The Southeastern Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute., in Radford, VA. It’s a week of Unitarian Universalists eating, playing, laughing, learning, and worshiping together at Radford University, a small liberal arts college in the mountains of western Virginia.
After two full days, we’re starting to find our SUUSI groove, and we’re having a blast. My younger found his first, which was no small surprise to me. He’s my wild card, and submerging into a group of over a thousand people, several hundred of them children, was not easy for him. He’s toast at the end of the day (he’s shunned all after dinner activities so far, pleading exhaustion), but he’s being about as social as he can be, sharing dinner with crowds without hiding behind a book.
My older is a bit more circumspect about the event. While fourteen year olds are encouraged to try out the well-supervised teen dorm for the week, he preferred to stay with his brother and I. Other young teens make the same choice, he’s found, but it makes it harder to meet other kids his own age. Day two’s been better than day one. A kayaking trip with teens provided afternoon entertainment and contact with other young people. My rather conservative (for a UU) son is a bit wary of the more, um, obvious SUUSI teens. They’re large (compared to his 75 lb frame) and often flamboyant. e claims to be too civil for that crowd, causing me to muse about his definition of that word. I understand his concerns, but I’m glad to see him warming to the event.
I’m warming, too. While there are a dozen or so of us from our home church with whom I’m sharing meals and walks across campus, I’ve met a handful of folks new to me in our wing of the dorm. Conversation over coffee or wine (depending on the hour) with new companions goes a long way into increasing my comfort in what is otherwise an often overwhelming event.
I’ve kept my schedule light, anticipating my need to have some time alone (this is NOT an introvert’s paradise) and aware that my kids are likely to need me, given all the stimulation of this place (the introvert gene was dominant in our family). I’ve attended two sessions so far. The first netted me a handful of henna tattoos, including an Om on my ankle, a Yin Yang on one arm, and a Chalice on the other. I adore henna but (as one of my patient classmates can attest) have no skill applying it. Thus another career door is closed.
This afternoon, I attended a Mantra Yoga class. As I’ve written here previously, I’ve explored Hindu mantra in its call-and-response form several times over the past year. This was my first time experiencing it with yoga. Most of my yoga experience is also over the past year, with a class last summer reigniting my memories of the yoga my mother taught me as a child. I’ve kept up with some since then, but I’d call it more of rescue medicine than spiritual practice. I’ve found some yoga to relieve the recurring neck and back pain and some newer running-induced knee pain, although I’m sure using it preventively would be far more effective than my use of it as an adjunct to ibuprofen. Now and then I muster a more substantial and holistic approach, but I’ve not yet made it a regular part of my life.
Back to the Mantra Yoga class. I enjoy yoga and mantra, and I did enjoy them together. However, I don’t multitask well, and remembering a short mantra or a series of yoga poses challenges me sufficiently. I was afraid remembering a chant WHILE doing yoga would reduce me to incoherent babbling in a knot of arms and legs. To my surprise, pairing the chant with the movement made both easier to remember and was quite relaxing and energizing at the same time. I’d like to repeat that experience, too, and I’m likely to find more success than with the application of henna.
SUUSI offers opportunities for activity in nature as well. The boys and I opened our first day in Radford with a silent hike through some local falls. We managed to maintain a suitable level of silence (or at least kept the whispers from the ears of those with stronger internal controls) while thoroughly enjoying the hike. The boys have separate trips with age mates, and we’ll all travel together to a historical site and a chocolate factory at the end of the week.
There’s plenty we haven’t done as well. The nightlife is rich, I’m told, although I’m pretty much dorm-bound after dinner, given my younger’s exhaustion. I’ve yet to attend a worship service, but have high hopes to manage that tomorrow. I have caught some music in the afternoons, including Brother Sun today. They have an astounding amount of talent and are well worth a listen. If I can coax my younger into it, [perhaps we’ll explore more of the evening music scene later this week.
So we’re here. At SUUSI. And while we’re a bit overwhelmed and I’m sure barely scratching the surface of available events, we’re finding our way. And, oh yeah. We’re having fun.