i went with a friend to an amazing event called salon allison park at the mungo park theatre in kolding. the fabulous young women who work at the theatre got together and decided that in their busy lives, they were missing conversations that weren't of a professional or practical nature. they were missing comparing notes with other women on things of everyday concern, so they decided to stage an event, largely for women (tho' men were welcome too), to talk about the everyday.
but let me back up a second. the theatre where the event took place (tho' it wasn't a play) is named for mungo park, who was a scottish explorer of the african continent. allison was his wife, so the girls found it appropriate to name the salon after her.
i'll admit i had visions of a salon in the french sense - a setting for highly intellectual and philosophical discussions. when we first started, i was feeling a little resentful that because we were a large group of women (and just a handful of brave men), we were reduced to speaking of everyday topics rather than philosophy. my misgivings fell quickly away as we began.
the evening was well-planned. when you came in, you were given a sticker on which to write your name and the answer to a question that was on the back. you weren't allowed to tell anyone what your question was at that point. my question was "what are you good at today?" and i answered "laughing." the question proved to be the method by which we found the first table we should join. we had to go around, reading everyone else's name tags and trying to find those who likely had the same question as ourselves. we were pretty spot on at our table.
then, once we settled in and a bit of bubbly was poured, one of the young women who arranged the evening told a poignant little story of her everyday. she's a freelance theatre director and a graduate student. she lives a chaotic life, without much of a regular schedule. she works long hours and has trouble, like many of us, knowing the difference between work time and time off. with all of our devices and connectivity, we are on all the time. she was expecting her first child and was longing for a life like the one of her childhood, where they lived the same place, picked apples from the same trees and had a regular schedule. she had baked several hundred lovely little homemade tarts with apple and seasonal berries for the evening, as well as tiny delicious meringue kisses and little surprise "lunch packages." it was a beautiful way to share her dream of an everyday.
then it was our turn. there was a little stack of cards on the table, with question prompts about our everyday lives to get us talking. at our table, we were a little hesitant at first, but were soon talking about ex-husbands and lives turned upside down and meaningful jobs and time with children and grandchildren and sick husbands and choices made along the way. we were disappointed when the signal came for the next phase to begin.
the next phase was a quick round, where we were in pairs and each of us had a stack of questions, where we had to answer whether we engaged in an activity out of desire or duty. they were questions like do you say i love you? do you pay taxes? do you celebrate birthdays? do you make dinner? do you laugh at jokes? do you work?
then came the third round, where we came together in a new group, based on a little symbol up in the corner of our name tags. the broad theme of this final round was dreams. there was a stack of ten questions. the first one was are you awake? the second: do you dream? and we started talking about our dreams and our nightmares. and around the time we got to the fifth or sixth question, do you live someone else's dream?, we realized we were discussing the wrong kind of dreams. it was dreams of the hopes and variety. but honestly, i loved the first part of the conversation best, where we talked about the dreams we dream when we're asleep.
there was a great energy in the room. a happy, lively hum of voices. people laughed and were open and seemed delighted to share with strangers. it was decidedly undanish. but it proved that even danes crave interaction with new people and want to share their stories and hear other people's stories. it was very danish that it was all very formalized and it required a whole lot of question prompts to get people started. but once they started, whoa! it really was like a floodgate of bottled up sharing was opened.
if we could get everyone talking about everyday things in line at the grocery store or on the train as well, denmark would be transformed and we might even start to be able to see on people's faces why they come out on top of those happy lists year after year.
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the most beautiful thing you'll see all day. and maybe even all week. possibly even all year.
it's that beautiful.