Tuesday, February 23, 2010

grass , highway, and train

"But mostly, I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing
in and out. Life so far doesn't have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain...
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds."
Mary Oliver

Today's dance practice was en-route to visit my folks in the north country... it is always a challenging time for me as it is hard to witness the aging processes (and lack of processes) of the elderly. Not only do I feel deep compassion for their suffering, but also, it is hard not to look at my own mortality as my parents are mirrors reflecting back my potential destiny as an aged one... and it is always a reminder of the life and death cycles of all living things.

"As we reach a certain point [in our lives], death and life become as one. By examining the cyclical nature of human existence, it becomes clear that life precedes death... I'm standing here, where we all stand, in the midst of life and death, coming and going. Death, life; death, life... they become as one." Kazuo Ohno, my butoh mentor's sensei.

After pulling off the highway for a chai at a coffee house in the Skagit Valley, I was struck by the abandoned grassy field under the grey clouds pregnant with inevitable rain next to the highway. I loved how the grasses represented the natural rhythms of nature... the tall, dried, skeletal summer grasses still somewhat standing as new dew covered green shoots were sprouting through the mud and thick mass of fallen grasses underfoot. Decay and renewal occurring endlessly and simultaneously - a process that takes a full year in keeping with nature's rhythm of slow to medium... and as a backdrop to this, our speed - loud trucks and vehicles zipping by at 70 miles an hour. What took me by surprise was the sudden loud rumble and appearance of a train and it's haunting whistle blowing...
Part way through my practice I noticed the graffiti on the train tunnel behind me that said "Look Up." As I obediently followed the command and looked up, there overhead was an adult bald eagle flying low and then landing on a tree top next to the field... I love these magical connections with nature that occur frequently during my daily practices...
One of many challenges of filming with a tripod is that I never quite know if I am going to be in the picture! As a result, I usually have lots of editing and cutting to do and today I cut out the part where I fell face first into the grass as I was mostly out of the frame at that point... however, it was then that my animal body took over and I started to munch on the tall grasses.

Although it was not planned and felt quite natural to do so, I know that it was a gesture inspired by my mentor Momo, who describes the eating / dancing connection in her blog: "The act of eating something is deeply meaningful when we consider the communion of it. I often feel when dancing that I am ingesting sensation and information from my surroundings and then offering it like food through my dance. When you choose to eat something, that thing literally becomes your flesh." It is also a practice that we have done in Momo's workshops in the natural world. Later in the dance I was inspired once again, to taste the straw as seen in the film, bringing all the senses into the dance with the grasses.
As challenging as my life circumstances are at times, my daily dance practices always give me the opportunity to drop into my body and connect deeply to other, animate and inanimate - here today, in the form of nature's grasses and the man-made loud sounds of the train's whistle and rumble and traffic. All these exchanges through dance result in a feeling of interconnectedness with other and also with that which is greater than myself... This practice also lets me embody through dance my life's challenges as well as celebrations, and I am grateful for that.

Thank you for viewing / reading. I hope this blog may inspire you in some way.
"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to crawl on your knees
for hundreds
of miles, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves...
Mary Oliver

There is a film in the black space below:
Music: Brian Eno
Visit my butoh mentor's beautiful blog here: Maureen 'Momo' Freehill

1 comment:

  1. Oh, so many elements with any single dance. Literally the whole universe contained there. I love seeing the passing cars/train/wind and hearing the sound of the grasses as you move with and through them and sending you seeing the eagle. This practice is a never ending, multi-faceted delight! Thank you for continuing to bring it to us in all its lovely variations.