When I was in high school, I went to an outdoor concert in Concord, Mass that lasted all night. It’s so crowded I can’t get in to the porta-potties so I pee under a pine tree about a foot from someone’s blanket. The scene is all free feeling, music, boys. I wander around meeting people, vaguely trying to find my blanket, and my friends, Ken and Gavin and Barbara and Jean. I must have listened to many bands, but I don’t remember the music. There’s a bridge that people perch on, all squashed together, for the view. There’s a hill where the stage is. I don’t have to check my language or actions, and nothing really is expected of me. Nobody cares and everybody cares.
Deep in the night I hear, a mass of voices, “ten, nine. Gradually I realize they are counting for the sun to rise. “Eight, seven…four, three…” I join them. Now it’s one voice, “two…one”.
“That’s the sun, man!” a band member on stage said. A rush of energy flew through the crowd and we cheered loosely and wild.
This week I keep looking at Michael Lichter’s photo of a young woman, probably early 20s, enveloped by people in the Harley motorcycle culture. Somehow, he got this moment: The girl is chucking a guy under his chin. He leans in, beautifully bare-chested, but her focus is straight ahead with a tough smile. The slight weight of a button opens her partially buttoned vest exposing her right breast. She walks confidently through a crowd of men with another girl who laughing. She lifts a drink in her other hand, and her two arms rise in a V shape, like Avalokiteshvara. * At the edge of the photo, the man she is flirting with is missing his left arm just below the shoulder.
Last night I saw Kat Gurley’s, Wild Heart Dance company perform “Falling.” She knows how to stay with a theme. The dancers show their complete commitment to each motion. Costumed in open back leotards and cargo pants, they repeatedly walk a few steps forward and with no preparation, roll forward on their shoulders. The roll starts out fast, with gravity, and then slows midway. Arms relaxed, they use an inner momentum to stand as magically as they went down, so close to being in the actual moment that it’s almost like they forgot they rolled at all. They move, then stop and stand like everything is new. Or, it’s like these creatures, this is what they do. They turn into falling beings, and then they turn back into women, or scientists or whatever species they are in and out of.
Together, the group lifts one of the dancers way high — face soft, heart open. And then she falls all the way down, partially supported and then, at the end, she falls on her own, crashing onto the pad the dancers use for part of the floor. The dance reminds me of the film, Arrival, where linguist, played by Amy Adams, tries to communicate with these gentle large creatures. The dancers are both the creatures and the linguists.
This morning with my jasmine green I look at the program. On the cover there is a photo of Kat, lifted by her friends, her face, heart, soft and open, arms balanced in receptive V shapes, like soft wings, like the Bodhisattva of compassion.
In Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chogyam Trungpa describes the process of what he calls, the cocoon. In the first stage I am stuck in a pattern or habit. Next, I see a tiny way out; toward something with a little more leg room. Then I emerge anew. The last stage may be the most difficult. This is where I look over my shoulder and thread my fingers back, through the sticky weave. I bravely experience gratitude and real live compassion for where I’ve come.
I walk through my living room and pause at the photo of the Harley gathering, and walk on again, then turn back. Maybe I saw this photo when I was a teenager? I thought the girl looked like another reality of me; the me I wished to become. I pick up the postcard and put it down. I touch my fingers to the photo, and whisper to the girl, “thank you.”
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