Monthly Archives: November 2010

cell phones

I do not like cell phones. I use my phone, on average, less than once per day. I rarely text, I rarely call. Probably less than 10 people have my number. I email at a ferocious pace, but I do not like cell phones. Land lines are preferable; when you call someone on a cell phone, you don’t know where they are! They could be anywhere, with anyone. You could be interrupting something. They might not be able to devote their full attention to you. They could be in the company of someone who shouldn’t overhear your phone call. And I don’t like receiving calls, either, for all the same reasons. I detest the feeling of being “on call,” available to anyone that wants to contact me at any time. As a result, I often leave my phone (1) off, (2) on silent, or (3) at home.

I can write and reply to email at leisure, at an appropriate time and place. When I make or receive calls at home, from land line to land line, I have the comfort of knowing exactly where the other person is talking to me from. They know exactly where I am. We are grounded in space, rather than being two anonymous displaced data points.

I realize I am being old-fashioned.

I will learn to love them, sooner or later. Probably when land lines are completely phased out.

moon goddess 2

(continued from moon goddess)

After the opening ceremony, VB and I danced for a little while in the main, up-tempo room.  But after the serenity of the ceremony, it was a little hard to break right into the full-on dancing, so we soon decided to go and check out the down-tempo meditation room.  This room was later to become a veritable sauna of closely-packed bodies and clouds of incense and sage smoke, but at the beginning of the night it was tranquil.  We joined twenty or so other people, many of them sitting quietly and meditating, a few dancing slowly, a few doing dance stretches or yoga poses.  The DJ, a shy, sweet-looking young woman with a tangle of light brown dreadlocks and layers of earth-toned gypsy clothes, was playing a perfectly chosen mix of slow beats threaded through with world music sounds: didjeridoos, tablas, flutes and marimbas and myriad different drums.  She would bring the energy up, slowly, till we were almost dancing, then pull it back down to a more dreamy, meditative tempo.

After nearly an hour of stretching interspersed with quiet sitting and brief dancing, VB and I headed to the up-tempo room.  I now felt ready – energized, suffused with sage, woven into the night with my fellow human beings.  Bouncing on bare feet, we hit the dancefloor.

And danced, and danced, and danced.  For four hours.  Four hours of straight dancing is a lot, particularly at a completely sober event where you don’t really know anyone – the focus is on the dancing.  I danced through every movement I’ve ever made, through every memory of every dance I’ve ever been part of.  As I searched back for new motions, the right gesture for the next beat, I found myself reliving all the dance in my life.  It didn’t come in chronological order, but simply however my muscles demanded that I remembered.

Finding myself turning an ankle out in a particular way, I recalled tai chi lessons with CV, in LM’s garden back in D’Kar.  The endless nights of dancing in her house came back too, of course – all the moves I’ve borrowed from her and AT, the feel of insistent hands on my hips saying THIS is how you move them!, the ecstatic spontaneous circles as our favourite Freshly Ground songs came on.  The traditional dancing at their wedding and then the long, sweaty nights at Trekker’s night club.

Whenever I dance, I remember my capoeira days.  I’m forever shuffling my feet in samba rhythms (or trying to), swinging with the beat and motions of capoeira kicks and dodges.  I remember the parties at my mestre’s house, the dark living room crowded with people from all over the world, the first time I danced with a man that actually knew how to grab a girl and lead, rather than the half-hearted slow-dances of high school.  When I lift my hands in the air I recall the motions of the maculele sticks, and when I spin I remember learning to whip my head around as all dancers do, maximizing the time you face forward and minimizing your dizziness.  Whenever I dance, I long for more latin music.

Older memories came back.  The first time I really enjoyed dancing, without feeling self-conscious: in Australia, when I was 14.  I didn’t care what I looked like, or if the whole world was watching – I just got carried away.

Ballroom dancing lessons, taken just for fun.  Breathless, exciting nights at clubs.  The best dancing partners in the world in the Terrace taproom, ducking behind the big square pillar and making up the most ridiculous moves as we got in everyone’s way.  And so many more.

By the end of the night, my legs were trembling with exhaustion.  I felt wrung out, in the best possible way.  VB and I walked to the bus stop, and I rode the #4 bus home.

 

 

kinder garden sculpture garden

Friday night, I walk down to the neighbourhood pub to meet some of my friends.  The snow has melted, but it’s still cold, and there are a few thin, invisible slicks of ice on the dark pavement.  It reminds me of being back at Princeton, or on one of my many visits to Montreal – it’s never this cold in Victoria, so ice doesn’t associate with home.  The cold is a different kind of nostalgia.  The orange streetlights burn down onto the damp, deserted intersections, and I place my Doc Martens emphatically on the asphalt, daring the ice to make me slip.

When I reach my old elementary school, the lights end.  Are there fewer lights than there used to be, or does the looming bulk of the buildings, fortress-like on top of the small hill, seem further away?  Never mind.  I cross the field in the dark and my eyes switch focus, away from the orange-glinting pavement to the suddenly visible arch of star-spattered sky.  The rasp of rough concrete is replaced by the unique resistance of grass that is squelching with snowmelt but also crackling a little with frost, like half-defrosted vegetables.

As my eyes adjust I startle, for the field is covered with irregular white shapes, crouched like sleeping animals on the inkstain grass.  For a moment I have the eerie feeling of being in an art museum after dark, with a white marble sculpture garden scattered about me.  The abstract shapes are curled into weird shadowplays by the starlight, and it takes me a moment to realize what I’m seeing:  the half-melted remains of children’s play, their snowmen and ice fortresses holding out against the higher temperatures.  The thin coating of snow has long since left my front lawn, but here, there are a few snowballs left to be thrown.

I wander through the accidental sculpture garden, crushing the abused grass beneath my boots, touching a snow shape here and there, trying to figure out what they were.  From up close they are just jumbled piles of snow, but from afar they seem otherworldly.  I look up, and the stars wheel above me, framed by the tall douglas firs that rise around the perimeter of the field.  It is the closest I have felt to Botswana in weeks, walking in the dark, alone, with the clear stars above me.  There aren’t as many stars, of course, and there’s no Southern Cross.  But I have the same feeling of walking through beautiful world, crossing a solitary night sea to reach the islands of light, friends, laughter.

I look up and see Cassiopeia, the first constellation I truly learned.  She winks at me with her saucy W, reclining among the other stars.  I learned her story and her shape for a school project at this very elementary school, and my father helped me find her in the night sky.  She’ll always be my favourite.  Under the light of the stars, I cross the field and make my way along the pitch-black path towards the pub.

the light at the end of the dock

Home late.  Mildly tipsy.  Feel an irresistible urge to finish re-reading The Great Gatsby before falling asleep.

Metropolis

JANELLE MONAE.  This woman is incredibly talented.  Her album, The Archandroid, is one of the best things I’ve heard in ages.  I love it on all levels.  It’s danceable, it’s eclectic, it’s great songwriting and rhythm and musicianship.  It’s full of ideas, a sci-fi concept album that’s DONE WELL, and enjoyable in so many ways.  Janelle Monae is an amazing artist, singer, dancer, and true original – and she’s so young.  I look forward to the upcoming decades of her genius.  So listen to the album, and watch this short film/extended music video:

change of scene

I have two jobs.  One of these is an extremely part-time gig teaching SAT prep courses and one-on-one tutoring in math and science.  The other is a work-from-home job where I do fairly mindless computer stuff – data entry, formatting, editing, etc.  The joy and downfall of this situation is that it is possible for me to go for days without changing out of my pajamas.

Today I decided I had to get out of the house, and relocated to downtown Victoria.  My current workplace:

Those in the know will probably realize exactly where I’m sitting right now.

More snow photos:

Snow in Chinatown.

Looks like a REAL Canadian city!

Early-morning UVic.

Bad photo taken out of the car window, but shows you what the world looked like this morning.  It’s mostly melted by now – the temperature’s up to 2 degrees Celsius, and the gutters are gurgling with slushy snowmelt.  Fingers crossed for no freezing rain.

moon goddess

On Sunday, my friend VB and I went to a full moon celebration/dance party.  Billed as “An Evening of Intentional Dance in Celebration of the Full Moon,” it was an all-ages event at a local dance studio, with an abundance of DJs and a strict ban on alcohol and drugs.  The event kicked off at 6 pm sharp, with an opening ceremony led by a local belly-dancing teacher.

Going in, I had some reservations; the event promised to be so utterly saturated with new-age hippie vibrations that I feared what my inner cynic might do.  (Burst out laughing?  Retreat in horror?  Snort or scoff at an inopportune moment?)  However, it also promised a long night of enthusiastic dancing without the complications that the bar/club present, and I am always up for that.

So, we arrived at 6 and paid our entrance fee, took off our shoes at the entrance (house rules!  Bare feet!  I loved it!) and ventured into the dance studio.  A small altar was set up in the middle of the floor, with candles, crystals, feathers, and burning sage.  All we eager devotees of the moon gathered in a circle around her.  First she went around the circle, wafting the sage smoke with an eagle feather, and then beating a native drum.  We held hands and said some deep, heartfelt OMs together, and then she invoked the four cardinal points, the four elements, and the spirits of the land we inhabit.

It all sounds rather flaky.  But it felt wonderful.  I think it’s undeniable that human beings thirst for ritual, for collective experience, for a spiritual thread.  I’ve been part of, and witness to, so many rituals and so many dances over the past three years – so many festivals, so many foreign “cultural experiences,” and they have been incredible and mind-opening.  But it’s been a long time since I’ve been a part of a ritual grounded in my own land, invoking the spirits of the cedar forests and the wild coast, of this marvellous island which is my home.

And to sing, together!  Once, about five years ago, I joined a “free singing” group.  We would meet once a week and sit on cushions, in a circle, and just start singing – a tone would rise organically from our throats and we would fade in and out, modulating as felt natural, growing gradually into a melody, or perhaps into a cacophony of grunts and barks, pure noise-making.  Singing in a group is an incredibly satisfying, visceral thing.  Just to make noise together.  One of the anthropological theories behind the San traditional dancing and singing is that it was partially to warn off lions.  As an isolated nomadic group, a tiny island of fire and humanity in the vast sea of the Kalahari, making that joyous collective noise would warn lions that you were there and your group was strong.  Prides of lions do the same thing.  The lions roar together at night, perhaps communicating with other prides, or perhaps just letting them know: we are here, we are strong.

Singing together announces your presence to predators, to other groups of people, to the universe.  It unites you as a group, and it is a very physical experience, feeling the resonance of your tone vibrating throughout the space.

Must go to bed.  Continue tomorrow, perhaps.