The circle’s a little lopsided and we’ve all dragged over mismatched chairs. We’re here at the camp in the woods to make stuff. To get away from the noise of a school building and fifteen emails an hour. Students signed up, pitched us any sort of creative project, made a plan, and got cracking. We’re here now having an evening conversation about art and creating and they’ve got to sit and listen to me talk about improv. I’m not an expert here. I’ve just seen it a few dozen times, but that’s not saying much. I read aloud the Tina Fey thing about the rules of improv, and the most important one is yes, and. You’ve heard about this—improv’s no fun if you reject your partner’s suggestion or point out their mistake, or if you only agree with what they say and don’t add anything interesting. You have to say yes and you have to say and.
did you make copies of the song book?
have you seen ben?
I make them try an improv game. I expect they’ll hate it because it’s something I would hate if a teacher made me do it. To my surprise I hear lots of “yessss” when I say the game is called “Freeze.” I explain it wrong because of the not an expert thing. But they’re way ahead of me in skill and willingness and open-minded attitude, so I guess I’m old and crotchety now.
did you draw that freehand?!
I’ll probably be the last to know
No one says until it shows, see how it is
They want you or they don’t
– elliott smith
Things don’t happen when you say no. A wise man called Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.” I know this, deep down. But yes is hard. I try to get around saying yes by just making sure I don’t say no. And then I try to get around saying no by saying okay, but. I’m an okay, but kind of girl. Your list of twenty goals for twenty-twenty? Okay, but. It’s due next week and you’re almost done? Okay, but. It costs how much? Okay, but. I call this realism or practicality, but it’s dangerously close to cynicism.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
You’re not supposed to say yes to everything these days. I know. Self care. Only do what fills you. Empty buckets yada yada. But like all pendulums, I do worry it’ll swing too far. That we’ll retreat into our candlelit hygge bedrooms and draw the curtains and self care ourselves to boredom. Did we forget that yes doesn’t have to mean busy? Yes can mean creative. Yes can mean together. Yes can mean tell me more.
can i sit here?
can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
It’s a dangerous lifestyle, this yes. We can say it off the cuff, without thinking. And it’s unpredictable. There’s no telling what might happen when you say it. Sometimes yes, I’ll read your article and comment on it becomes so when are we going to submit this to The New Yorker? Or yes, I’ll watch your suitcase while you go to the bathroom becomes you’re under arrest. But if we’re resolving anything this year, I think it might do us well to say yes.
do you want coffee or tea?
where’s the milk?
how did that log burn from the inside out?
do you can you should we?
Oh, teach me in each moment
of every Now to know that
You are Here in all my
wandering and the Yes in
all my wondering and the Love
in nothing less than everything.
– meister eckhart
Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.