Dance

out dancing, photo by Joanne Mildenhall

Maybe I have a few friends who excel in relationships. I know I have a lot to learn, and that there is nothing more valuable to me than connecting with others.

I’ve been learning the most lately from dance. Partner dancing: two-step, polka and Western swing. Austin style, funky and diverse. For me, it is practicing relationships one song at a time. There is a greeting, and an agreement, a moment of listening for the beat and sound, a moment of coming together, syncopation, synthesis, a dual practice, playfulness, pageantry, acknowledgement, and an ending. Often there is some nod toward wanting to share another dance in the future. It requires manners and tact, and being emotionally present.

For my animal self, it also includes body language, scent, and putting my body in alignment with another. We use our bodies to hear the music. I have to follow a man’s leadership and trust him with the journey of the dance. My body is in conversation with another.

I look around the dance floor and see every shape, size and age of body participating in this social ritual. I see all kinds of ways to play. I see couples making each other happy. I see individuals learning to take risks.

I would say that I spent my 20’s learning how to be a person, my 30’s learning how to do my work, and here in my 40’s I am learning how to be a woman.

Otherwise

“Otherwise” by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Leda and the Swan

Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy researching Leda and the Swan in art historical imagery and in Greek literature.  I wrote a paper for an aesthetics preceptorial with James Carey at St. John’s College. I wrote a paper for a John Clarke art history class at the University of Texas at Austin on one room in a Pompeian villa where Leda sits in the top zone of a frieze with her other lovers of Zeus. Dr. Clarke was able to finally get through to me that we learn meaning from context. Where Leda sat in that cast of characters may well have represented the values of that particular household, through the patron and the artist’s commission.

I have returned to this poem many times:

“Leda and the Swan” by William Butler Yeats

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?