2023 Mycelium #11 Egg and Spoon

Saw an egg and spoon race on Friday for the first time in decades. Six and seven year olds lined up in rows and stood eagerly behind a line waiting for their turn to grab a wooden spoon and coloured wooden egg to take their turn when it arrived from the person in front of them to run about 15 metres, turn around and run back to tag their team mate in the relay. I thought, here are all the lessons in life! Taking a turn, persistence and tenacity, holding out in front of you something that sometimes is quite elusive, matching speed, focus and balance, picking up what you are doing when you go off the rails and get back on to it and keeping going, putting your fragile activity down for the next person to pick up and have a go, cheering your team mates on.  I don’t think I had ever noticed before all the lessons in this activity which seems to have been invented in England in the 1890s.(I was reminded of the ancient Aesop fable message from the hare and the tortoise – slow and steady wins the race.)

Gamification of life’s lessons has come a long way over the past century, but one thing seemed consistent and that is you need to keep going, you mostly can pick up where you left off and it really helps if you are in a team, where everyone gets a turn. I was listening to a friend, as we sat on the grass in front of Stage 2 in our annual pilgrimage to WOMADelaide as she relayed a story about her niece being asked, by her parents to find a team sport to experience all the lessons that being in a team will provide. They explored smaller team options like being a doubles partner in tennis through to soccer and netball. There are plenty of ways of being in a team though – dance, debating, in an orchestra or band, and of course my favourite being in a choir.

This week of the year, always promises, and rarely fails to be my happiest week of the year, International Women’s Day, SouthStart and Womadelaide.  For IWD I got to spend it sitting between the Crown Solicitor and the Chancellor of the University of South Australia on the lawns of Government House. Our host was her usual generous and wise self, the welcome from Rosemary Wanganeen was warm and deep, the speaker Sam Moyston AO, gave me goosebumps and inspiration to keep going for another year and the questions from my peers to the speakers were insightful and future focussed. This was surely an egg and spoon event and around every table were smiles and cheers of encouragement, delight at one another’s successes. At my table Australia’s only female fighter pilot took my heart and I thanked her personally for all the times she is literally the only person in the room with an egg.

SouthStart had its usual intoxicating mix of ideas and frustrations. The team that helps hold me in that space and my co-founders at Collab4Good continued with our inculturation of what impact and collaboration really is through voice, soccer, painting, conversation and debate. It was a lot of fun too!  A day at a winery offered up more lessons especially from five young women who are co-CEOs at AIME – a global mentoring and leadership. Eggs in plentiful supply and all the spoons they need from a structured, intentional and imaginative community. And of course Womadelaide – teamwork from disciplines and cultures worldwide, where the evidence of eggs falling off spoons appears in long lines to the toilets and sold out and probably overselling of tickets.  Despite some of these features it is hard for me not to be in awe of the talents and tenacity of others to pull off this event year after year through rains, dust, pandemics and economic troubles.

In the mycelium to deliver these events to me are thousands of others I am eternally grateful; I just turn up. I get to see the wealth of experience, the harvest of effort from having to get up time and time again and bring momentum to a goal and to cheer on the race and the arrive at a destination. All the lessons though don’t come at the end, they come in the doing, in the travelling along the way to get there, to test how to steady yourself and focus, to accept and keep moving when you drop along the way and failure is instruction about what’s not working and to have a go at another way.

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