Creative Expressions, Art Therapy Blog

“journeys” sand tray

This week the theme was on our “journey.” We started out by reading the poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver to set the mood for our group.

Mary Oliver
The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver

Then very simply, we asked everyone to use markers and paper to illustrate their journey in some way.

After spending just a few minutes on that, we passed out the sand tray material. We use round planters, sand, and toys that our staff has collected for years. It includes figures of people (of many ethnicities and capabilities, shapes and sizes), disney characters, animals, monsters, structures, fake plants and flowers, cars, toy soldiers, fences, bridges, and more. They are sorted by type into tubs, which are put out on the table for people to get up and move around and take what calls to them.
We asked everyone to use these items to create a picture in their sand tray of a point in their journey. We then spent the majority of the time asking people to tell us their stories and processing them.

Questions we may ask:

If you could title your sand tray, what would it be?
What emotion comes up when you look at your tray?
Who does that (character) represent?
What do you notice when you look at your tray?
If you could press play and have them come to life, what would they be saying to each other?

We also may make observations about the spacial relationship different items have to each other, how full or sparse the tray is, and what obstacles appear to be in the way

Themes that came up this week:
Obstacles, reality testing, waiting, dreams and how to reach them, goal setting, the role children play, relationships, feeling alone.

A big part of this group was inviting other group members to make observations about each other’s sand trays. This was a way that we brought an otherwise pretty individual activity to the group.

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