Monday, May 31, 2010

rainbow rod

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.
If there's a temple, I haven't found it yet,
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds.

Mary Oliver - from 'What is There Beyond Knowing'

I spent most of the day yesterday with my butoh mentor, Momo. She was performing in a Memorial Day service organized by the Veteran's Resource Center on Whidbey Island. I was there to assist in the preparations in any way I could, but what I didn't realize was how much the service was going to crack my heart open.

Journal entries and poems were read from veterans of past and current wars that moved everyone present at the service so deeply and in such a way that made the experience of war come home into the souls of all of us... Momo's dance brought the veteran's words and poetry alive in a way that touched the soul even more deeply... I am incredibly inspired by the work the Veteran's Resource Center on Whidbey Island is doing to assist in the challenges current veterans of war are dealing with.

It was so devastating to hear that suicide has claimed more US military men and women than the war in Afghanistan itself (last year, 334 versus 319 killed see article here). I was particularly moved by another reading by a veteran who commented on the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) questioning why this would be called a 'disorder' - and then saying that it should be a disorder if someone came back from a war and was not severely emotionally and spiritually affected from the experience...

All day I thought I would get my dance practice in at some point, but as I left Whidbey Island in the evening to drive 3 hours north, it started to downpour with rain... I gave up on the idea of doing a dance at all today, until just as the sun began to set - suddenly, the sky opened and the sun appeared through a sliver in the clouds creating such a dramatic vista beside the highway. I had to veer into a grange parking lot to dance with the falling sun.

Even though I was beside the highway, it felt so nourishing to watch and feel the long fingers of the sun reach out across the field, dancing with them until they disappeared... I was feeling so much compassion for all the war's veterans of the past and for all those who are wearing a uniform and for all those that are currently in places of conflict living in a world so many of us struggle even to imagine... the setting sun felt like such a perfect mirror to my inner feeling tone...

sometimes i love life for no reason other than its ethereal impermanence
and perfect, beautiful, incredible

Orrin McClellan, age 21 - Veteran of War who took his own life - from his journal while on duty in Afghanistan, 2006

Momo wrote a touching blog post on Orrin's life and his passing last week which you can view: here.

When Momo and I were walking in the woods after the service we saw two natural 'poles' created by small de-limbed trees - the first one was covered in a bright yellow lichen and Momo called it "golden-rod"... and then we saw another that had been charred and we called it "black-rod." As I was finishing this dance, there in the sky was a "rainbow-rod" - a beam of rainbow light in a vertical alignment from the sky...

This afternoon I learned that Momo's sensei, Kazuo Ohno, passed away at the precise time we were at the memorial service where she was dancing. The master of ceremonies had talked about him in the service, describing how his dance flowed from him after he returned to Japan from being a prisoner of war, a veteran of war himself... Momo had also brought some beautiful photos and books of him that were on display at the information table that added to the feeling of his presence in attendance.

So many times when I see Momo perform I feel she is such an amazing transmission of his dance essence with the ability to express so eloquently what it means to be human - the dark side, but also the fragility, the tenderness and the joy. It is not only the ability to express the all-humanness, but also, the ability to express the non-human - the flower, an animal, spirit... In retrospect, not only was her dance at the service a tribute to the veterans, but, it felt like Momo's dance was such a beautiful tribute honoring Kazuo's life...

Feeling grateful for Kazuo Ohno, who I didn't meet, but feel his presence in my life through the teachings of Momo. May his spirit continue to dance freely...
I look forward to sharing a link to Momo's dance from the service if there is an opportunity to do so in the future...

Lokaha Samastaha Sukhino Bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free from suffering and may our thoughts and actions contribute to the happiness and freedom from suffering for all beings. May we remember that we are also within that circle of all beings...

Thank you for reading this blog - I hope it may inspire in some way...

If you double-click the photo above and below you can view on you-tube and the right side will not be cut-off :~)
Music: Philip Glass
See my butoh mentor's inspiring blog here: Maureen 'Momo' Freehill


  1. Leela, I do agree. It would indeed be a disorder not to be affected by man's inhumanity to man in regards to war. It boggles my mind the casual attitude of many soldiers while in combat. I believe these are the ones who often suffer the worst later; those who are in denial of trauma at the moments of its occurence.
    And then there are sensitive souls who perhaps in a moment of naivety found themselves trapped in an eternal hell they could not escape from. I believe Orrin from all descriptions was one of these and it breaks my heart. In part because he reminds me so much of myself and what could have been had I been unlucky.
    And as to Kazuo Ohno's passing...
    It is clear to me that his life's work is strongly affecting mine and I am so grateful for his shared gifts and knowledge.

  2. I didn't realize that there had been so many suicides amongst post military men and women as a result of their time in Afghanistan. That's so sad.

    Momo's dance for her teacher, Kazuo Ohno sounds amazing. Thank you for sharing! His legacy will continue to flow through you, and her and all those he touched.