Little Creatures

As I progress through the video series at Love Returns, I’m having more and more trouble keeping myself anchored. Time and space, life and death, nature and design: it all winds together more thickly around my mind.

At Dance Tribe on Sunday, I felt disconnected, as though some part of me was missing from the experience – or something else was in control. Half-way through, I focused intently, and found myself thinking about the phytoplankton whose shells are dissolving. While higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide warm the air, causing the most immediate threat to human civilization, they also increase carbolic acid in the oceans. This is bleaching coral reefs and impeding the maturation of phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton are the base of the oceanic food chain, and the greatest source of the oxygen gas that we breathe to fuel our metabolism.

Their message was simple: “We can’t do it any more.”

I fell into a deep-rooted grief that built until I was concerned that it would disrupt the celebration. Taking down my gear from the shelves, I headed for the exit, only to be stopped by these lyrics:

Black lives matter.
Children lives matter.
Police lives matter.
Judge lives matter.

The grief spilled over, then, and I started sobbing, face turned to the heavens. After a time, another man leaned his head into my shoulder. I finally pulled myself together, set my gear down, and went back out on the floor.

It was different. My muscle cells seemed to float as though on an ocean swell. Bones forgotten, it was all about the tissue rising and falling, until I tumbled over onto the floor.

And then the second phase: protective tissues. Lower extremities anchored firmly as though to the ocean floor, my arms and head swayed in the air, fluid, the currents of the air rolling along and around them.

The then the final phase: shells, the calcium accretions that became our bones. Joints and alignments came into focus.

In Psalms, this echo rolls back from the Messiah:

I am less than a worm.

Not less, in that moment, but of and from. They are still inside us, those simple things.

And they are dying.

In the closing circle, we were asked to state our names and offer a word that summarized our experience in the dance. I blurted out my name, but concealed that word that was presented to me.


Too Much Fun

We had an “intimate” gathering at Santa Barbara Dance Tribe yesterday. Most of the crew was holding down a dance space at Lucidity in Carpenteria.

That was probably the best for me. As I get older, the damage I do to my joints doesn’t recover overnight. Everyone has a stronger side, but after decades of tennis and basketball, my right tends to overwhelm my left. This has been showing up in my left ankle, which has borne the brunt of leaps and spins that should be stabilized in my hips and knees. It was beginning to fall apart.

I’ve been trying to activate the weak muscles in my left hip and calf. That’s allowed my ankle to recover, but it’s still sensitive, so yesterday I spent a good portion of the dance just trying to walk with my left foot pointed in the same direction as my right foot, or doing dips standing on one foot at a time. Frustration set in more than once – I just couldn’t find the muscles on the left side that the right wide was using.

I mean, is learning to walk really that complicated? I guess I forget.

The music was all vinyl, offered by Mark Metz who had come down from Berkeley. Up until the last fifteen minutes, I had only gotten wound up once, and then he put on Phil Collin’s “Sledgehammer.” I had a good time interpreting the lyrics, but found myself wondering why I was getting into this patently licentious song. Then the music shifted into the last bridge, and my kinesthetic memory activated:

I kicked the habit (I kicked the habit)
Shed my skin (Shed my skin)
This is the new stuff (This is the new stuff)
I go dancing in, (We could go dancing in)
Oh won’t you show for me (Show for me)
I will show for you (Show for you)
Show for me (Show for me), I will show for you

Yea, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I do mean you
Only you, you’ve been coming through
Going to build that power
Build, build up that power, hey
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
Going to feel that power, build in you

Tender ankle forgotten, I sang along; pinwheeling and spinning; reaching up into the sky and throwing down; crouching and spreading the love across the ground.

It was light, that new stuff I dance in, just all over my body. It felt so wonderful!

And I’m not paying for it today – at least, not too much.

Sunday Heat

While Amtrak trains have air conditioning, the stations don’t always. That may just be my stops: I’m riding along the coast from Oxnard to Santa Barbara. It was getting warm this morning when I left, so I just puttered along on my bike, hoping to keep from arriving at the station as a walking swamp. I did all right, but still found myself hiding out under the Highway 1 fly-over. All that concrete made the air cooler than in the station.

One of the best parts of taking the train out to Santa Barbara is having the chance to put on my noise-cancelling earbuds and really let the praise music I’m listening to work its way through me. Listening at work during the week, I’m just cancelling mental noise – the music doesn’t really sink in and produce meaning.

I found myself looping over “Draw Me Close to You” by the Katinas. I kept on tearing up on this passage:

You’re all I want.
You’re all I ever needed.
You’re all I want.
Help me know you are near.

I finally realized that it would be natural for Christ to feel the same way about the flock that seeks for him. I was picking up that reflection.

Santa Barbara was pretty hot – 87 F when I got off the train at 10:20.  I went past puttering to dawdling. Even so, I got to the Dance Tribe early, and enjoyed those first ten minutes with the dance floor nearly empty – those that entered with me still needed to warm up their muscles. The early numbers are also meditative, allowing me the freedom to vary pace and attitude as spirit moves me. When the second piece finished, one of the organizers caught my eye and shared “Wow. Great job.”

And then the frenzy. We had fun – I’ve been in attendance long enough that the improv group recognizes me as a trustworthy partner. I got caught up in a couple of multi-person scrums, although in one case I ended up crying out “Squish!” from the bottom of a pile of bodies.

The tempo began to wind down in the last half hour, and I made a really joyful discovery. I’ve been struggling with left-right imbalance in yoga for the last five years, and on Thursday I finally got into full locust posture with a sense that I was pulling into the center of my body, rather than listing to the right. I was working that into my dance when suddenly I realized “My wings are back.”

For the last couple of months I’ve been a little sad that, as the music winds down, I haven’t been able to find a lady to dance the last number. This time I decided that I was just going to claim someone. So I walked through the middle of the floor until I caught her eye, and started leading her through some travelling ballroom dance turns. When we finally locked together, I took her up into some rotating shoulder lifts.

Then I began to listen to the music: it was a plea for forgiveness from Great Spirit. I tried to fight it off, but she felt what was going on and just stood still, encouraging me. I ended up making two windmill sweeps through the air with my right arm, just pulling in all of the sorrow emanating from the natural world while choking out “Oh, God! Oh, God!”

When I opened my eyes, I found that she hadn’t run away – in fact, she had stepped closer. We ended up winding ourselves together and rolling onto the floor, she eventually inside my body as I went up into a shoulder stand. She surprised me by continuing to curl through into a reverse somersault.

God, I’d forgotten what that was like: to be affirmed by a woman’s touch as I do the work that seems to be mine.

So I’m exhausted tonight, but it’s a good exhaustion.