It snowed last night. By now, it has melted again and the field is once again brown. I begin with sound, lying in CRP…breath, resting, letting go. Sound is rocky and broken, small. At one point, my arms fold, hands come into my cheeks, backs of hands resting on cheekbones. I spend time with my mouth wide open, breathing. Waves of fear come and go; my jaw relaxes, as do my lips. I begin to roll from side to side slowly, very slowly with simple gestures of reaching and touching, angular.
Robert Ashley “Van Cau’s Meditation” piano piece played by Lois Svard. What comes is an upright improvisation rooted in a location, starting and repeating shapes/gestures, accumulating, doing them backwards. The motif is based on my left foot with heel raised; it keeps occurring no matter what. Third improvisation to same open music, working with, ignoring, working against, mostly walking in figure 8 covering the room. Aware of my hip and the way I walk. As I speed up, notice my hip swing and turn out to give me some area of pain-freeness. I take this to a “run” which lasts a few laps before the balls of my feet start to complain. I have no metatarsal/phalangal arch to speak of anymore. I stand still and feel the pulse and glow of my legs. I stir the air with my arms and hands around my hips and legs.
Quotes from The Wild Braid by Stanley Kunitz
How could you be an artist if you did not explore your own inner life?
Every experience you have is a lesson in how to live for the next one.
Getting down to the very tissue of experience.
You go through a complete chain of experience, changing and communicating with each step so that you are linked with the phenomenon of time itself.
I have more energy. I feel more fluid today. Living by the ocean seems to influence my state of mind and body.
I put on the soundtrack from Babel and start doing silly little dances. It is good for me to be silly. I am sexy, moving hips, shoulder, cha cha cha. African rhythm, little jumps, as little as I can. Arms reach forward…one arm then the other then pull back then reach then pull back.
On the floor, I go into my lungs, my left upper lung is tight, right lung is more available yet I spend some time there. I move into my heart and find it is lifted off of the floor. Breathe with the intention of releasing it and behold tears come. I can yield my boundary, as I feel safe.
Play with gravity letting it initiate the movements. Rolling side to side sequentially through my spine…release.
The softness of the music again triggers sadness. We are all moving at the same time! There was a ton of movement for me today and I do not remember most. Just know I moved and was moved.
10 A.M. Unseasonably cool, my bedroom is flooded with sun. Sit down and begin with greeting N.E. and N.W. to you three. Your dances with whales and bears, Sara, I find very grand but a bit overwhelming for me. The sparrows who come to my feeder are more my style. I close my eyes and enjoy the feeling of wellbeing that the sunshine brings. My torso moves, my shoulders, my waist, my head and I feel the urge to stand. I take a tentative step to the side, back, away, step side again, hey, I am dancing! Repeat, and again to the music I hear in my head. Pretty soon, have to sit, but continue to dance. I find that I have a sitting down theme and a standing theme. I repeat them again and
again. That is enough for one day. I hear my sparrows chirping.
It has been snowing – squalls – all day and not gotten above freezing. I have a hankering to hear Musci and Venosta’s Urban and Tribal Portraits.
Right away, I am vigorous. Start on a diagonal to the floor boards, working that frame throughout, repeatedly coming back to that beginning place, revisiting the arm gestures in differing places in the dance and the room, teeter across the room to change locations. Wrapped legs and arms, entwined in themselves, knotted, head facing opposite directions, fingers together, wrists flex and extend.
I head to the floor and very slowly roll over, rest, thinking of you three, rest, roll slowly, rest, witness, roll, then begin to contract through my middle, expand my legs down the room in order to travel in that direction, pushing with my shoulder. At one moment, I am on my knees/shins with my mouth as wide open as I can and for as long as I can before I start to gag. Sound comes, brief but to the point.
Another piece evolves with much twining; obviously, I am not done with this wrapping and getting myself as close to myself as I can. I travel by little jumps, my thighs glued together.
Movement number five unfolds from the encased and grows in size and space, lots of balancing, careful standing on my left leg, arms raised, arching, arching. All this vertical takes me to the floor and back up and to the floor and back up many more times to finally end in that mid range.
The light is present earlier.
I put on Bill Davis’s sound/music, start rolling around and end up just sitting and popping my head up, children’s voices and spontaneity inspire my movements. My cat Taxi and I do duets, he balanced on my left shoulder.
The music changes from a sparse playful background to a dense, dark, thick landscape. This is familiar to me: it was the sonic scape, the background for many improvisational studies and performances.
I am moving very slowly, creating pathways of movement in a slow continuous flow. I reach towards the east again, towards Vermont. To avoid being stuck in the glue of wanting to know the future, I stay with the slow movement, falling more into the primal brain and exploring from an animal state of mind. I ask for the bear and it is overhead watching. The dark, dense musical landscape sparks memories of depression and a darkness that is so familiar, of a sucking down into a thick, muck-like quicksand where one feels suffocated. I choose to not be there so I change speed, direction, and level of movements. I play with new quick gestures, communicating to the three of you and smiling. I am grateful for this adventure.
Belle Mead N.J.
I start sitting on the side of the Norwegian wall bed, hanging over, palms clasping under the soles of my feet. Rock back on my spine, embryonic, my uterus gone, dark, empty, closed space. Still I am the fetus in that vacant, non-existent place. I call in bear, as Sara does. I am in bear mother’s uterus, which is the cave of the bear, inside her cave that is inside her. I pull the blanket over me, my head, curl on my side, fist my hands, then my feet push into mermaid tail, extending the length, hands at my sides like flippers. I am gliding under ice floes. A beam of light pierces the water’s surface; I make a circle with my hands on my sternum for the light to enter. The waters are cold. I am completely enveloped in the blanket.
This journey I am on… to let go of my critique of myself. I enjoyed the long sleek body of myself gliding under the ice floes.
After greeting you all in my usual fashion which gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, I settle down to business, thinking I would continue where I left off namely with the standing movement but it was not to be. I am learning about being in the moment! I find myself experimenting with my head. Quite amazing how much you can do with your head alone: up, down, side to side, turning, nodding, resting, pushing, faster, slower — after a time the arms get into the act. Before I know it both hands are on my head, one on top of the other, as I sit very erect, the elbows fanning the air slowly, slowly, like a butterfly early in the morning drying the dew off of it’s wings. It was quite delightful.
Sunny, 50, breezy, freezing when we got up. Dave is my witness today. I am a little nervous.
Start with John Luther Adams “Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing”. I lie in the panel, face down and wait, thinking of you three. My arms come out from under me as I roll over, push the airspace. Hands cup something. Rise backwards, travel about the room midlevel, reaching with legs, feathering the air behind me with arms, head leading, head following, curves, looking through the portal of my arms, looking at Dave, skittish – does he like it? Is he bored? Does he wish he were somewhere else? Is this too personal to be seen? Shhhh! I stop. I breathe. I wait a bit.
Begin walking in lines, lay down a grid, east west and when I come to the heat stove I head north south. I turn off the music, preferring silence or my sounds or the wood frogs in the pond or birds singing. This grid dance speeds up, becomes playful. Work diagonals, filling in the space from the grid. I end up standing still noticing my heart beating and how deep it goes in my body.
Last dance begins very slowly with the slightest turn of a hand, shift of weight, slide of foot, turn of head, tilt of torso. Proceed deliberately and slowly to move from the edge into the room, away from where Dave is seated. He sees my back. At one point, think I am done, wait, and then a small gesture and impetus emerges as well as a slight “ha” which develops into a sweet small song as I travel further with this halting and slow phrase. Then I know I am done.
I sit by Dave… he is at a loss for words, as in viewing past improvisations, not really knowing how to look at the work or say anything in specific. This immediate dance seems all slimy with afterbirth (my words) as it emerges (his word) from me, too slippery to put words on to it. We will talk more as I want to ask others into watch and want to offer them ways of looking and responding, giving them a container for the work so they might comfortably enter and have some dialogue.
A brilliant sunny sky. I can go outside later.
Now put on music by Lisa Gerrard, soundtrack from Whale Rider. I go to the ground into CRP and hear my spine talk to me. Rest. My legs reach up into space. My feet reach and pull back the air to my body. My pelvis starts to rock back and forth as the legs and feet keep reaching, grasping, and pulling space back to center. What am I reaching for?
The movement spirals me over onto my belly. I sit and call for bear. Bear comes over and sits next to me, rests its head on my shoulder, I return the gesture. Bear invites me to sit in its lap. I spiral over and as I sit enclosed by this amazing creature, I begin to cry. I sense this amazing holding and nurturing of me, rocking back and forth. I call forth eagle, it appears on my right shoulder. I call forth raven and raven is sitting on my feet. I call forth whale and whale is under my legs that are stretched out in front of me. I sense the presence of these creatures and for a brief moment began to judge this ‘calling forth’. Then each of you appears, dispelling the judge.
I take on Bear and lumber around the room feeling the amazing power of the homolateral movement, the swing of the pelvis, the length of the spine, the sense of groundedness in all four limbs. I play with shifting the weight back and forth and fall and roll over, it is good to play, I do not play that much.
I come to two legs, standing, aware of the powerful swift in focus and attention…the horizon. I see the native dancing in my mind’s eye and start chanting and moving closer to the earth, knees and elbows flexed, weight in my legs. I then switch to moving like the white dancer, lifted off the earth, spacious with a sense of being ‘in the air’, no judgment, just sensing the contradictions.
Why did I come to be in Alaska beyond the obvious? Perhaps it is to explore the animal movement and find connection to these powerful creatures.
I read these words of Sara’s and am stunned by the ways you each access other worlds, other layers of being. I feel so ordinary in my explorations and know this is my self-
critical judgment; one I do not need or want. I feel like I do not know what to do — with these days, with what’s left of my life, with the hours before me, it’s hard but that is what is real now. I feel empty, purposeless, as if I don’t know who I am or what I am meant to be doing. Sitting here, the tears roll, one or two lamps are on in the house, which has quieted since everyone is asleep. I’ll be here for a week before we return to NYC for chemo cycle 2…. so ungrounded, where do I belong, what am I meant to be doing with all this? I love you all deeply and am grateful for your holding of me and listening.
I feel quite overwhelmed by your account of the calling of your powerful animals, Sara. I feel increasingly the presence of all of you. In addition, the weather has become spring now, flooding my room with sunshine. I found an old C.D. player so now have music. Decide to concentrate on my torso with a minimum of arm movement. This felt so good that I found myself on my feet for long periods of time [four or five minutes]. My body is beginning to feel what it is like to move again. Next week I am going to try it without my brace. Maybe I will feel less like a robot.
Overcast. The thermometer says it is 55 but it feels cooler. Yesterday was very hot. I begin with the window open so I can work to the sound scape of birds and water.
I change my mind and put on Jeff Grienke’s Over Ruins very low so that I can hear the birds. I am interested in making each improvisation have a structure, a composition. Today, I do one long piece, about 35 minutes. There are sections.
I begin shaking like a dog coming out of the water. I realize I have a low level headache and reach for my forehead with my right hand and pull the headache out of my skull.
Another dance: weird kind of lope with my arms extended at a high diagonal in front, leading me, eyes focus down. There are shifts of direction due to wrapping and unwrapping of limbs. At the end of that section, I am on the ground, crawling then traveling somehow with my legs crossed and my hips off the ground. I cannot maintain that for long but do continue to engage in this awkward piling of limbs and torso in an upright position, gawky and angular, laying forearm on forearm, bending parallel.
Eventually, the cramped style of this movement opens out in release to a lovely soft lyrical moment or two with pointed toes and all. How curious to feel that there is not much lovely material for any duration. It is not that I am afraid of making lovely movement; it is more that I have little experience with graceful gestures leading somewhere. Out of this lovely section comes a slow and halting passage across the floor with singing and loud expelling of breath. This ends at the window seats where I sit for a few minutes thinking about you three.
I am aware of an increase in energy this morning. Is it anticipation of upcoming trip? Trying to push time forward…what a silly thing Sara!
I start pacing back and forth between two walls, not much space, work with limitation, push off one wall, fall into pacing, and push off the opposite wall. I am taking chances putting more space between the wall and myself falling, finding it requires more effort to push off. My brain thinks of knitting designs perhaps from the motion of back and forth.
Taxi jumps off the chair and wants to be included, loves to be held as I move. We fall and roll and are quiet as we breathe. He stays still for what seems like a long time. I mimic the stillness then slowly stand and step onto my right leg, knee bent, torso twisted, bent over a little, left leg lifted slightly in back. My left hand gestures across body to the right, ends up in stillness, palm facing upward. Without delay, my right hand meets the left and they embrace each other. I am aware of the presence of an emotion. It is quiet outside.
I unfold from posture and back up to wall to step out again and automatically go into the same pose…. hand, hand…emotions present. I crumble to the floor, lie on my back, arms above my head. Sometimes things seem so right. Important to just be there without the expectations. This ‘being,’ seems to be a metaphor for my life lately.
I walk around and stand still and play with arm rotation initiated by thumb and pinky…unspiraling the tension away from and towards self. Arms move up to the sky opening my heart and embracing life and the four of you. I do this repeatedly. The movement becomes bigger and more inclusive of torso, head. I rest and repeat the arms reaching towards the sky. Hands splayed open, embracing the space, the palm feels vulnerable; open my heart, release fear, desire, pain, sadness, and yearnings. I repeat, then say, ‘enough’. Bear enters, comes to stand next to me, my masculine self standing next to my feminine self. This is the first time bear has a gender.
Change in plans. Things happening very fast…too fast. Treatment possibilities shriveling. Not going to NYC. Flying tomorrow, home to Vermont. Think the time left is very short, perhaps a few weeks, more if fortunate. Am blessedly in no pain. Just want to be held, close, close by my family, my beauty ones. And touched, physically, by each of you who have stepped up to be with me on this fast, furious and fierce journey.
How I admire you all in your ability to verbalize your movement experiences! Perhaps it is my ballet background that limits me in self-expression but “I do the best I can with my shaped head” as my father-in-law used to say. So, here goes.
Last Sunday I decided to take off my brace and see what it would be like to move without it. Well – good and bad. I did not feel like an automaton but I felt more limited in my motion. However, I did feel more like my old self. I used an anonymous piece of music that had some harmony and different rhythms. Starting in my chair, I concentrated on my breathing which evolved into torso motions and before long I was on my feet circling the chair haltingly, it is true, but happy to be able to do that much. The music helped me to let one movement flow from the other. The time passed quickly.