a vision of the principal flying through the air, her hands raised and utterly empty, trying to take down the gunman.

The same newly-sharp crack that then divided the nation also runs through the spin community.  We certainly don’t all see the same path towards preserving our security and humanity as we move into the next era.  The days and weeks following the shooting, some of us discovered for the first time–thanks to social media–how different our visions really are.  And yet, we were able (if not all the time, then the dramatically vast majority of it) to share our different views, to speak openly and I would even say nakedly to one another about our divergent beliefs.   Whoever needs the hoop, finds the hoop.  And that could be anyone.

Every holiday, I sit down–as many of you do–for delicious meals and warm laughs with family and old friends who might have voted or even heartily campaigned opposite me in every election of our lives.   The circle of the year swings around, fittingly, with the containment of opposites–not only possible, but sometimes all the sweeter.  Because if we lose the capacity to break bread with those we can’t agree with, then the world–by which we always mean the world of humanity–is lost too.

I was raised Presbyterian until I was 7.  At that point my dad joined the Unitarian Church.  The Unitarians can be awfully short on dogma–which was particularly true in this fledgling congregation in 1977 in North Carolina–so for quite some time I had no idea what this church represented or believed.  I just drew pictures, sang songs, and played with the other kids.  But one Sunday school lesson sticks with me:  we were learning about all the major religious symbols the world over.  There was the cross, of course, and the Om, the Star of David, and the Star and Crescent.  Containing them all was the Unitarian symbol:  the Circle of Oneness.  I remember thinking at the time, “Yeah!  THAT’S what I believe!  The Circle of Oneness.”  It was the only one that made them all count.

I’m lucky that my life led me back to the circle.  Because I truly do honor and feel expressions of faith all around me, everywhere I go.  I do believe that each of us deserves some respite from wrestling with the tyranny of our own thoughts, and that that place of rest must be of one’s own choosing.

And there are always those who are trying to draw the circle ever wider.  Enlarging the common space.  May I remember how much has been sacrificed, by how many, in the quest to preserve political and spiritual civility.   May I practice what I can, on any scale, no matter how small.


by Grace Rockafellow


About annhumphreys

I travel and teach hoopdance as a movement meditation. Yes, I mean meditative movement with a hula-hoop. The hoop can playfully and gently bring anyone into their embodied center and open the world of dance and creative expression. My greatest joy is to witness this blossoming in my classes and workshops.
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