Tag Archives: music

The Blue Rose Apron

19 Apr

 

When she smiles,

suddenly, I am a child

circling the Sunday dinner table

taking orders for dessert.

“With or without ice cream, sir?” I ask Grandpa,

penciling lines I imagine

a waitress might write.

Soon, she serves crystal cut bowls full of cobbler

like blackberries kissed by diamonds,

steaming and syrupy sweet,

cool white rivers of melting cream

mixing purple then blue

like the roses on her apron

as she bend around to hand me a spoon.

 

I notice her hands,

worn smooth as a lucky coin

while she fries chicken in a big black skillet.

Sizzling clouds of pepper and fat

mix with the back door breeze

billowing her blue rose apron.

I’m fifteen.

I cross the kitchen,

not too cool to sit on a corner stool,

the last one Grandpa made,

but my knees rise high

like a cricket held too close for comfort.

And suddenly,

I am tall.

Suddenly, she is ever so

small.

 

She plays the upright Richmond piano,

my teething marks still on the bench,

And in each line

of heartbreak and Patsy Cline

I feel so crazy.

I am so lonely.

Into the pocket of her blue rose apron,

I reach for tissues layered with Windsong,

her low alto inside the ringing tones

against the storm of tears

from this heart, so far from home.

She knows this type of leaving,

this type of loving,

too sweet, too beautiful

to hold for long.

 

Time suspends me at seven

upon entering the lilac coolness of her room.

I lie across her bed,

my feet on muslin pillows spotted yellow and blue,

my face to the open window’s summer breeze,

lined with tears and truth.

On its hook in the closet,

a blue rose apron rests among clothes

too dear now for anyone else’s wearing.

Listen.

The pause between bees wings and a bluebird’s echoing call

is the silence where you hear her,

her spirit, her smile,

now light,

now air.

 

 

Ollie Ruth Mullins Beard

12-09-1920  — 4-13-2017

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.

 

Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars

3 Feb

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“Corcovado”

Two seconds before

the wild wind exhales

through the woods

an uncarded woolen weave

of green bramble and bush

into indigo evening,

to touch the tops

of the tall August grass,

their whispering tips

like a tickling fringe

of hair

brushing the back

of the coming night,

shivering into freckles of light

that dapple the skin of the sky

to whisper

mi corazon.

Only this,

a breathing breast of

blood and bone

can match

its silent heaving

still beating.

 

 

Retrograde

20 Jan

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“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.”

Selfishness.

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.

 

 

 

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…. “

Spinning,

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”

Swinging,

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.

 

Blackbird

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.

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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.

In the Morning Dew

31 Oct

On August 7, 2014 I had the opportunity to see Warren Haynes and the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration in Charlottesville, Virginia. In the middle of his rendition of “In the Morning Dew”, Beloved spoke.

Arching above,

deepening blue eddies of night breeze

around rivulets of sound,

comes a call

into the morning dew

wrapped in green glass light

like the tiny flecks of murano gold

swirling inside a Tuscan morning.

 

Crescendo symphony,

a collective wave of stardust and melody

rolls around my hip to spine

like the velvet curving of a cat’s tail

around a dreaming child’s pale foot

open to the innocent air.

 

Inspiration,

a quickening

like ebbing water,

pulling,

pulling,

back and back

the strings of

bass and verse,

harmony high and clarion beam

building the soaring

surge that begs

for flight.

 

Arms lifting

along the body’s line,

stretching up the measured notes,

my soul leaps to glide

in weightless tone.

Before the laughing fall

into a vast green

swell of all,

a juxtaposed surprise appears

against familiar refrain.

 

In the morning dew,

I saw you,

there too.

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,
weighty,
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?

Walk On

19 Jul

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If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. — Joe Campbell

It’s July 19.

Two months have passed since preparations began for my first camping music festival, Roosterwalk.  Time has literally evaporated. In the last few days, thoughts to my writing routine have elbowed their way through the crowd of scattered road details to stand before me in irritated, slightly fearful anticipation. When will you write of the road again, lass? You have many stories to tell. Get to it before they stack like unbound brick only to topple over into a pile of dusty rubble.  Since January, it seemed I was writing my way out of something, the words leading me toward a meadow of summer travel. My vision of what the meadow would be is altogether different than what I found.

The meadow is wide. The flowers, in profusion. Each one is a beautiful tale to be shared. How to arrange them so you can see all the amazing truth and revelation, disappointment and apprehension I have had in eight short weeks? In May, I relished the thought of that meadow, having hours in the morning to clickety-clack away and time, lots of time to push away the urgency of the road, to “be”. But as most of us know, the path never leads where one thinks. And I’m suffering from a huge bout of lost words. It’s not writer’s block. I can write. But my passion to write review of the road has slowed. I need a muse, and the one which propelled me for months, I chose to send back into the forest. There is only so much yearning one can endure. For to me, the essence of the passion to write is a yearning for something, for someone, for a way of negotiating and reforming reality in the mind so that life meaning can be made. Muses pull the red iron blood of creativity, their energy like a lightning staff begging a strike by the flash of inspiration, but then again, they can also suck the body dry. Like a hissing Medusa, a moment happens when the blood runs stone cold and the artist awakens to the slavery of passionate pursuit. A moment finally arrives when one can’t decide who owns the words. The muse or the artist.

My writing confidence is heavy and damp, the humid cloud of shaping for audience muffling my process. Being at the workshop opened up a can of expectations that never were addressed. Yes, my writing is good enough for public view. Yes, I have interesting stories to tell. But as all good writers know, work is required, crafting, honing the edges of truth.

Diction. My word choice is often too elevated for average readers, but then again, great writers have rich language. I need to use descriptive phrasing sparingly, or write a poem when the language comes out so concentrated. Dilemma.

Narrative Arc. Build the tension, so the reader wants more, but then again, sometimes truths don’t come in nifty narrative patterns. Put in a bit of creative into the non-fiction. Be aware of first lines, which hook the reader. And throw out compositional rules. Fragments allowable.

Dialogue. Use it. Put the reader in moments that cannot be shown best any other way. Some of the interactions I’ve had this summer, though, are best forgotten. But then again, some like the evening I spent listening to a dear lady from the workshop debate the beginning of her own solo journey, are so intense, so emotional my words fail the moments.

And shorten posts. Keep them under 700 words. :-/

All heroes had a guide. I need one. Companions, I’ve got. Wise writing sage, I have not. I have lived in the forest, hacking through dense brush to find a writer’s path, alone. Upon arrival at the meadow, I only encountered the overwhelming complexity of the view. Clearly, I can walk anywhere. Anywhere. But the trees ahead look the same…I have to reenter the forest. But to find a path, I need a pointing finger, a voice, some sign.

I have followed signs throughout the last year, but more specifically the last seven months. The lion was with me in the days before Beloved. A heart emerged in Richmond, urging me to explore unconditional love. During a weekend with Americana and Roots bands, a guitar with wings appeared. “Music will save you”, it seemed to whisper. And now another has appeared.

It is the letter and the Civil War.

Letters to the lad I visited at Old City Cemetery, emerged quite spontaneously in my journal and in a different voice, the first during Red Wings Roots Festival this past weekend. Every banjo note, every mandolin trill, every bass strum began to deepen this knowing that all of the signs are tied , all the way back to the lion. A path has opened.

Neverland

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.

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