It’s been nearly a year since we found the space, and in that time I have watched it transform from a tiny, sweet thing in my head and heart into the most amazing place I have ever been.
I puzzle over what exactly makes it so magical. And why does it smell so good?
Then I boggle over all the rituals, traditions, customs and stories that come together to make something the way it is.
How once that something is a thing, it continues to generate more customs, more traditions.
Why is this night different from all other nights?*
This week we’re on Rally (Rally!) and it’s the ninth Rally, so as you might imagine, we have all sorts of Rally customs that have emerged from previous rallies.
Inevitably we expand on these customs or change them. Some of these have become ritualized and set, and some become increasingly baroque, in the way of things.
* Sorry, obscure reference! See? Traditions!
And new customs are born each Rally. Each day, even.
Like yesterday when Darcy wore the flouncy floofy pirate skirt to lunch at a restaurant.
It became immediately apparent to all of us that taking things from the Costumery and wearing them out to lunch is an absolutely lovely way to bring more of Rally into the parts of our day that aren’t at the Playground.
I’m pretty sure you’ll see me this afternoon brandishing a cutlass and wearing a tiara at one of the food carts. See? Like that. It just sort of happens.
Or tonight at the wine and cheese evening (a tradition started by Jessica at the last Shiva Nata teacher training and cemented at Rally #6), we’ll be having a mini show-and-tell. I can see how that might stick too.
Who knows. By Rally #10, it might just be what we do. And it will get more interesting each time.
We have traditions about monsters and sunglasses and blanket forts.
And none of this is prescriptive. It’s not about expectations of how you need to be.
It’s never this: “Okay, so this is how you have to do things.”
It’s more like this: “We kind of have this tradition of moving the fairy door around. You don’t have to do it. It’s just a thing that happens a lot.”
Customs and ritual work like code. They’re shorthand. They carry the qualities of Playground culture:
Who keeps the culture?
The biggest difference between the culture of Rally and the culture of say, a city, is that no one lives at the Playground. There isn’t continuity in the same way.
The Playground is an island. And empty one, except for me and Selma.
Of course since so many people do multiple Rallies, it often happens that at any given Rally we have experienced Rallions.
I think at the current Rally there are at least two people who have already rallied.
But it won’t always happen, which means that part of my role is to be the keeper of the culture. The curator, in a way.
I can’t keep it all in my head. And that’s not the way culture works, anyway.
So I put some pieces in the PLUM (the Playground User Manual). And I have a version of the Book of Me that is a Book of Playground.
I don’t ever want the culture of Rally or of the Playground to be about expectations. I don’t want people to worry about how to be or what to do. I want the culture to hold everyone in safety, permission and amnesty.
That’s what it’s there for.
Something kind of funny. Funny-unlikely.
Yesterday at Rally I was looking for something and happened on some notes from a class I taught at my Kitchen Table program.
Notes about this thing that is culture. And it was so perfect.
Here’s what I had said, and forgotten:
Culture is all the stories that come together to create a feel for the whole.
Culture gets stronger through being tested.
Culture is subtle. It lives in your business cards, in your systems and policies, in how your space works (even if people can’t see it).
Culture is an accumulation of you-ness.
Culture creates and solves all problems.
Culture is transmitted through many things. Know your beacons.
If I were queen of an island, what would that island be like?
Door and doors.
We have this very charming fairy door at the Playground. You can see it on the contact page, of all places.
Which kind of implies that the best way to contact us is through the fairies, not sure if that’s a good idea or not.
And it’s become a thing at the Playground that whenever you see it, you move it. To a different wall or a different room or on top of a lamp or next to a treasure chest.
It sounds kind of stupid but it’s highly entertaining. And then each room ends up feeling slightly different at any given time because there’s a door or not a door, and it’s always not where you expect it.
Now we have a second fairy door, because Lisa brought us one. It’s pink! And it doesn’t get moved around at all ever.
New traditions have already sprung up around it, as they do.
People bring little decorations to the pink door.
The pink door came with tiny rainboots and a bucket with a tiny key. Now there are little plants next to the door. And a ladybug and some tiny pebbles.
And someone promised to bring a footbridge. See? It’s crazy.
When I think about my business, and the past nearly six years, I think a lot about the beautiful things that have been accidents or surprises.
Who knew that the Friday Chicken would still be going strong after nearly three years (we haven’t missed a week and this is the 146th week…)?
We’d never have built a Refueling Station at the Playground if it hadn’t been for Crankypants McGrumblebug’s Kvetchtastic Whine Bar at the Kitchen Table.
Traditions are funny that way.
Funny and endlessly fascinating.
You plant culture in the form of love, trust, hope, gwishing and so on.
And then you see what you get, based on what it interacts with.
Play with me? And comment zen for today.
It’s a hard and complicated adventure growing a business. Or running a blog. Or doing any form of working on your stuff.
And documenting the culture of your business, or your art or your internal world is a really hard practice, because it’s so close that it’s hard to see. And because we have pain and grief about what isn’t the way we want it to be.
So this stuff can be hard.
It can also be really useful.
If you want to invent customs and rituals with me, you are welcome. And if you want to think out loud about this thing that is culture, that works too.
As always, we all have our stuff. We let other people have their stuff. And we don’t give each other advice unless people ask.
Love. And cutlasses!