Green Man Visits Adelphi Friends Meeting

Green Man arrived barefoot and crowned with leaves on Adelphi (Md.) Meeting’s sloping lawn under a blue sky. He approached the circle of 30 children and adults cautiously. His puppet friend Mantis was on his right hand. The two communicated in a language older than words. As they approached the circle, children’s eyes were drawn to Mantis as he pulled down a branch of a locust tree to catch the honeyed scent of its white blossom. The children gradually approached Green Man with curiosity. His silence, his companion, and his sense of wonder at the world around him drew the children into his orbit.

Beth Anderson, a First-day school teacher, urged the children to show Green Man their grounds so that he might know where on Earth he had arrived. Since he did not speak, she encouraged them to find other ways to communicate with him. Then she announced that after exploring the grounds, they would gather to hold a "Council of Beings."

The children excitedly beckoned their visitor to come and see their favorite spots. Green Man moved tenderly. His bare feet, thin fingers, and his whole body kept sensing the Earth about him, not unlike Mantis with his delicate antenna. The children led him to a wooded place at the edge of the lawn. The trees there shaded bare ground and provided cover for their play. Green Man spotted a small patch of moss by a tree and lay down to place his head upon its pillow. Jenny tried explaining to Green Man that moss grew on the north side of trees, but her words were lost on him. The children led Green Man along a secret path above a steep slope where a tangle of trees, shrubs, and vines hid the street below. Eagerness to show the visitor the mysteries of the grounds drew some kids ahead, but others lagged behind Green Man because they were concerned how his bare feet were managing over the roots and stones on the path. As children discovered Green Man’s fascination with vegetation, they filled his hands with dandelions, azalea blossoms, and whatever botanical curiosities they could find. He happily munched upon the wild onion grass they fed him by hand. They crossed over the lawn to show him the vegetable and memorial gardens. They pointed out the newly turned soil of the raised vegetable beds, next to their playground. They then led him to a gently landscaped memorial garden that featured a stone circle where the names of three deceased Friends were carved in rough stone. Green Man traced his fingers along the chiseled names, while the children watched him and chattered.

AFM had invited Green Man to visit their First-day school, and in the week before his visit the teachers had talked with the children about their guest. Teachers asked the children: "What in nature upon the meeting grounds calls to you? Is there some living thing/being for which you could speak? What message might that living thing/being bring to humans?"

Now that Green Man had seen the meeting grounds, they prepared for the Council of Beings. Tables had been set up with materials to make masks, pictures, or to create costumes. The children were asked to take some time to think about that part of nature that they wanted to represent and "give voice to" at the Council. How could they become that creature or element in nature that called to them? Once they had decided who/what they would represent, they created their own mask, prop, or picture.

The representatives assembled themselves on the lawn in a circle around Green Man and waited in silence. Beth asked those assembled to introduce themselves to the Council. "I’m fly," announced fiveyear- old Isabel. "I fly from place to place," she said as her hand zigzagged through the crisp air. "If you kill all of me there won’t be any flies left!"

Sean, four years old, also spoke with authority: "I am trees, plants, and leaves. Don’t cut me down for you will lose my beauty."

Isaac, a 14-year-old redheaded boy who wore a pink-feathered boa around his neck, introduced himself: "I am flamingo, I am fabulous."

In the center of the circle Green Man and Mantis listened intently to each being, frequently responding to each other in that language older than words as each Council member spoke. In the next round, Council members shared their concerns. Ian, a teenaged boy, swayed slowly so that the sheer white material draped over his shoulder flowed.

"I am wind," he said, "and I am forced to carry the foul scents that human industries make."

A seven-year-old girl held a picture of a cloud before her face as she spoke out: "The human’s pollution makes me cough and spoils my rain." Jenny, a nine-year-old, brought her concern for local birds. She gestured to the image of a Baltimore Oriole on her baseball hat. "I am a bird and I make my nest in the limbs of trees. I lose my young when trees are cut down." A man at the Council represented the Emperor penguin fathers who courageously guard their young in the face of melting ice.

Honey bee, bat, sun, cherry tree, and a Lomax tree (from Dr. Seuss) all expressed concerns about human activities that threatened their existence.

In the last round the Council members were invited to share their gifts. The Council is held in hopes that the humans might listen and accept the unique gifts all beings bring. If humans were to heed the concerns and advice from the Council, life for all beings could improve. Cloud shared her gift: "Look up into the sky! I bring you everchanging beauty."

One father in the group represented all mammal mothers (on this Mother’s Day). "Mother mammals’ gift is to bear their young alive, to suckle and care for them for a prolonged period," he said as he cradled his young daughter in his lap.

To close the Council all the beings stood and held hands in silence. Those beings who wished to bring their concerns to the meetings were invited to do so, and Green Man was invited to join them. But he was hesitant to go inside, so Jenny took his hand and showed him how to climb the steps into meeting.

After meeting ended, Green Man broke his silence in order to speak with the adults of meeting. Now the children were excited to know that Green Man could talk with them. Jenny knelt on the grass and talked with Green Man while adults gathered again. Jenny presented Mantis with a leaf hat she had made and carefully pulled its antenna through the holes in the hat. Mantis now had a hat that resembled Green Man’s foliate headdress. As Green Man departed Adelphi’s grounds, he was delighted to discover two girls perched high up in the branches of a magnolia tree. They appeared to be in conversation with the tree as well as with each other. Green Man felt hopeful that this meeting community would be able to address some of the heavy concerns brought to the Council, especially if they listened to the voices of their First-day children.
This performance of Green Man took place in May 2009.

Tom Goodridge

Tom Goodridge , who performs Green Man, is a member of Morningside (N.Y.) Meeting and is a longtime member of Friends in Unity with Nature.