Tag Archives: dancing

Pasion de la Cocina

7 Mar


Tonight I crave the rice you made,
the grains popping in the singing oil,
musica latina tangled in your hair,
dancing barefoot in the kitchen
amid sizzling clouds of comino y cebolla
and curling swells of culantro
as green and hot as your coyote eyes.
Your caramel lips,
cafe con leche cushions
parted for kissing,
whispered delicious songs
into the fragrant rind of my ear.
Reaching melodious chords
around my waist,
and down my thigh,
sang of stirring the sweetness and heat
of my own beautifulness,
like palming the round of a glass
to warm the spirit,
like rubbing the rim with one wet finger
to hear it sing.


The Note I Wrote

3 Mar



The Note I Wrote


“Spirited away by Latin poets.  Do not send ransom.”

For their ravishment has freed me

from a flat white ironed life,

crisp and starched,

where you once placed me

brim filled with the rapture of carmine fire


only to sit in silent sparkling

alongside the cold silver.




20 Jan



“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…”

“They don’t find it,” I answered.

“And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

“Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

A bowl of Thai soup steams beneath me on a Sunday afternoon after dance. My companion is seated opposite me, someone I’m trying to “be” with. I have a strong emotional connection to him, the depth of which is not reciprocated. Quickly, I am learning with every moment spent, simply being present and enjoying “the now” is quite different from love, even companionate love. I thought I could do it…the just enjoying what “is” when someone isn’t willing or ready for a deeper connection. I’m realizing, though, looking into that soup that there are no rules about relationships. No should, no shouldn’ts. Only behaviors and situations that do or do not fit a person. And the behaviors that have evolved between this person and I in the last four months are more detrimental to my well- being than healing.

“I’m thinking about ending my blog”, I say tentatively. “I don’t do the alone thing by choice anymore; I want my life to be different. . . .it’s already different. I’ve changed.”

“Why end it?” he says. “Just stop posting.”

“But I can’t. That’s like just stopping texting someone without saying a goodbye.”

I don’t reply further, but what I am thinking is  “That just means you’re too chicken shit to say. ‘Gee, I find I don’t really want to communicate with you anymore, or I don’t really have anything left to say.’ So you wimp out and say nothing, thinking to yourself, ‘Maybe someday I’ll want to talk to that person again…maybe he or she will be different. Maybe I’ll need something from him or her. No need to shut a door and create bad feelings. Just let it just ‘be’.”

But it eventually ends doesn’t it? Unless it’s Mercury Retrograde when everybody goes back to something or someone they forgot to say goodbye to. The planet turns back and doubts rise as to whether it’s still standing just inside the open back door, expectant and smiling. Why end something when there is still some basic goodness there?

I stare into my soup, and it suddenly becomes clear to me. And hours later, sitting and listening to music with him unable to show or express what I really feel, all of the dynamic became clear. His constant checking in for a loitering loose hope is the height of selfishness.

The open end.

The open relationship.

The freedom to love whomever, whenever . . .and be grateful they might be happy with someone else and sometimes you, too. Because you “love” them unconditionally.

The “its all LOVE, really, non attachment” bullshit.

It’s fucking selfishness.

Yes, I said fuck on my blog. I ought to have said it more often just as punctuation.

Fuck. There. I said it again.

“I want the person I’m with to feel completely free…. I want to be totally 100% present with everyone I’m with and embrace the moment for what it is fully, but not be entangled.” What this actually means is “I need your attention to boost my ego, as well as many others to do so as well, so I’ll untie our connection every time and let it lie, hoping you will stay there…hoping.”


And yes, we all trawl for stroking to some degree. But I don’t think many people are really so conscious about how the other person in the equation feels about always filling the net.

We all make excuses about why other people don’t fit us. But honestly the true reasons lie within ourselves. It’s not them…it’s never them.

It’s really us.

But we rarely ever tell them why or let them go because we rarely look inward enough to find the real reason inside our own psyches.

I often think closing doors are necessary. It keeps out the cold. It lessens the darkness of absence. It shrinks the feeling that somehow you’ve abandoned yourself by leaving it open indefinitely, waiting to see if a light is coming down the path. Sometimes, giving up hope is the most healing thing you can do for yourself.

So many people seem to have embraced this idea of “the casual relationship”. Not casual dating, which is entirely different. That’s when you spend time with someone, getting to know them in order to figure out whether you want a relationship with them. But a casual relationship? I don’t get it. How do you have a relationship with someone that doesn’t move into emotional attachment? It’s a normal healthy biological thing to attach to someone when you are emotionally intimate and have loving feelings. Babies are built to do it automatically. It’s not neurotic to want to be in an intimate connection with one person and vice versa after a process of sharing and spending time. It doesn’t mean you will never dis-attach, but it does mean that you don’t just ebb in and out like the tide in different lagoons. Being able to drift in and out of connection with someone, even to the point of having intimate physical relations without attaching to them emotionally beyond the moment and to do this indefinitely doesn’t make you some sort of guru…some sort of spiritually enlightened consciousness . What it makes you is a selfish being who has very little love for him or herself. And you can’t truly love someone if you are like that. Love is of the soul and it’s sacred. This goes beyond “religion”.

And selfish people are hard to love. So little love…real love …comes out of them.

Love is not just caring or presence or ephemeral connection meted out in compartmentalized hours. It isn’t just smelling the rose and then walking into another garden to smell the violets, too. Love does have conditions. They are called personal boundaries because loving oneself must come first and it creates the conditions. After all, the rose has its desires, too.

Love doesn’t mean staying with someone who can only give when they choose or under certain optimal instances. Unconditional love for someone doesn’t include losing your dignity. It doesn’t mean ceasing to give to the self in order to serve that portion to others to the point where there is nothing left. Love is abiding, deep and fueled by the abundance of love one has from within. When people have very little self love, they cannot afford to attach to someone, because a requirement of loving attachment is deep giving, often… and without really desiring to do so sometimes. Of course a conscious partner is mindful that he or she cannot take indefinitely, that a beloved’s selfless giving is draining and the mutual and reciprocal nature of love seeks to give back always. It is a dance…not a fucking piggy back ride.

So the casual drifter, the “being in the moment” presence, that doesn’t really require much. It may be  “progressive” and “hip”, but it’s a signal to me that there isn’t much in there to be given. It’s a signal that the type of love I seek, love which mirrors the Divine, doesn’t much dwell there. Now, its lack of presence in a person isn’t good nor bad…it just is. And if I have to be sad about figuring that out…so be it. But at least, I know it when I don’t see it.

And I’ll admit to my own selfishness. I’m not a saint, by any means. This blog space is like someone you go back to, time and again. The “hey, I’ve been thinking about you text” that comes after three months of silence when the last thing you sent was a smiley face. And if one looks at the body of this work as a unified whole, it actually wouldn’t be a fully accurate depiction of my life in the last four years. Is it a fault that I never take time to write in this way about the many happy moments I’ve had? Maybe it is. Do I feel guilty that I’ve gotten lazy and drop my low moments here while savoring my high ones for the telling at lunchtime chats and for my friends and students? Probably. Which is why I hesitate to let others I actually know read these posts. Is it a fault that when I find myself alone and needing an ear, I turn here, to the back door of the house, imagining there is someone standing there with an understanding look and a “There, there. Don’t worry. It’s all going to turn out wonderfully; you’ll see”. Maybe there is something to learn from the casual relationship, the one you only go to when you have little to spend and know you’ll get a discount. And perhaps this is showing me a personal fault on which I need to place my own consciousness.

Real writing and real creativity takes commitment. And maybe that is what I need to find and muster rather than a relationship right now. What really am I committed to?

Do I want to be a published writer? I have no idea. I don’t dream of accolade or money.

Do I want to be an exhibited artist; yes…probably.

Do I want to learn flamenco dancing and perform? Yes, know so.

Do I want a different job, one that inspires me again? Yes, but I have no idea what that might be and I have no funds to buy the hoop that would qualify me to pursue it.

But looking at the soup tells me, maybe deeply loving others is about learning as many ways as possible to show it, starting with myself first. Some soup is not better the second time. Some soup…only I can appreciate.

I have a discarded book of Durer prints and a half finished art piece at present.

I have a DVD, a beloved friend with a guitar, and red nailed flamenco shoes.

I have this blog, and a heart full of words…and you, standing in the back door for whom I do have deep gratitude. Even if you are imaginary.

I promise.

When it is time to say goodbye. . .we’ll both know it.

Or maybe we’ll just stay.

And dance.




By the Gate

31 Jul

I haven’t written anything of consequence in a long while. Maybe its because the end of the school year was filled with a few well placed kicks. Maybe its because I have been trying to come home and I can’t find the last path. Maybe its because I get a bit more lost every summer. So I’ll make this short and a little bittersweet because I see a light on the hill, but it just keeps moving, going dark. A glimpse of it came this summer. I know that I’m definitely at the front gate of a place called home.

Home is not a physical space, nor a person they say. The platitudes of folks obviously not walking with my feet ring of home being “a place inside you”, entirely belonging to you, perhaps a sense of union with the Divine. A spiritual place.

I believe that.

I have felt that.

That’s Love.

The big rushing love of the Divine which lifts the spirit into unity with All.

But it isn’t the home to have on earth. It isn’t a home that sustains a human indefinitely as a loving being all by herself… all on her own. It’s the home one goes to when she dissolves into God’s arms. It’s the home my grandmother so desperately seeks these days. I understand her longing. Her breaths are numbered; her spirit is tired. She longs to be rocked by her own mother again, for eternity. I’m not there yet.

Home on earth lies within a loving intimate human relationship. It belongs to two people with whom that intimacy is mutually shared in a way that is right for them and in a connection that reflects their paths. It doesn’t have to be the same for everyone; it just has to fit. The connection fits them; they dance in it together. They wear the love shoes. They are a pair that belongs. A match.

It’s incredibly hard to find.

Most folks wear ill fitted shoes.

Most folks disregard their favorite pair.

Most folks pretend to like being barefoot enough to not complain of chill, nor remain too long on hot sand.

Our feet are the most precious part of us, the most vulnerable. This is why we wash them for each other as a sign of empathy and love. We kiss them in submission; we surrender in unconditional love before them. Perhaps the suffering is what gets us there.  To a place where we let out the breath and give in to the unknown. To a place where we can see love when it walks toward us unshod.  A human connection of where we go at the end toward the Divine.

Home is the place of comfort, contentment…rightness.

Here on earth, I don’t believe it’s a solo venture. Facebook memes have it all wrong. Screw Pinterest platitudes. I want to shake Elephant Journal writers and ask them how they can prescribe what should or shouldn’t be for all of us when shoes that fit are as varied as the stars in the purple indigo  of night over the deepest of green oceans. When they are living the life I’m living, walking without shoes that fit, THEN they get to tell me how to live.

Don’t tell me I just have to love myself. I do

. . .AND I want to share that as well.

Don’t tell me home is a place inside me that the Divine fills beyond measure. I KNOW that

. . .but does a brown robe come with it?

Don’t tell me to stop wanting to find something outside myself, that everything inside me is fulfilling enough.

I AM a whole self, should I not engage and enjoy the world in all its sensual glory? With others?

Home is not a place of solitude, otherwise dying soldiers would not cry out for their mothers. Home is the place of ultimate love and ease, of acceptance, a place where the sleep that was slept in childhood lets a person lie hip to hip with a beloved in unconsciousness. It is the breath breathed together in lovemaking. It is co-creative , the synchronicity of heartbeat which comes seconds after looking deeply into a beloved’s eyes. It’s in the mystery of chemistry that snares one DNA strand at a time. Unexplainable, often confusing, terrifying but worth every conscious moment.

That it actually scientifically happens is proof. We are made to be in union with one another. It’s only when we stop dancing that the music ends. Like dancers, we can only be with one another in conscious movement. It’s wordless, this language goes back to our human beginnings in touch and energy. I’m not saying we don’t have issues that mess us up. Like Oprah says. “e’r body got issues”. But I think I have to stop looking at issues as needing fixing. Rather they may just need healing and some cannot be healed alone. If I wait to fix all my shit before I engage another human, I’ll die before I live. The language of this type of love engages mind and spirit with the body. Like the Trinity, this union requires all three.

I have been working on this series of color prints all spring and summer. In April, I became angry at a “masculine” Universe. I had told God, “Enough”. Deserving a shoe that fits shouldn’t be this hard. After all,  like a shoe, love is pretty simple. I deserve ones that truly fit me. So I talked to Mary. It seemed easier. Mothers understand when you have problems of the heart. And soon the image of Mary Magdalen bloomed in my consciousness, a human woman who loved a human man. . . who was also god. And he returned her love as human but also as a sacred being. This is what I believe. I am convinced of it. In the end she was forced to sacrifice him because he sacrificed himself.

But he truly sacrificed her, too. It isn’t all about him. They were partners in a divine dance. I cannot separate the bride from the bridegroom. I will not separate the human from the divine. It is all we have here in our breathing body walking. We must honor this oneness the best way we can.

I haven’t finished her feet. . .but the last few steps will come.

I learned what home is this summer, what it feels like. And now I must find how to open the gate, discern the path, and recognize who will be there at the door to welcome me in.

I’m ready to come home. It’s been years. It’s time.

Dance Card

10 May


Singing and vacuuming,

Mommy is dancing with the Electrolux.

She carries the cord

in great lasso loops in her left,

the carpet attachment

like a tiny bottom trawler in the right.

They dance the brown berber

back and forth,

rapture gathering within the clink of motes.

Her voice crests over

a high metallic unwinding whine.

The plug has popped out.

The attachment drops to the deck

in front of the stereo.

After selecting a new

scratchy popping

of needle on the groove,

she grabs my hand,

slips her low arm to

dance me round the room,

“I’ll be there…. “


turning me into

a rhythm,

her eyes are like black diamonds,

her laugh

like the blooming of a thousand birds of paradise,

hot and orange and open;

her smile is an archipelago sky.

“Darling …Reach out…come on girl…reach out to me”


arms a tangle,

she casts me off.

I’m breathless

like the Electrolux.

Dancing into the hall

she’s singing singing. . .

her siren self.

Beautiful dark haired mommy,

a most lovely island entire.

Funny waifish mer-mater

like a shock of iced whisky

flooded with two seconds after sweetness

a sailor’s soul floats in the love of you

for you are . . .

still there.



5 Feb

Down the dim hallway toward the dance studio I trod, a chubby six year old in black leotard and tights. At the time, I had no consciousness of my body other than a vague unease. There were foods I wasn’t allowed to eat. There were clothes that didn’t fit. There were rules. My mother’s hovering and persistent directive, “Suck in your stomach”, taught me that something was not right about my body. Being “me” was not okay, in a body that was not right and which certainly didn’t belong to me but to her. At six years old, I understood these precepts intuitively, under the landscape of my growing mind. Over the years that followed to self-consciousness, rejection of the body as it was, through each stage, was the norm. My mother obviously despised her own physicality and attempting to control my body was a way to control and calm feelings about her own body- hatred.

But I was only six. I was just. . . . me.

Miss Mona’s School of Dance was a long respected dance establishment in Roanoke and every Thursday at 6 pm I’d put on my black leotard, black tights and those small leather slippers that weren’t the shoes I’d read about in the library book from school, the red ones with the laces and hard toes like small hard cups wrapped in satin. I would gaze at the portraits of the ballerinas in the plate glass window at Miss Mona’s, their long arms and long legs lifted in grace and arching white. Tiny pointed pink feet, ankles bound in ribbons, short flowing dresses or fluffy sparkling tutus. The curve of their thighs in arabesque were like the edges of a taught bow, their arms like giant wings trailing dark feathers of space like ravens against the deep summer sky. Ballerinas were “big girls”, 12 maybe 13. It seemed to me then that becoming a ballerina was what happened when one grew up and in some instinctive way I suppose it came to symbolize a right of passage. The becoming of a woman meant donning hard toed shoes and launching into open flight.

I can remember the piano at Miss Mona’s like a hundred hammers on bells, the clanging refrain as I walked across a smooth wooden dance floor toward a small group of girls. Lyrical line after line of “Meet Me in St Louis. . .Louis” was the only unifying cadence within the wild clackety clacks, squeals and laughter from the room hidden from view of the barre. Behind the blue accordion partition, staccato smacks peppered with laughter rolled over the quiet of the ballet room. That day I stood in barre class with other tinier girls, their leotards bunching at their little bums, tights folding in creases at their knees. So small their ballet clothes lay about them like skin on a baby elephant. But mine were tight…stretched, like a seal’s skin ready to burst.

I didn’t know. I was just. . . .me.

But Miss Mona, the ginger haired matriarch of the barre awakened me. She stood, leaning heavily on her cane as she eyed me from the sideline. “You are too big to be a ballerina. We need to talk about tap class for you.” Listening to the girls next door, the class I eventually attended rather than ballet, I can’t recall feeling anything. No sadness or disappointment. I accepted the judgment of adults as Truth. It just was.

Too big to be a ballerina.

Too big.

When Miss Mona died in 2006, my mother gave me her obituary from the newspaper and I carried it in my wallet for nearly three years for no other reason, but that I just couldn’t bring myself to remove it.

I loved her.
I hated her.
This woman who was the mistress of the barre, of sublime body perfection.

This woman who owned the secrets of flight.

They say the body has its own tale to tell. That memories begin to store in our very cells from before we are born. Muscle and cell memory, the body is a complex consciousness all its own. It operates beyond our control in tandem with the environment without much need for a pilot. And in over many years, I have worked to own this frame of mine, to claim it, to come to love it, to treat it with compassion. This journey in part has been about transforming the outer strength I built early on into inner strength of mind and spirit. And so it is no surprise to me that inner expression, which first began in the written voice of Beloved, moved into art and now finally into dance. As I look back, many times in which I connected to music, I danced into my higher self. No one dancing with me…. a joyful moving meditative prayer to the Universe.

During Lenten traveling this past spring, I stumbled upon a unique dance group in Charlottesville. The 5Rhythms method created by Gabrielle Roth offers expression and healing, spiritual enlightenment and oneness through free form dance. Conscious dancers move to patterns of music designed in “waves”, each one making a unique musical narrative arch. The invitation for the dancer is to move in the body’s unique voice to express the inner drama. It allows the body to tell its story and to be “seen” and from that revealing to be “heard”. But heard by the conscious self. The narrative is experienced as a separate voice. What story is my body telling, this alien thing my consciousness rides around in? That question has been pressing me. . .hard. In yoga class, every posture which opens the heart or my hips has been intensely uncomfortable in more ways than the physical. I’m very fit, but my flexibility has reached a limit. I rise daily feeling like a living rug burn. The muscles refuse to listen, so I decided I had to learn to hear them instead. I have to learn how to listen to my own body’s story. And it has volumes to tell.

A week ago, as a part of the 21 Days of Love, I attended my first conscious dance session. Feeling quite uneasy, I entered the Fry Spring Beach Club in Charlottesville and immediately tensed from the interior cold. The heat is low in preparation for ninety minutes of constant movement. Reluctantly, I peeled off layer upon layer, like the years that have passed since the days of Miss Mona’s studio. I felt shy, intensely awkward. . .for the first time in many years. However, stepping out into the low lights, I became quickly aware of the sacred safety of this environment. All come here to engage in healing or enlightenment. It isn’t a competition or a show. One can remain alone or engage with others; there is total freedom from judgment. The invitation is to connect to the rhythms of the musical wave, and let the body sing.


Standing, arms folded against the cold on the edge of the great ballroom floor, my first moves were spontaneous: the positions.

First …slide to second. Third, my favorite…and then a slide out to fourth.

Not brave enough for fifth yet and feeling pretentious, I began simple stretches and to slide a bit. But, a surprise ronde de jambe became the introduction to the next ninety minutes. One must be barefoot for grounding, and by the time I left the studio, I had danced blood blisters onto the bottoms of my toes. From the outside, an onlooker might think we had all taken mind altering drugs and were moving through whatever state of consciousness a psychotropic substance had awakened. (Basically, a bunch of “New Agey” white folk flailing about in semi rhythmic abandon.) But, my body voice is passionate and emotive, despite its intense fear of turning inward and completely letting go in front of absolute strangers. I found a bent bow within me that came absolutely and powerfully unstrung, so much so that I injured a leg muscle pretty severely. Balance, I learned has more than one meaning in this case. The musical pieces, which comprised the beginning of the first wave, elicited a wall of palpable energy from me. Brick on brick, a perimeter of stone was laid around my raw self and then at the wave’s height, behind it, I became bare to the core.

My unique personal narrative erupted into verse and refrain, singing as easy as breathing. My mind cannot structure it; I struggle now to find words to even describe. Sense memory returns to the ballet room, the movements somehow executed effortlessly in my current physical state. For now, I am tall and lean. . .strong. But the body also remembers other pages …

of curiosity…

of ambiguity…

of love…

of sex…

of joy…

of grief and loss

of the Infinite.

Dancing what I never knew existed within me, one song pushed forth scratching and clawing into the air in rhythmic anger like a tigress. Lost within another pulsing refrain my wrists twined, wrapped in memories of a lost love. A waltz took me into a ballroom many years ago where I learned to trust enough to let a beloved lead. At the denouement of another song, my shoulders reversed to cover my heart, chin brushing the bareness of my shoulders, as if I held myself in my own arms. At one point I was a tightrope walker, balancing the invisible wire of change. And I wanted to leap from it and soar. The desire for balance evaporated in the furnace of inner fire. . .only in movement could the enormity of my emotion be set free.

A story doesn’t makes it path known until the soles meet the smoothness of the floor, but then the frame bends and fluctuates like the pines in the winter wind. A whole memoir of the body is sorted into tales and in the telling, an awareness comes of being lit inward like a tiny candle. We live inside our rational consciousness for so long, seeing our bodies separate from our self concepts. The reflective surface of culture encourages us to tell ourselves a body “truth”, but the authentic story within is already there. And this body, which is tinier than our souls must be carried by it, so we must come to love it, this instrument of our earthly being.

This type of dancing reduces me to my most surrendered point…the point of birth…the point of fear ..the point of allowing…the point of joy…the oneness that is at heart of all. It is the fullest expression of intimacy with the higher self that I have found. I understand Rumi so much more now, his whirling and whirling into oneness of the Divine.

I left the session spent, an exorcism of the past danced out in a dimly lit ballroom in the dark cold of a winter January night. And next week I will return, to turn and turn again in the telling of a tale I have yet to hear, and from which  to hopefully gain more insight.

Two -Toned

4 Feb

Tangled barlines,
cacophonous fingers
coil the pearl rose lip of my ear,
slowly sliding the scale
past curls,
tossing the twirls
of ginger copper and brass.
An undulate tone
wraps round my shoulders,
and fringes my lower spine.

What is this fretted frame I feel,

warming a sonorous G
from the outside toward the in,
finer than fine?

Crisp collared,
he glides
on oxford soles
cordovan and cream.
The bar gleams
with gin and lemon
and whiskies neat.
A brushed cymbal
pursues ice
in a crystal glass
toward the tinkling

into a melting mood.
Strokes of muted trumpet
roll around my rump
perched on a pin striped lap,
sharing a single seat.

In and out
of tensile tone,
the warbling wave
sends me into love
with myself.
Not him.

But how would he know?

Why would I ever tell him?


30 May

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“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” — J.M. Barrie

Hippies. Nature folk. Rasta. The Fae …however one would want to label them,  Neverlandish dreadheaded, colorfully clothed children in adult bodies came out in droves at Roosterwalk with only one common goal: living life moment by moment fully connected to the music and to the natural world.

After reflecting on my own three days in nature, albeit car camping, I can understand why they tend to live the way they do. Right now, Virginia is vivid vibrant green, soaked to the seams in rain and humidless sunshine. The air is packed with the perfume of life, fragrances I never really noticed before. Wafts of honeysuckle cloud move in warm drifts through the trees and tall grass, the flowers cast a veil  all around their wet nodding heads; the hay spread over mud mixes into a nutty earthiness which rises up from the ground as from a dark dough. Before this weekend, I didn’t really comprehend the value of fresh air before, of breathing with the plants in the elements, fully allowing the air and wet earth to engage with my own body. The value of an open window didn’t strike me as important as it does now. Sleeping in forty degrees and waking to sunshine and cows calling at dawn changes a person’s perspective. Simple exposure, reveals the Self. The weather changes so quickly that one HAS to be in the moment. I’d go down to a tank top and then in two hours, four layers, a sweater and mitts were standard attire.

These folk who travel festival to festival, live quite naturally. This urge to bind within a spiritual harmony of sorts…to nomadically drift, giving hostage to fortune and being completely who one is without shame is admirable. The sense of doing without the trappings of material culture is somehow appealing to me of late because to own an American life means to be tied to a great deal of nothingness. When a fire, a divorce, or an employment pause can take one to the brink of what seems to be the loss of everything, this way of letting go can seem the only way to understand that life and the Self are the greatest possessions the Universe loans us, for they are just as impermanent as the rest. In mud, tree, and moon, I found I just didn’t care anymore. This weekend changed me. When I was hungry, I ate. Body functions pretty naturally took care of themselves and I didn’t worry about brushing my hair or really wearing more than protective cosmetics against the sun. These people and experience in the elements taught me the real meaning of comfort versus necessity.

A group of free spirits erected a geodesic dome near my campsite, inside of which they hung a silk swing like Cirque du Soleil ala SWVa. I never traversed the field of mud to see inside it, but the laughter of children rang out from the white pendulum inside all Saturday evening.  I discovered that this troupe was  scheduled to perform fire dancing alongside the main band both evenings. Their Saturday night performance was most elaborate, each vignette a dramatic story of personified emotion. I was reminded of medieval morality plays, their characters, an allegory of the human experience. The dancers’ pantomime interpreted the tone of the music rather than song lyrics. Their small globes of fire left bright furrows of arching light and smoke in my eye. Likewise, colorfully lit hula hoops were spun by others in a ballet all weekend. Old or young, male or female, hoop dancing along the sides of the stages occurred spontaneously, some dancers so fluid and lithe the performance seemed choreographed.

One particular dancer caught my eye; a young blonde lad would mysteriously appear and then either dance or grab a hoop, and move in toward the music like a low rolling cloud, letting the wave of inspiration take and turn him in the airy surge. Every time he moved, the languid sinuousness of his body was beyond envy, his expressiveness a pure visual delight. But, as soon as my camera would begin to record, like sea foam he would let the wave pull him out into the ocean of others and the tide would calm. A lesson in his transitory performances revealed to me that this type of physical art, born of the moment and of human response to the symbolic isn’t to be kept or recorded, but merely witnessed. Like the Tibetan sand mandala the creative process and expression is the true beauty and revelation in the act.

Saturday night, several girls in faerie costume and wings flitted about the crowd, dancing together with a few lads in beach towel capes. Their playful innocence assured me that my own enjoyment of child’s play is not odd or in vain. Simply put, we were born awake and we still hear the call of creative abandon. Glow-in-the-dark bracelets were tossed about the crowd, several making their way into balloons to be batted around among the lot of us. A lad with a laser lit them up as they floated and glowed green like little eggs from Wonderland. Tiny pin points from his wand broke the leaves of the trees into shards of living light. In the midst of this playfulness, a point arrived where the dancing I had been drawn into all weekend, changed.

I let go.

I didn’t care who saw me or what they thought. I moved how my body wanted to move. That letting go created an openness in me but also, now that I think back, a vulnerability. To physically express so publicly opens a person to judgment of what is most precious within. It is still an intimate act to invite eyes into that sort of artistic baring of Self. And perhaps what I learned is that in areas of creativity, that which we fear to put to public view shows us our own vulnerabilities. For me, it is my body. And to express physically is something I know I need to do more in order to grow. Even though a gentleman behind me approached me after Yarn’s rendition of Simon’s Late in the Evening, thanking me for dancing, I was slightly embarrassed and instantly apologetic.

He laughed loudly. Don’t apologize! I’m complementing you.

Can I learn to simply say thank you as with the other forms of creativity in which I engage?

In the days that have followed this festival, I have dreamed in images of green rushing trees and banjos. Beloved is speaking again, mostly in poetry that I can’t wake up enough to catch. She left me with this line early yesterday morning.

In leaves and seasons, so it is with the music of the world.

And I think this means to keep moving…to turn and turn again, like the circular swaying of the hooper, like the swinging arc of the fire dancer’s flame. In the ballet of the symbolic, we turn like the earth, singing its song, leaping between this world and Neverland.

But Saturday, I Didn’t Care

13 Mar

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Some days are a perfect chain of events likecrystal beads on a long strand around my neck, having so many facets it’s hard to pick the sparkles. And in the speckles of light, all one can really do is sit back and watch the play, the starry arch of a day unfolding. Hours are lengthening now, warm light lingering around in the breeze. And in its wake, as Shakespeare says, come thronging soft and delicate desires.

This weekend was full of such wonderfulness that I don’t know where to begin or how to sort. Part of me thinks, “Why bother to craft this word- hoard, to tease out the connective tissues of the experience. Why not just say, Here’s what I did…here’s how it felt…here, let me show you that the world is so big sometimes you can’t get your arms around it all.” Perhaps I should just say, “I laughed. I drank. I ate. I sang. I danced”. And the only thing that could have made it better would have been arriving home to something I’m really not willing to discuss publicly, but let’s just say that the day’s events didn’t make it any better. It’s spring and its incipient wantoness is beginning to set me on’t. So gentle reader, I’m about to go down a path of no return. It might be personal; it may be titillating; it may lead you to wonder. I’ll just tell the story because Saturday, I just didn’t care.

It snowed heavily up in the valley this week, but the warm spring turning was melting it quickly. Water ran the road and the rocky mountainside on my way to Staunton, VA. I stopped the car so many times to snap a photo, hopped out in an outfit that is the epitome of my quirk: black jodphurs and ankle boots, black suede vest, double poet’s shirts with high ruffled necks and large billowy sleeves, strands of beads jingling about my neck. At one point, someone actually thought I was part of the American Shakespeare Theater, my main activity for the day. Since Ocracoke, I barely brush my hair anymore. It dries in wild crinkle- curled whisps and I dress in contrasting layers of color and era out of the Goodwill and consignment shops. Beads, vintage hats, fringe, feathers and scarves decorate me like some rag tag tousled gypsy. This wildness mixed with a mild hedonism has spread over me like a crazy quilt. My stitches, all come loose. But Saturday, I didn’t care, so I wore what expresses this wild beauty that has taken residence in my spirit.

The first event of the day was at Blackfriar’s Playhouse to see Wycherly’s The Country Wife, a naughty comedy of manners from the 17th century. I laughed at his farcical take on the sexual and romantic appetites of men and women. This hilarious romp was bawdy and bad and several times I laughed way too loud to have been seated on my gallant’s stool on stage in plain view. But Saturday, I didn’t care and so I laughed anyway, hooted and snickered and giggled at every dirty joke. I raised my eyebrow, put my hand over my mouth, didn’t stop to worry when the crowd missed the nuance of language. I was totally absorbed, the words so beautiful, so elaborate, so juicy that they made me squirm. Upon entering, the cast was already performing saucy songs of a more modern ilk, Prince’s Kiss being one of them, sung by a gentlemen clothed in one of the most alluring eras of men’s haberdashery. Yes, this lass is all about some frock coats, ruffled shirts, and button front breeches. First thought? Uh oh, I am so in trouble. Ces pantalons dangereuses. And for me the witticisms, quips, and rakish wordplay is just as provoking as the costume. The art of intellectual coyness has been lost in the modern age, much to my dismay. As much as Wycherly focuses in on the husband as cuckhold and the wife as baggage, he balances it with the pretty young wench as mistress and handsome rake as “china” to be plundered. Through all, one thought remained clear: both men and women have the same desires, and use whatever means necessary to meet them. It’s as much about power as it is about physical desire. As Lady Fidget says, “we women of quality never think we have china enough” ….Amen, sister.

I shopped after the play, first stopping at a chocolatier. Normally, I do not indulge, but Saturday, I didn’t care. I lusted over Bailey’s truffles, chocolate dipped candied ginger, white chocolate bark and gold dusted Gran Marnier bits of lusciousness. The Cocoa Mill was filled with the thick rich smell of it and resisting the tiny tidbits was nearly impossible. I refrained, until spying the chocolate dipped apricots lolling obscenely about on their crystal cake plate. They begged. I withdrew. But it was Saturday and I didn’t care, so I bought one and promptly devoured its sticky sweet fruitishness on the spot. Among the shops, I strolled. My first conquest a new journal, Celtic knot heart on the cover, declaring “Walk this World with Hearts on Fire”. It will hold the next few months of the road.

My afternoon amble through the town ended at Ox Eye Vineyards tasting room. That is when the next temptation arrived and it wasn’t just the wine. A quite handsome gentleman tended the tasting flights; engaging him in conversation was required. Yes!


There’s that moment, you know that moment, before talking to someone you are so physically attracted to you find it hard to form a thought. That pre-conversation mind racing where you breathe slowly and pray, “Please God, don’t let me sound like an idiot. Because I’m melting already and may just end up saying something like: Hi, I’m a rutabaga and its nice to meet you too…or Oh.my.god, you are the most gorgeous thing I’ve seen in months and I’d really like to see your…. china.” I’ll stop right there; you get the picture. But Saturday, I didn’t care, so I smiled charmingly while sipping and thought about …things…. and enjoyed the view …. and then the wine…a lot. Sigh. Okay, enough.

Dinner came at sunset, a beautiful orange spreading over the blue mountains like silk on fire. Zynodoa, a locavore’s paradise, was my dining destination. Sitting in my usual bar spot, I enjoyed more Ox Eye Riesling along with two small plates, a salad of butter lettuces, black eye peas, fried onions and pancetta with buttermilk dressing and a flash fried flounder on papardelle over pureed cauliflower with sautéed wild mushrooms on the side. I won’t tempt you with the description of the flavors, but needless to say the sinful savory and sweet, softness and bite had my eyes rolling back in my head. Zynodoa’s food is ah-mazing, the atmosphere close, dim, intimate and inviting. I’ll be back, often.

Debating whether to go to Byers Street Bistro for music, I checked in with Clarence in the back seat. Mr. Sleepy yawned, “Go ahead Mom. It’s Saturday. . . I don’t care.” So I drove down three blocks and popped into a raucous college bar to hear 3/5 of Maybe Tomorrow play some acoustic sets, late 80’s through aughties pop and dance tunes. Even though it didn’t seem to be my sort of venue at first, I slowly began to blend after the music started. I swear if you call out anything these guys know it, and play it well. When they hit “Love is What I Got”, “Save Tonight” and “Two Princes”, up onto the tiny dance floor I went and then the stairs. After set one, I was feeling so fine and the crowd was as well by observing the dance floor. Despite the time change and long drive home, this Cinderella stayed well past midnight. So. I know you’re wondering…did I drop my slipper?

I laughed. I drank. I ate. I sang. I danced.

But I kept my shoes on.

Cause it was Saturday and I didn’t care.

Turn on the Red Light

1 Mar


 The body is an instrument which only gives off music when it is used as a body. Always an orchestra, and just as music traverses walls, so sensuality traverses the body and reaches up to ecstasy –Anais Nin

Remember me vowing to just put it all out there? Well, this last Saturday’s adventure in Richmond did just that,  metaphorically anyway. How do I write about my minor obsession with neo-burlesque without creating assumptions about my morality or sexual preference? How am I to be appropriately delicate and yet tell the story of the body, for that’s really what this intense love of the tease is all about.

Confession: I have had a long torrid love affair with my body.

Ugly and beautiful, fat and thin, tortured and free, my physical form and expression has been a life long challenge. Without too much revealing, let’s just say I have finally tangoed this frame into a comfortable space, and currently I’m resting until the next passionate onslaught. Saturday night, though, I finally witnessed the next move in resolving this push me ~ pull you battle in reclaiming my own flesh.

Last spring was the beginning of my interest in 40’s/50’s style burlesque after seeing the documentary, A Wink and a Smile. Don’t ask why I decided it would be a good way to spend a Netflix Saturday night, but this story of a Seattle burlesque school totally challenges the concept of the sexual power dynamic between men and women. My idol soon became Vienna LaRouge, one of the most beautifully clad (and unclad) women I think I’ve ever seen. While watching her performance on film, I was captivated first by her gorgeously layered green silk and Chantilly lace costume with its enormous wide brim hat. As an accomplished historical costumer, she creates all her stage clothing. Secondly, however, the structure and elegance of her movements and form are what changed my perceptions about what most people consider “stripping”. While she indeed was peeling off her clothing, the style is about NOT revealing. And it was very much different from the pornographic pole swinging, booty shaking, 10 inch plastic heel wearing lap dancing into which I had pigeon holed all such endeavors. More importantly, I listened to the audience. At one point, a man called out in what almost sounded like pain. I thought, who has the power here? And that juxtaposition of sexuality and power became a conversation my head which has not stopped since.  This is something I needed to find out about and the only way was by. . .gulp…taking it off myself, I thought.

After Internet searches revealed the closest burlesque lessons had been in Richmond and the Institute now closed, I decided to see some shows, then  if classes were really something I wanted to pursue, the search would continue. Last May, Pretty Things Peep Show was my first introduction to the world of sideshow burlesque. Loved it! Every spangled naughty minute of it. But, in this little notch of the bible belt, there isn’t much loosening going on, in public anyway. So nearly a year later when I found out about the Richmond Burlesque Review at Gallery 5, nothing could stop me from attending.

Hosted by a rather relaxed, but racy Ms. Ophelia Derrière and her sidekick Delilah (her own slightly bumptious back end), the performances were everything I had imagined. Her character is one I immediately adored. By societies’ standards, she is not the perfect body type by far, but she is one of the most sexy women I have ever encountered, reminding me of Mae West, a woman who is sexually pragmatic and yet quite comfortable in her own skin. Her persona fits her like the lace bra and tap pant set she wore under an open feathered silk robe. Anyone who can take a dimpled 44-ish inch posterior end, bare it completely and shake it in an “ass off” with fellow friend and boylesque performer, Chris Chaos, has a most enviable self-esteem. I found myself wishing to be that physically self assured. That gal, has sass and Delilah knows it and it’s no show…it’s real.

The sheer creative range of performances was what was most amazing, each act having its own character and tone. From Pandora Von Kit’s dramatic dances to Chris Chaos’ boylesque gender bending showstopper, each performance revealed a completely unique physical and sexual expression. Acts ranged from the quite demure Ziegfeld-esque feather fan dancing of The Garter Snaps to the leather laced Betty Page stylings of Deepa du Jour. The venue is perfect, too. Gallery 5’s space is close and intimate, colorful and eclectic and features a full bar for those in need of a little liquid encouragement. The stage is small and the production not about scenery or a preponderance of props. It’s all about artist, costume and imagination.

Several performers really moved me, but the finale with Pandora Von Kit literally dropped my jaw in awe.  When she emerged onto the stage in a black velvet robe, black platform stilettos and blue bi-level hair shining in the stage lights, the scene was automatically set for drama. Pandora danced to Jose Feliciano’s Tango de Roxanne from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. She is classically trained as a dancer, so it made little difference that she was also removing clothing as she did so. Her expression was in tandem with the music, becoming Roxanne, the woman in the night. And the story she told was one of desire and yearning and shame. Breaking free from laces…a release of passion into the night streets…an emotional baring of desire for a lover who was not present, but obviously with her. We gave her a standing ovation. She earned it. And my first thought was, I want to do that…. I so want to learn to do that.

One caveat quickly became clear during the evening: it doesn’t matter how a person’s body is shaped, big or small, tight or loose, obese or athletic, female or male, all form is celebrated in neo-burlesque. ALL bodies are beautiful. There was a singular absence of judgment. Laughing occurred at jokes, not at the expense of someone’s performing or bareness. All sexual preferences were honored. I could scarcely catch my breath after laughing at a rousing audience participation in sexual position Simon Says with three couples (straight, lesbian, and gay). And suddenly it struck me, this is part of being human. We deny that we are sexual beings a lot of the time and complicate our most basic of human needs and expressions. Our explorations of self in the physical realm become encumbered with social and moral assumptions and restraint. And then expressions become repressions, taking a dangerous and often damaging residence within. I’ve seen others, especially in local culture, be so damaged by should’s and shouldn’ts, being physically and emotionally shamed into silence. Neo-burlesque goes beyond entertainment to me. Its part of empowering the self.

I’ll be going back to the Richmond scene at the end of May for the Virginia Burlesque Review. And maybe I’ll take a class or two….and then, I’ll see how this conversation continues.

Richmond Institute of Burlesque: https://www.facebook.com/RichmondBurlesque

Gallery 5: http://gallery5arts.org/newsitedesign/

Trailer for A Wink and a Smile: (warning: mature audiences )     http://winkthemovie.com/

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