Synergy and Signs

debaseinstallPersonal Reflections

When a small child, I thought that success spelled happiness. I was wrong, happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights us for one brief moment, but soon flits away–Anna Pavlova 

If you have a whimsical side or even a spiritual side and an open your mind, you might like me, believe in signs. A song comes on the radio during that one thought, signaling to you to go with “it” or in the middle of that thought where you are questioning direction, a butterfly lands next to you as if someone from far away is saying, “It’s o.k. I’m here and everything will all work out.”  I have a tendency to pay attention to signs; numbers, songs, smells, etc. I sometimes ask for signs. They come in one of two ways usually. In the form of a song or the form of a butterfly. Now before you think that I’m some crazy lady with 14 cats and a crystal ball in every room, I just believe that there are forces greater than ourselves looking out for us who have the bigger picture in mind and who only want the best for us. (I actually believe more in signs and less in cats, but that’s another story.)
I was thinking today about synergy and how we use it interchangeably in our activity. In the summer and fall, synergy is often used to describe the coordination between the sections on the field. In winter, it’s often referred to in regards to the equipment as it works in tandem with the body. It can come to mean a lot of things depending on when or where you use it. When I go to a show, I am always aware of the synergistic qualities that brought everyone together in that one place for the opportunity to experience art as it merges with sport. If you think about it, the inner workings of a drum corps or guard show require a lot of people working in perfect harmony with each other for months in advance. For the five minutes a high school freshmen gets to perform on the floor, dozens if not hundreds of people have been working behind the scenes for that singular opportunity for her to perform in front of a crowd. If you think for just a second about the immense amount of work that goes into preparation from the band boosters fundraising to judges being booked months in advance to designers planning the show a season ahead, it’s a pretty daunting process to consider. Any given show day requires planning and coordination between multiple entities and people well before the first note is played. It’s synergistic. In synergy, one can’t work without the other and it takes instructors, parents, contest staff, judges, and volunteers to seamlessly pull off the perfect day.
Synergy though, is more than a show day and going back to my opening paragraph about signs, I believe that synergy is also at play years if not decades in advance of any one day we step into a gym or on a football field. I find it fascinating. You become friends with someone and throughout multiple conversations you realize that you have been in the same place over and over again, but never saw each other…or did you? In our activity, thousands of people come together in one single day, oftentimes without the thought of the others around them passing by each other in corridors and in the stands. Warm up and critique. The performer might not meet the judge for ten years and then one day will be sitting next to them judging a show together as colleagues. The first year high school performer watches her first world guard and a dozen years later is teaching with the world performer she once admired when she was wide eyed and youthful. That’s how I met Ron. He was a State Street rifle and I was a dandelion. He was Heaven and Hell and I was a seed pollinating the dandelion. True story. When I saw State Street in prelims at the Pensacola Regional, in a time when WGI didn’t host a thousand regional’s a year, I just had to see the rifle line warm up for finals. So that’s what I did. I grabbed my best friend and watched State Street…no Ron…warm up for finals. I didn’t know it then, but I would be teaching with him, living with him, fighting with him, crying with him, and laughing with him just a mere 9 years later. When I think about that night, I think about the signs that were probably all around me to wake up to the fact that I was about to meet one of my closest friends. Interestingly enough, I haven’t seen the high school friend from that night in over 25 years, but have been friends with Ron for over 21.
Recently I’ve been thinking about friendship. Facebook has done something wonderful for our activity. It brought us together in ways we never could have imagined. When before all we knew about each other was the guard a person marched or drum corps they taught, now we know about their children and careers and heartaches and joy. We are now living with each other as opposed to just competing with each other. The synergy that has been created through our collective understanding is nothing more to me…than a small miracle. When I meet someone from the activity, I now think, “Where have we met before this?” What arena or football stadium? What were you doing? What was I doing? How far back does this friendship really go?
After the season is over, I do what many probably do and reflect on the successes and failures. I evaluate my performance as an instructor and judge, but also as colleague and friend. I look at the activity at what went right and what we could do better. I also think about the combined efforts of all involved and how hard everyone worked. When we sit around at headquarters in Dayton on Saturday night drinking our cocktails and beer, I feel that’s it’s just so much more than the end of an amazing weekend of winter guard, but the symbiosis of a lifetime of moments when we all stood in the same place lacking an awareness of the other’s presence. When you watch the 1996 video of the guard ‘Everybody’ perform their famous Peacock show in Dayton, you can see the guard I was teaching, ‘Shaktai’ standing in the tunnel waiting to perform. When I think back to that night, all I remember is wanting to beat the peacocks. I wasn’t aware that on staff were two friends I would end up teaching with 9 years later and sharing our lives across the miles. On a hot summer day in September in 2001, I stood in front of the Alliance of Miami for the first time to run a basics block for auditions. Standing in that basics block was a person I barely knew. His name was Mike and he was 10 years younger than I. About 10 years later he would be with me holding my hand during one of my darkest hours. Without knowing it, stepping into a gym in Miami changed my life forever.

We never know who we will meet when we step into a gym or football stadium and as I think about the signs that probably swirl around us telling us to pay attention, I’m reminded of the butterfly. Butterflies are deep representations of the rebirth of life. From the cocoon comes the beauty signaling transformation and hope. As my mind closes out another winter season and awaits the start of drum corps shows I’m anxious to see, I can’t help but wonder who crossed my path in the Dayton Marriot or UD Arena, who I’ll be having a drink with ten years from now asking the questions, “Do you remember the first time we met?”

As my final winter guard blog post comes to a close, I want to tell all of you, the friends I love and friends I have yet to meet to have a fantastic summer and I’ll see you in the lightness and playfulness of the butterflies of summer.