Archive for July, 2010

As It Is In Heaven

July 29, 2010

Two days ago I watched a film that shook me to my core. “As It Is In Heaven” is a Swedish film made in 2005. I had never heard of its writer/director, Kay Pollak, nor of its leading actor, Michael Nyqvist. He played a famous conductor who, due to illness,  returns to the village of his youth to rest and, inadvertantly, to face the torments of his childhood. Even then his means of living in the world had been his music; a small violin his voice. This also singled him out for punishment by the relentless bullies with whom he attended school. He escapes the tiny village – with his mother – to continue his musical career, yet it is only when he returns and takes up residence in the schoolhouse that his music can heal him – and others with him.

I have written a very basic plot – leaving out everything. The everything is life lived so passionately and openly, with such raw emotion that watching it one is held frozen to the ridiculous chair one is sitting in. All else vanishes; the limiting circumference of the small screen melts away and one must live what is being lived by very real human beings. The man resumes his child self as he fumbles his way through old patterns of alienation to discover a vulnerability that turns out to be a gift and a curse. His music opens the door to an unimagined fellowship with members of a church choir. This is a rough group, but miraculously willing to engage in very unusual exercises that help them tap into the universal consciousness their souls had forgotten. Intimacy develops, and enemies are roused, but the bond formed and the freedom realized is too powerful to be contained.

Again I find myself trying to tell – to describe, when all  I want is to share what probably can’t be shared: My own emotional response – my soul’s waking to itself – through this film. True, it reminded me of experiences I have had through dancing – and even through teaching – when a nakedness of soul allowed a transcendant joining that one wouldn’t have thought possible on the physical plain. It must be spiritual, yet it comes about through intensely physical surrender. I fear that once it has been experienced, one moves through the precious ordinariness of everyday life in a state of continual yearning for what one knows is possible. One lacks and longs.

I loved the man portrayed in this film. Concentrated as the film was, he seemed ever an innocent child in his capacity for braving the exaltation and its dangers. I am so grateful to have braved them with him for that short space of time – to have traveled beyond my own fears to hover with him in that place where earth is heaven and heaven is earth.


The Visit

July 25, 2010

She came to my door: a fairy crone – or a fellow dancer. She had met me before – so she said – a few years back and, being in town, determined to look me up. Could she come inside? Had I time for a visit? I was taken aback; made nervous by the stranger’s sudden appearance – unprepared for her boldness. Even so, her assumption made it impossible to do anything but invite her in.

The woman, who was now looking older than I had at first supposed, walked across my studio floor and seated herself on my old green couch. She, herself, was in green, and she perched herself like a lively wizened sprite against the cushions.  Her back was straight, and the cloth of her garments fitted her aging body like a kindly flattering glove. She was hardly beautiful, but her features compelled my gaze – confused my perceptions. Despite my feelilng rather at her mercy, I was curious – wanted to hear her story – wanted to trust and follow the mystical thread that had led her to me. I listened to the curious voice as it threw out elusive information about her own dance history. She spoke of dance motifs and Labanotation, and I couldn’t help mentioning my father and his faithful adherence to the motifs of Adolpho Best-Maugard. I also remarked on the motifs discovered through practicing Airth and the circle of exercises that utilized these motifs. Her eyes grew brighter, and suddenly I knew I had hit on her purpose. Her request that I show her was hardly surprising. She was on her feet. I was on my feet. My mild protestations had no affect.

We faced one another at the center of the room, and the light of the day spilled through the skylight and over our bodies. Her thin lips curled in a catlike smile of expectation. I was under her spell, and the tiny ripple of resentment inside me quickly dissolved. I was obedient to something I hadn’t the presence of mind to resist. Slipping into teacher mode, I led my presumptuous student through the familiar “motifs”, finding that I still had the strength for it, and the words to describe. There was even some vague pleasure in my body’s response to the old warm up:  the rise and fall of weighted breath – the power of the pendulum in motion. Perhaps the circle protected me even as I shared it’s magical properties.

She was slower than I – this woman in green with her transparent skin and her transparent eagerness to receive what I had to offer – and never quite matched my rhythm. I found myself missing the easy connection experienced with former students  She had questions, which made for several interruptions. Yet she moved like a dancer; her slowness had more to do with determined assimulation than lack of ability. Later as we moved to the floor, our improvisations almost allowed connection. I found myself going through motions – willing to feel that mysterious thread that connects and unites. For her, all was well; she was enjoying immensely the whole experience. I kept complying, even playing the keyboard as she danced her interpretation of my awkward notes. She called the notes beautiful; claimed they summoned childhood memories of times when joy prevailed. I nearly saw inside the woman then. Her purpose seemed less strange and my co-operation less subjective, but still, I felt no thrill that told me we were guided by the self-same source.

It was only today – with my visitor long since departed for who knows where – that I felt her presence as a blessing. Moving alone in the skylight’s glow, I sensed new resolve in my gestures. A palpable energy filled my room and the music from yesterday’s unfelt rapport was as beautiful as she had pronounced it. Unconscious then, I was fully conscious now. Her joy then was my joy now – the circle complete.


July 21, 2010

The word encourages a letting down, a deep down sigh of gratitude. Reprieve: a break from everything that weighs the mind, the body – and stops the soul from being heard.  My soul appears to be in a wait and see mode, not quite believing that her time has come.  Surely the outer clamor is about to pounce again – demand again participation in the worldly dance. 

For days and days I have  been responding to the requirements of the New York exhibit – being the one expected to pull all the artists of the family into a cohesive whole  for the sake of the Walter Anderson legacy exhibit. Walter Anderson would have long since escaped – loaded his skiff and met the sunrise enroute to Horn Island.  Answering emails and practicing various forms of friendly persuasion with family members would have been too alien a concept  to consider.  I am so like him in my tendency to insulate – to keep myself to myself and live in attendance to interior directives.  Yet I am far more easily pulled away and deafened by the outer appeal.

Being a mother from an early age, I learned to sense the needs and heed the cries of others even as my own needs languished and my cries became a background noise that I could ignore. Actually,  the insistent sound could never be denied for long. Even as I met the needs of child – and others who attached themselves to my susceptible heart – the dancer danced a secret, yet  increasingly desperate prelude to the dance she longed to dance.

My heart continues to be susceptible, even to gallery owners in New York. A peculiar ability to see all sides of any situation – almost to know the unvoiced truth behind the obvious agenda of the other person – compells me to do what I can to ease the way, to calm the clamor – imagined or actual.  Yet I take on the role of emissary or peace-maker even as stress accumulates and creates havoc in my own neglected system.

I have a cold, a gift from my baby grandson. Little love germs traveled from him to his nan – eagerly settling in to gestate until, fully-fledged, they manifested as the virus no one wants but me. I am just ill enough that everything out there is muted by my physical symptoms. Dear little symptoms – quietly coaxing me to yield, I accept you; you remind me of my need to breathe – to take a breather and be mindful of the miraculous flow.  I pause now – fingertips in humming stillness on the keys –  and feel the gentle rise and fall – the movement of my breathing body. Every part of me is real and present and at peace. So be it…

Dream Journey

July 17, 2010

Last night I dreamt of being in Paris again. I was not alone. A companion rode with me on a bus and together we scanned the streets and landmarks of the city. We were definitely searching for something: a place, a feeling, a recognizable and longed for destination.  The bus stopped and my friend decided to get off and search the immediate area. I was to go on in case what we sought was up ahead on the bus’s route.  Suddenly, I lurched toward the closing door, squeezing through to land on the sidewalk beside my friend. I reached for his hand and gasped out: “I may be lost, but I couldn’t bear to be lost without you beside me.”  

The next thing I remember was standing beneath  an old and much-loved oak tree  in coastal Mississippi. This one is on the family property in Ocean Springs, standing on the bluff overlooking the sound, the islands, and the gulf beyond. During my growing-up years, a crude rope swing was attached to a high curved branch. I loved taking turns with siblings and cousins; loved standing on a platform nailed to the side of the tree, the swing clasped tightly between my thighs; loved grasping the strong coarse  rope with both hands to push off and swing out in a thrilling circular arc, round and round, soaring high, dipping low, leaning back – long hair flying free, catching sunlight and shadow, then trailing the ground as momentum died down. Each time I went flying on that childhood swing, I relinguished my moment of glory with great difficulty, walked away with the dizzying rush of air still affecting my body – the spinning blue-green of foliage and sky still flashing before my eyes.

Fifty odd years later, post Katrina and post changes in family circumstances, the tree still stands, but no swing hangs from its battered and aging branches, and I gaze from a distance at remembered beauty and delight.  Yet my phantom Paris bus ride brought me to this spot and helped me to remember.

My dream wasn’t over; the dream bus whisked me to my own front door which swung open to welcome me home. Inside, fanned out on the floor at my feet are letters in all the colors of the rainbow. Letters to open or to send forth; I do not know.  The envelopes are pristine: beautiful paper in beautiful colors.  I see them still.

The Unquellable Dance

July 13, 2010

The dancer has been chosen; “Pure Joy” will dance her way onto a New York wall. Apparently, the lines were strong and clear enough to state her case, or to state the case of her creator. My emissary she will be; flaunting fluently the womanly curves I have lived to celebrate – still live to celebrate. Yes… Even as the body ages and the dance would seem to be diminishing, the dancer lives within – emerging powerfully  to state her case. She is adept at adaptation – flowing forth through the materials at hand. Soulful determination takes on form; whether it be through words, wire, clay, or ink on paper.

If I am honest with myself, the dancer spins her magic even when my obvious co-operation appears to be dormant. For I can see the dance that lives within – perceive it in the world I occupy – receive it in the easy gliding motions of a great blue heron, the frolicing abandon of my unleashed dogs, the flutter and sway of a pinetree in the wind. I see reflected what I cultivate within. Pure Joy will out regardless of one’s mood or state of weariness.

One recent evening I was witness to a dance of such determined joy that I could not deny my secret participation. I watched  my baby grandson – not yet crawling, yet so clearly moving with the forceful joy of a river in spate. The momentum of the life-force in his small sure body was unquellable. After a bath – not yet encased in diaper or protective sleepwear, the beauty of his rolling and reaching, curling  and unfurling progress around the room was mesmerizing and enchanting. Also, definitely reminiscent of the old floor improvisation engaged in by my students in every Airth class. I have long taught the use of gravity – surrender to the flow of weight, so recognized the baby’s inherent attunement to natural law. My own awareness made of me participant, but this one had no need of teacher.  His pure pleasure in the moment was his inspiration.

Later, I must confine still quivering limbs – prepare the reluctant child for bed and carry him into the kitchen to heat his bottle. In the brief space of time it took to walk from room to room, I felt his weight subside in sweet relief against my body. I paused, delayed my pupose, turned my head to breathe in yet another dance. This dance was still, yet pulsing with the love set free by  mutual trust. Bone-weary as I was – and hardly in dancer mode – this dance was dance enough: pure joy released.

Acceptible Gestures

July 9, 2010

Two of my brush & ink drawings will go to New York for the fall exhibit: one of birds – called Joyful Reunion. The other is yet to be chosen. I would like it to be one of the frolicing nude dancers; I can still dance in all my glory across the clean white surface of the paper. I can shake off age and modesty and flaunt my mental image of myself. Small nippled breasts on a body full and powerful and free – head thrown back in the moment  of release. Probably another nature study will be chosen, easier on the eye of the beholder. You would think that in New York… Yet inclusion will be decided by one person whose main interest is my artist father’s artistic vision of the natural world. My drawings of birds, cats, trees, rabbits and flowers are closer to the supposed source; more comparable, I suppose. The human depths and indiscretions of their creator are better left to the imagination. I suppose that even my wire creations are too evocative of earthly struggle: twistings and turnings and tangles make up the finished form. The dancers, even with the wings of angels, have breasts and abandoned postures. The doing of them requires some obvious effort, before the doer finds release through her creation.

Ah well… I wax a little plaintive here. Some slight cynicism comes to light. I shall think of the Isadoraish dancer on my piano – moving continuously, bouncing sunlight off her silvery curves. I had bravely volunteered her brightly balanced flow of movement, thinking she would convey more honestly the force of Leiflife: past, present, future. Who I am: the coiled and tender strands that work together to produce the generous and expansive whole. She went un-noticed among the images I sent.

Yet it is good that she stay with me for a while. Her delicate and slow-motion twirl – within the circle and arc of wire that  support her dance – is a gift that catches my eye throughout each day. Affected by the changing light – the shift of air, she teaches me to trust the dance I dance.

On The Verge

July 7, 2010

I seem to perch precariously in this day, having slept  late: my body’s attempt to rest and release the caregiver role, the weight of responsibility, the active and entertaining grandmother for the solitary artist waiting upon the muse. I wake surprised by my alertness; my eyes are stretched wide to take in the now I find myself in. I am a bird who does not know its age or limitations. My feet shift nervously, carry me upstairs and down. Wings flutter and pause: eager for flight but not quite ready to soar.

Humanly, I am in shock between what was and what may be. Wisdom tells me that stillness is good, that grounding is necessary, yet the fool that makes possible impulsive flights and creative courage is causing my fingers to vibrate and quiver against the keys. The life force is eager – darts hither and thither even as I sit here seeking order in my restlessness.

Last night, exhausted from that recent stressful love dance with the children, I opened an email which asked that the artist appear at once. Would I select one excellent, saleable work of art to appear in a New York exhibit? I would be one of several familly members whose work would appear: The Legacy of Walter Anderson. My immediate response was: It’s about time. Then: How can I possibly deal with this now? So I gave myself until this morning, and found myself over-responding. Countering old feelings of inadequacy and fear, I sent off several images. I work in so many different mediums. How can I possible choose just the right one for such an opportunity? Even so, as I looked at the images representing my own art history, I felt some hesitant joy in sending off reflections of who I am. I am no beginner. Years of living and creating back up these images. Yet, I am a beginner – trembling on the edge: of relinquishing obscurity for a new kind of freedom, or of one more familial flight, shadowed and invisible amidst the flock that follows the pure and unencumbered soaring of my genius father.

The fool is capering happily, heedless of the abyss. Her feathers fly as her wings move wildly around her body. She has no patience for her cautious and considering other self, who would wrap the wings close, tucking the shy head under with eyes tight shut. She cannot abide the tendency to overprotect. Wings are for flying – wherever they take you. They know the way.

Falling Sideways

July 3, 2010

Night fell in its usual sideways slant across my studio floor: creepings of sunlight and shadow in a slow contesting dance that I knew the result of. Still I watched, was aware of the sun’s intense response to the onslaught of night. In some way I felt less alone as my body clung to its glimmers of youthful brightness. The shadow of age pursued each bright burst of movement as I stubbornly persisted, fighting the inevitable decline. Perhaps I am less accepting than the sun – more determined to sustain the brightness of my star. I fall and rise. Each shift of weight returns me to myself. I will survive. I will shine on beyond the immediate and obvious signs of night’s approach.

The dance – the evening I speak of – is now in the past, at least chronologically. I am leaning backward in order to recall that last flow of light and shadow, stillness and gesture, falling and rising – completing the circle. For from that moment when the the sun’s bright remnants slipped away and the room grew dim, my dance was shifting to become a whole new thing.

The dancer relinquished those moments in the familiar room, moved on to a simple supper and a plebian viewing of an old Inspector Morse episode – compliments of netflix. She surrendered to the older woman’s need to let go, assume the mundane reality of pre-bedtime rituals. In the after-movie quiet I accepted weariness – ran my bath, brushed my teeth, and skirted the end of my bed to adjust the thermostat. Here is where the dramatic shift occured. Without any warning, I was suddenly falling sideways. No graceful dancer’s controlled surrender of breath and weight, but a clattering crashing crumpling of aged body – a shocking and painful bunping and banging of bone, flesh, muscle out of controll. Conscious awareness was extremely slow to return. I lay awkwardly entwined with the cheap plastic steps that my dog had had the sense to reject. He now came to carefully sniff the tears now slipping from my wide-opened eyes. My shock was slowly receding, and with Music’s doggy encouragement I pulled myself to my feet. I rose with tremulous and undancerly nervousness to assess the damage. Pain was present: vicious stabs all along my left side: ear, knee, and thigh. But most noticeably evident was the throbbing and inhibiting painfulness of my left big toe. Already it was swelling and changing color, necessitating a limping gait – an intensely human dance that would linger over days. Unlike my sister, I would attract a slight and passing concern from family members. I would still be expected to take responsibility for my older set of grandchildren while my daughter left for a much needed getaway. They are marvelous and helpful children, and the painful bruises that shadow the dancer’s aging body begin to lighten. The evidence of that sudden shift of weight and her forced relinquishment of the ritual circle is diminishing. I am the dancer – waiting within the loving and only barely limping grandmother, and my faith is in the light that always returns to guide my dance across the floor.