Saturday, July 9, 2011

flying into the cosmos

last night's sliver moon was held in the mauve twilight sky above the silhouetted north shore mountains... has time stopped? days have become hours... hours have become minutes... just this... holding my father's hand, stroking his forehead, face to face with impermanence... the challenge of surrendering to the unknown with trust, boundless love, forgiveness, and gratitude.. breathing in, breathing out... just this.

- from notes I took during the weeks of my dad's passing.
Being with my sister, my brother and his son while my Dad passed was such a sacred gift. Because the process was one that extended for 3 weeks, it enabled us to be with him in such profound ways and to be by his side as he took his last breath.

During the weeks prior to his passing we all felt like we were in another plane of reality where time literally stopped, as we were so present with him breath by breath, moment to moment... listening, being, and speaking only that which felt important to say - expressions of forgiveness, gratitude and love.

When we felt like we had opened our hearts fully to one another, and the days continued to pass, we children just kept saying to each other, "Okay, lets go deeper, what else needs to be said to Dad? Let's peel back more layers..." Although Dad's words were very few at the end, he continued to respond with big smiles, sparkly eyes and by squeezing our hands.

In the last five days of his life he was in the hospice where we were able to camp out with him in his room day and night. The last three nights were quite sleepless as it felt like we were getting so close to his last breaths. We sang songs from our childhood camping days for him - so many old campfire songs, accompanied by my brother playing my Dad's old harmonica.
Dad from the 1940s

One of our favorite songs that we sang with our Dad playing harmonica was 'Swing Low' which we sang several times to him in his final hours and at the time of his passing.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin' for to carry me home;
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin' for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan,
And WHAT did I see,
Comin' for to carry me home,
A band of angels comin' after me,
Comin' for to carry me home.

If you get there before I do,
Comin' for to carry me home,
Tell all my friends I'm comin' too,
Comin' for to carry me home.

My brother took this film of my dance in Vancouver close to the airport after dropping my sister off there a few days after my dad's passing. I am wearing Dad’s hat from when he was a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

When he was in the hospital suffering with pain, he told us at one point after he was given morphine that he was ‘flying’ and that he saw heaven and that it was beautiful... Years ago he had shared that he used to have dreams of flying, too... that it was a place where he felt free.

Inspired to dance this dance of grief at the loss of my Dad and to embody the experience of his passing - the acceptance of his transition into the great mystery, the realm of spirit... out of his body and his suffering and into the realm of light... to embrace the feeling that he has transcended into a higher plane that exists beyond the physical realm, but that connects us all to the great unknown and the cosmos.

This dance also embodied for me the challenge of witnessing his struggle - his relentless holding on... literally, too - to the bed rail, the catheter tube, to the blanket, when we were not present, and to our hands when we were. His grip was so strong...

Dad as a pilot with his RCAF hat.

Goodbye Dad... I love you.

Mom and Dad... 1940s
Dad pointing the way to their future... Touches me deeply to see this photo now... pointing the way into the heavens and the great mystery...

Thank you for viewing this most personal blog post. I hope it may inspire you in some way.
With gratitude,

I was thrilled to find this version of Joan Baez's 'Swing Low' as our family had met her in the late 1960's while we were hiking in Garibaldi Meadows - she was camping in the same meadow - high in the alpine beauty of wide open skies and flowers...
During the time of Dad's passing the symbology of metamorphosis was very predominant... transitioning into a new 'being'... after the above dance I loved seeing these kites flying high into the cosmos... with the image of a butterflies upon each one...

for dad...

Mom and Dad, Manitoba, 1940's
A couple of days after my father passed, my brother, sister and I went for a walk to Rice Lake to spend time in contemplation - with my Dad's old harmonica, camping hat, and a camera in hand.

We had a collective memory of times with our family sitting around campfires listening and singing to my Dad's harmonica playing, and we thought Rice Lake would be a perfect place to let the sound of the harmonica resonate out into the cosmos across the still lake, in honor of our Dad.

I told my brother how my medicine ways teacher shared that native peoples created songs from the landscape in which they lived and we all loved seeing the waves of song / sound waves in the silhouette across the lake. And so the spontaneous dance began to my brother's harmonica improv, with my sister filming.
In my mind I had anticipated some somber funeral dirge that my brother would likely play. I was so surprised as I stood on the trail, wearing my father's camping hat, that the improv my brother created from the landscape was a joyful-kind-of-jig song ;~)

And so the spontaneous dance below resulted...

And yet, the lilt of the song seemed perfect in retrospect - a way of letting our Dad know we are alright and we will all be fine - all will be well...

For a Father

The longer we live,
The more of your presence
We find, laid down
Weave upon weave
Within our lives.

John O'Donohue

Thank you for viewing my blog - it means a lot to me. I love receiving comments and would love to hear from you if you feel inspired.

Visit our collaborative blog here: Momobutoh Dance Company

Another of my brother's harmonica improvs for my dad...

Monday, July 4, 2011

white spirit bear

A few months ago I found it difficult to read three news articles while in Vancouver at my childhood home.

The first was the news about the starving bears and eagles in the early spring in B.C. - both starving due to the lack of pink and chum salmon returning to their spawning grounds last fall. Young starving bear cubs ended up in wildlife rehab centers and hundreds of eagles at a time were scrounging for food from a garbage landfill site near Vancouver, B.C.

I was also saddened and maddened by the second news I read of the proposed tanker route off the westcoast of B.C. that would transport oil from the Alberta tar sands. The tar sands and projected pipelines are enough in themselves to be environmentally disastrous for our planet, however, the projected route would take the tankers into the head of Douglas Bay - a pristine land and habitat to abundant wildlife including the black bear and the rare kermode or white spirit bears where a potential oil spill would be catastrophic.

An oil spill in this region could wipe out wildlife in the area both directly and indirectly - directly by destroying salmon runs, and indirectly by starving the ecosystems that rely on salmon for food - including bears, eagles, wolves, sea lions, orca and humpback whales... An online petition is available to sign: here.

I highly recommend the following film, describing the plans to try and save this unique ecosystem:
To top it off, the third news I read was about bear trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest, located along Canada's Pacific coast, spanning 21 million acres of some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes. As one of the largest temperate rainforests on Earth, it's stunning mountains, forests, fjords, and waterways are home to thousands of species of birds, plants and animals – including grizzlies, black bears and also the white spirit bear. Although the spirit bears are protected, they are born from black bear mothers - it is a particular recessive gene that makes them white. Reducing the population of black bears in general could potentially wipe out the population of white spirit bears whose total number is less than 200. A petition is available to sign here: stop trophy bear hunting in British Columbia.
I have loved bears for as long as I can remember and feel a deep spiritual connection to them. When I lived in Whistler B.C. many years ago I had many close encounters with them while hiking in the wilds. Unfortunately, many bears began to rely more and more on garbage from the landfill site as their habitat was being developed into an all season resort. As a result, the bears were also coming more frequently into neighborhoods for 'garbage-food' where they were inevitably destroyed.

The more recent news of the bears and their habitat being threatened broke my heart. When it feels like I am carrying a lot of grief for the suffering of our world's wild habitats due to our actions, I feel like there is a mini time-bomb inside that is ready to explode... and it is what often is my inspiration to dance - to dance my grief, my prayers, my hopes, and my optimism...

When I met wonderful and talented Rex for a photo / dance session (see one of his sessions with Momo here: 'Tough Love in the Gravel'), he had no idea I had a dance of grief in mind, nor that I was prepared with a bag full of costumes and props! I was grateful for his willingness to capture this dance of connection to the suffering of the bears in film and to be my witness.


a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her -
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

Mary Oliver

Thank you for viewing my blog... I hope you may find some inspiration within it - to dance your own dance of grief, eco-activism, protest, connection, optimism...

Heart-full thank you, Rex, for taking the photos and for your open mind and heart!

Grateful for this dance practice as taught by my butoh mentor, Momo and the other members of Momobutoh who inspire so lusciously. See our collaborative blog here: Momobutoh Company.

(The above photos of bears are from the internet and I am sorry there were no credits to the photographers that I can share here).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

frogs, seaweed, birds, shells

After completing a water ceremony at the delta of Oyster Creek just before the sun set, the frogs were croaking loudly in the nearby pond.

The sun had such an incredible golden glow, that I wanted to capture the inner feeling tone of interconnection to this magical place and it's inhabitants with a dance practice.

Connecting here to the earth, the seaweed, the shells, the sun, the birds... with the symphony of frogs to move my spirit into movement of body....


I was walking by. He was sitting there.

It was full morning, so the heat was heavy on his sand-colored
head and his webbed feet. I squatted beside him, at the edge
of the path. He didn’t move.

I began to talk. I talked about summer, and about time. The
pleasures of eating, the terrors of the night. About this cup
we call a life. About happiness. And how good it feels, the
heat of the sun between the shoulder blades.

He looked neither up nor down, which didn’t necessarily
mean he was either afraid or asleep. I felt his energy, stored
under his tongue perhaps, and behind his bulging eyes.

I talked about how the world seems to me, five feet tall, the
blue sky all around my head. I said, I wondered how it seemed
to him, down there, intimate with the dust.

He might have been Buddha— did not move, blink, or frown,
not a tear fell from those gold-rimmed eyes as the refined
anguish of language passed over him.

Mary Oliver

Thank you for viewing my blog... I hope it may inspire you in some way... to dance in the beauty of our natural world...

See our collaborative blog here: Momobutoh Dance Company

prayer, dance, ceremony, life...

While dancing daily in 2009 inspired by Momo and her idea of a daily dance practice honoring her sensei, Kazuo Ohno, I realized and experienced deeply that there is the potential for no separation between dance and daily life, and daily life and dance... Whatever was being experienced internally or externally in the inner / outer environments could be sources of inspiration to dance. And often the practice became therapeutic, as an outcome, not as an intention.

The following three dances were water ceremonies. After the earthquake in Japan, Momo, several women and I took part in a water healing ceremony - sending prayers into water that was being distributed to rivers and ocean's around the world.

The first two offerings here were local - Skagit River and Oyster Creek. The third was Capilano River in Vancouver, B.C. - a dance offering with my sister.

After the earthquake in Japan, I read the following quote from Atsushi Takenoushi regarding the role of butoh dance from his perspective -

"What is dance for us ? " It concerns a lot with prayer. A prayer is releasing and purifying our inner soul. A prayer is beyond the life and the death. I feel it as a dance itself truly.
This time I will perform in Tokyo "Hane no Ki" and "Vers l'Autre Monde" in Kyoto . These pieces were made with theme of "releasing and purifying soul beyond the life and the death."And in Shizuoka, we perform imprivising piece "to the memory of the sea" and "from the memory of the sea," which is reminding the memory of life carrying music and dance from ancient time. Music and dance should have been a prayer since old time.

I hope to dance to resonate a prayer with audience, to send this resonance to the earthquake stricken area, nuclear accident area in Japan and the place of any kind of nature disaster, human disaster, battlefield in the world. And I hope to dance to dedicate the life of now.

Here from my heart, I am sending deep prayer for the people suffering from this big disaster, the people who lost life. As spring comes after winter, I hope the time will come that one can love a tiny flower even in the pain.

Wishing dance and music to be able to become this flower....

2011 Mar 24Osaka Japan
Atsushi's quote resonates so viscerally with me in regards to how I feel about the practice of butoh as taught by Momo - that it is a practice that connects one so deeply with your innermost soul that feels ancient, ancestral and on a certain level seems to alter, if not purify the soul...

Are the films here - dances? Ceremonies? Rituals? Prayers?

The experience of these dances was one of soul connection with other, the element water, and are offerings for the healing of the waters in general and in particular around Japan.

Thank you for viewing my blog. I hope you may feel inspired to dance your soul in a way that resonates for you,

Music: Mountain Man

Music: Jennifer Berezan

Visit our collaborative blog here: Momobutoh Company

Saturday, July 2, 2011

dancing earth's rhythms

Heron Rises From The Dark, Summer Pond

So heavy
is the long-necked, long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings

and she turns
from the thick water,
from the black sticks

of the summer pond,
and slowly
rises into the air
and is gone.

Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is

that death is a hole in the ground,
how improbable
that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed

back into itself--
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the turtle,
the fallen gate.

And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn't a miracle

but the common thing,
this decision,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body

into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind; see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.

Mary Oliver

After being stuck in very slow moving traffic on the highway, I was relieved to find this wildlife sanctuary at the end of a dead-end street in the scenic Skagit Valley.

After hours in the car feeling rattled and unnerved by the journey, I was grateful to drop into my body and connect to earth's rhythms - initially the stick and log percussions, and then, ending with what felt like the rhythms of the earth herself, feeling so much sweet energy of grounding and connection.

Partway through the exploration of dance and rhythms, a great blue heron flew overhead, in an awkward prehistoric, flapping kind of way... which felt perfect, as this dance felt quite awkward, too, and reminded me that many of nature's rhythms are discordant, and there is so much beauty in the disharmony of it all.

Feeling grateful for this dance of connection as inspired by my dance mentor, Momo.
Thank you for viewing my blog. I hope it may inspire you to dance to the rhythms of the earth where you enjoy connecting to the natural world,

Music: Mountain Man (Thank you, Patricia, for introducing me to them) XO
Visit our Momobutoh collaborative blog here: Momobutoh Dance Company