Archive for February, 2010

Living Proof

February 26, 2010

Last night I watched Southern Expressions –  observed the woman whose age and experience is etched upon her  face – is evident in her moving body. For, yes, she can still move, if moderately compared to earlier years. I speak of myself, for I am the one I watched flow  through my beautiful room – my art as background to my dance. My eye was critical at first, noting the differences since last I saw an on-screen version of myself. I saw the less slim form and the deepening lines around my smiling mouth. But, gradually, my obvious pleasure in expressing my approach to life  took precedence. As I spoke with the host, Ron Brown, I appeared relaxed and amazingly articulate to one who still recalls the nerves that assaulted me just prior to the filming. 

I moved beyond my initial disappointment, almost accepting that I really am much older than the dancer living deep within. This dancer’s heart still quickens at the thought of someday living out the dream of  moving audiences through her ability to move her body. Oh foolish one… Yet, didn’t I perform for the Milsaps Arts and Lecture Series a few months after the Southern Expressions taping? Didn’t I dance three dances and recite my poetry on a stage in an auditorium for the pleasure of an audience more aware of joyful energy than age? The moment far outweighed the effects of time. And last night as I finally let go and flowed with what was happening, I saw the breathing dance before my eyes – heard the verbal expression of the breathing dance and found myself at peace with that particular now.

Today has been difficult, isolated with my memories of last night’s dance. Initial doubts came back to haunt. Once more, I wept over the effects of aging, tempted to believe in endings – no more bright dreams to nourish the passing days. Most fortunately for me, and possibly for her, I phoned a friend who had not seen last night’s appearance. Kendall listened, understood, and also offered her own most glorious naked heart that I not suffer alone. In no time we were laughing over life’s abundant trickeries, and sighing deliciously over dances still to come.

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A Gentle Heart

February 24, 2010

Today, I feel myself balancing out the high energy of yesterday. From the soaring achieved through artmaking yesterday morning, I went to a different sort of flying, first fixing food to carry to my son’s house, then staying for several hours to help with the little ones.  I do think the heart of the artist was satisfied, and ready to yield itself to these other demands, knowing that balance was being realized.

On arrival, I climbed up with little Julia onto the  high bed of her parents to find a tiny wide awake cherub. He  seemed older  and much more aware of his surroundings – more interested in the ecstatic cooings and bizarre expressions of his grandmother than on my previous  visits. He certainly gazed unblinkingly at my hovering face.  I was entranced by his perfect form – his lively waving arms and legs, and tried for a smile.  But Bryce Leif is still in serious mode when he isn’t hungry, tired, or sleeping. My job, when present, is to share my attention as equally as possible between the two, while their father has a little time to see to other things. Vanja is optimisticly planning to start his doctorate studies while the children’s mother is finishing hers. They are both high school teachers, now. I marvel at their determined juggling – and at their extraordinary parenting skills. I can see that love makes it possible. I marvel at that, as well.

As I sit here letting the words flow forth, not wrestling mentally or physically, I am quietly aware of the soreness of  body – the sweet tiredness that today I interpret as the lingering memories of active love. My knees remember the raising and lowering of the body as it sank to the floor for diaper changes and rose with babe in arms then sank into a recliner with both little ones, rocking one to sleep while reading to the other. My back and arms recall the freguent liftings of the three year old, necessary to prove that love can bear the weight. Perhaps the whole body remembers the caution that must be maintained when an active young child is expressing her love for her baby brother. As she informed me when I suggested the kisses could be somewhat gentler, “My heart isn’t gentle yet; I am still too young.” So, with age comes a gentle heart. Thank you, Julia.

Release

February 23, 2010

Today I danced. I put on some Brahms played by Yo-Yo Ma and forgot my age – at least for a little while. Then I took wire in my hands and wrestled it into a form that evoked a dancer.  My hands are sore from the effort, but my mind feels rested and renewed. Today I broke free of that particular prison. No confining circle limits this day. I’m in love with irrational flight. The dancer just may turn out to be an angel, if I give her wings. But one thing I know on this wide-open day: she doesn’t need wings to fly. Nor do I…

Shall We “Grow”?

February 22, 2010

I am weary of overmuch self-examination, and this blog appears to have gravitated in this direction.  Perhaps it is too much like journaling: a place to explore the mood of the day.  I have done so much of this, and it tends to be circular. One keeps meeting the same old stuff, and if there is progress, it is very subtle. In the writing of a novel, there is more of a sense of progress and achievement. One may not know where the story will go, but the story is moving along, and the characters take one out of oneself. Their behaviour surprises, even revealing untapped parts of the writer’s own character.

I need surprises, and so far the blog doesn’t really do this for me. It has been a venue for honest expression of my ongoing bugaboos, and I have asked questions that needed to be asked. But what of answers? What of feasible changes that may bring improvements, and most certainly will bring fresh new questions  that could expand my horizon. Art challenges. Is there any challenge evident in my present occupation? Well, perhaps just seeing the extent of my introspection – seeing this particular truth about myself – is causing me to consider whether this woman artist is evolving. She may be seeking balance in her life, but is she practicing balance? Is her introspection balanced by external expression? Is her solitude relieved by social interraction (and I don’t mean spending time with children, grandchildren, and other family members)? I would have to say no – decidedly no. She seeks in her head while her  frustrated heart says: Let me out of here.

In the making of art, there is momentary relief. There is even the promise of something beyond the immediate creation. A path may be revealed. But if one doesn’t heed the revelation and embark, what use is art. Aways, in the dance, one gesture leads into the next.  So, dear self, go ahead and dance.

Seeing and Being Real

February 20, 2010

No one has the power to set another person free. One can only hope for the wisdom and courage to free oneself. Psychologically  I am bound to my present circumstances, feeling responsible for those that surround me. I believe it’s a childish desire to want to make sure that those we love are happy, secure, and free of want. In me, this desire was probably rooted in a childhood in which extremes were the rule. The erratic behaviour of my artist father kept things on edge, and my efforts to please, distract,  or comfort my loved ones began at an early age. It became an habitual way of dealing with crisis.

So, yes, I do know that the problem lies with me. I am accustomed to wearing myself out making sure that everyone else is alright, while I am the one who is not alright, and I am the one I need to set free – from the past, not the present. There may be very real things going on around me reminding me of threatening elements from my past, but I have no more control of them now than I did as a child.  Well, yes, I can help in practical ways. I can help a beloved grandchild to feel safe and happy for a little while, but how can I ease the extreme reactions of my fearful self to situations involving the child or grandchild for whom I am a peripheral influence. I have no say in how they are raised, no real control over that which affects them. This is a fact that I need to convince myself of deep down. The burden I bear is not real, but one I took on before a realistic perception was possible. The question  is: How do I convince that part of me who continues to dance as fast as she can to save others from threats she herself no longer needs saving from? How do I set her free from an old, old dance?

Learning To Dance Again

February 19, 2010

It is strange to be writing here in a public space the things I can’t speak of with my nearest and dearest. For they truly are near – and so dear that my fear of hurting them keeps me from being completly honest. Honestly, I want to be in their lives – and to help them when they are overwhelmed by the trials of life. My heart can ache for them so intensely that my own heart’s ache is obscured. I can feel so for their weariness that my body carries on beyond endurance, and I only know later that I have abused its faithfulness.

Perhaps this denial comes from years of dancing through pain and exhaustion, of being so in the moment that I could transcend my very humanity. Time after time, as I lay in my epsom salts bath in the aftermath of performance, I found abrasions and bruises acquired as I danced. Perhaps I’m still dancing, oblivious of wear and tear on body and soul, or of injury to the heart whose love will never be enough.

Do I even forget to breathe? This is the question I ask myself now, and I am the dancer who in 1977 decided that every gesture must begin with the breath. Breathe out to release the gesture; breathe in to realize the power born of release. This I would practice until I was one with the spiritual impulse – at least part of the time. Later, I would teach this simple truth, and watch others reap benefits that seemed miraculous at the time. For years I kept telling others to breathe their gestures into being, guiding them forth with a promise of freedom. But while I was telling them when to breathe, my own need was forgotten – my freedom compromised.  I must make the heartwrenching decision to set them free that I might breathe again – discover new gestures. Is it time to set my own children free to dance their own dances, and perchance, to discover a whole new breathing dance of my own?

Gravity

February 18, 2010

Again the sadness… And again the reluctance to write this blog. I am also exhausted from yesterday’s grandmothering, and don’t really want to try to figure out why.  I want to bless it and move beyond.  Yet I find myself wondering if the expenditure of energy for child – for children – has been going on so long that I think no other way is possible.  Has this become my main purpose? Have I finally given up on personal fulfillment? Do I stil feel as though I am stealing moments for creative pursuits? Now that I do have more time, I am am lacking in energy and will – depressed, almost, by time speeding by, running out as I bumble my way through the days.  I still feel on call, as I did as a young mother, struggling  to keep the dance alive. But then, the fire of determination was fiercely present, and the discipline established during the pre-motherhood ballet years kept me going. I evolved the “barre” to suit a more free-form style of dancing – and maintained the daily exercises no matter what, even if it was often only in my mind. I became a mother at the age of twenty-one, so for most of my life I have juggled my need to create with the necessities of motherhood. I suppose I do not know any other way, but, dear God, I am tired.

It has been a balancing act, and at certain times I have felt successful. As a younger woman, I was idealistic, even conceiving of a purposeful way: a technique to follow and to teach that would balance divergent forces and lead to greater freedom. This was Airth, based on the balancing forces of air and earth, breath and body, spirit and matter. I maintained my faith and devotion for a great many years, and during those years the dance expanded into various other forms of “dance”. I realized Airth through writing, drawing, sculpting, painting, and  music. These later developments have definitely eased my way into my senior years – taken the strain off the body while continuing to fulfill my need to dance. But, there may be a down side to this. The physical dance – performing and teaching – connected me with others on a regular basis, whereas, all the other forms are practiced in solitude. Isolation becomes a way of life, except when it comes to family. And family doesn’t give a damn if I ever dance another dance. They love the me they see – expecting participation regardless. One can be crying inside for a different sort of interraction: that which can only take place between peers. Yet one can continue to play the part of sister, mother, grandmother, and cousin, and no one knows or cares. One is accepted exactly as one is, and lacking challenge, the dancer begins to die. Tired as I am, I don’t really want her dead.

Je Suis Une Danseuse

February 14, 2010

“Je suis une danseuse”. These are the words spoken by the main character in my novel to the elderly Frenchman who sits beside her on the flight to Paris. “I am a dancer”, she declares, speaking straight from the heart that motivates her every gesture. 

I wrote the words for Lily to speak, in some way calling up my own convictions from a former life. At the age of sixty-five, my speaking of the words tends to be somewhat apologetic, coming as they do from a heart that hesitates in the face of accumulated years and physical changes.  If there were just one prayer to pray on this Valentine’s Sunday, it would be that my heart would regain faith enough for the present dance to wing its way beyond its hesitancy. If my heart might dance again with all the power born of love released, my perception of my body as an aged and inferior instrument would fall away. Then I would be the valentine I long to send: I am a dancer.

Saturday Quandary

February 13, 2010

The last three days have exhausted my energy, but I can hardly imagine resting. So I am here in hopes of clearing my mind – and thence my body. Allowing myself to be so immersed in the lives of my children – and their problems – has left me feeling smothered and bleary-eyed. The promise connected with earlier in the week appears to have fled, burrowing down again, not yet strong enough to compete with the onslaught of information and woe. How is it that the very real compassion felt for a child or grandchild – and the very real willingness to listen and offer some insight – leaves me feeling defeated, starving for some sort of succor that can only come after several days recovery. I rise, and the cycle begins again.

Today, as the cries of others recede, my own cries are slowly finding their way to the surface. It will take some time to be fully aware of their value. At the moment they take the form of soggy weariness. I cannot rejoice in their deeper truth. Not yet. I can only be vaguely conscious that they do have value. Will there ever be time enough to welcome them fully into the light of day.

Last night I dreamt yet again of being in Paris. It had been a familiar and satisfying sojourn, but then on the homeward flight, a precipitous dive of the aircraft, a fearful plummet. Passengers screamed in panic, certain of crashing. I, too, was aware of imminent disaster, bracing myself for that which did not happen. The plane leveled off and climbed again. We breathed again, as things seemed normal. Yet, not really… The man next to me leaned over and confessed that he had payed the pilot to do this stunt that he might claim injury and sue the airline. But it hadn’t worked and the pilot might try again. I should be prepared.

So how does a person fully relax if the plane may plummet again at any moment? Here is the question of the day, and it helps to ask it. In fact, asking it feels almost like a prayer. The answer might come.

Deeper Truth

February 11, 2010

This morning I find myself thinking of Frida Kahlo, a woman who delved so deeply into the substance of her pain that her art is a kind of bombardment. One cannot look away from her compelling features. In fact, she has forced herself upon the viewers of her paintings. Face after beautiful face looks out from the torturous scenes that depict her story, and one can turn away or close the book, but one cannot forget.

I first became acquainted with her vibrant art in Taos, New Mexico, reproduced on postcards and sharing a display rack with the more accessible images left behind by Georgia O’keefe. I gravitated toward the sensual beauty of Georgia’s flowers and landscapes – almost repelled by Frida’s pain.  But my married lover, with whom I was sharing a clandestine few days, was entranced by the woman’s courageous repetition of her initial crucifixion. On the Christmas before I extracted myself from one more untenable relationship, he presented me with a magnificent book of her paintings. Untenable, too, was the pain staring out at me from every page. Those images came to represent the pain I caused my lover, not to mention the pain I dealt myself in the days, months, years to follow. Though I gave the book to my therapist as a gesture of letting go, I now know it as a gesture of rejection. Who wants to live with pain? But, honestly, does anyone live without pain?

Not me, though for endless years I have tried not to let it show, tried to be pleasingly cheerful and positive with family, going for glorious with my audience and the viewers of my  art. It isn’t really false: the cheer or the glory, but it’s not the whole story. Truth has as many facets as a star, and countless layers. This Christmas I received another book of Frida Kahlo’s art. This year I find myself embracing deeper truth. Hers – and my own.