marginfades

The joy of movement. Words. Food & memory.

Posts Tagged ‘(non)fiction

The Mouse Daughter (First Act)

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There’s a fable I have heard often in my childhood about a childless holy man who takes home a mouse to his wife – and with their powers, they transform her into a perfect little girl, the one they’ longed for and never had.  She’s all things beautiful and wonderful, and brings joy to their lives.

When their daughter is of age, the holy man tries to interest her in marrying: first the grandest suitor, the Sun (she won’t have him because she’ll be burnt to a crisp).  The Sun then suggests the next mightiest suitor, the Cloud (she won’t have him because she’s daunted by his thunder), who in turn recommends Wind (who’s always on the move, and what good is an absent husband?), who thinks of Mountain (so cold, made of stone!).  Mountain in jest mentions the mere mouse, who’s not really worthy of consideration at all.

In exasperation, the holy man suggest that his daughter might as well marry the mouse – and she promptly agrees.

“I see myself in him – and he sees me.”

Which just goes to show you – like calls to like, no matter how it’s been transformed.

 

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May 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Watering Hole

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Going to the public pool with my family was the beginning of my weekend, rain or shine, snow or sun.  It was socialization with built-in barriers: whether floating on my back or diving deep, my family was close by, and I was left to my thoughts in the depths.

Friday evening swims came to an end when Dad noticed the families dwindling, and the number of unattended teenagers showing up.  They were mostly good kids, but he couldn’t help but notice the boys’ horseplay, and the girls dry as a bone, draped over their towels without any other modest covering.

We never went swimming once I came of age, and I always thought it was because I had too much school work.  I never did enjoy a pool or beach party, after those Fridays.  Pool games, burgers and beer, and basking on a towel or in the water was fun – but what I really needed were compatriots who enjoyed the quiet gurgle of the underwater view, or the blue of the sky, endless as I watched from my float.

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May 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm

“The Luxury of Slowness”

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I have watched Tishani Doshi‘s TEDxPalermo talk at least once every day ever since my dance guru shared it with me – and each time, I’ve watched it two to three times in succession. (This has been going on for about a week now.)

Every time I review it, different elements of the speech move me (to emotion – and there’s very little in art or thought that does so). I wonder:

Is slowness the last real luxury we have left, as Doshi states?
Is touching time even possible?
(Would touching time be full Realization, or perhaps just the beginning of Release?)

One particular idea Doshi emphasizes is the idea of exploration during the slower tempo of classical Indian music: the vilambit, during which no lyrics are sung, only sounds of a raga‘s particular ascendance and descendance of sounds.

Which reminds me of a time during my childhood when I learned and practiced such music. With repetition came an eventual flow of practice, especially during alaap (introduction to the raga). Singing an introduction to the classical key signature was a time that I grew to relish: unbound by a beat (which I paradoxically loved, reverberating as it did from a tabla), my mind and heart connected, soared. I sang with abandon and feeling, which are their own ornaments.

Doshi concludes with the thought that if we learn to inhabit slowness, we can make the most of our own crescendos. Early morning practice sessions and weekend lessons with a well-sung alaap formed many a connection between random bits of information floating around mind, and brought clarity and purpose to replace any bit of doubt.

The mornings I that I awakened just a bit earlier than my alarm for an extra-long practice session before school, I went even deeper within myself with those connections and clarity. The day to follow was always like honey: a slow, measured pour, accelerating into smooth certainties.

Written by marginfades

May 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Food for Thought and Wanderlust

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I’m in transit today, after a much-needed weekend away from home, visiting good friends.  As much as I have come to love where I live (much like Jane Friedman loves her adopted home town of Cincinnati, Ohio), there are days and weeks when I’m just done with it, and feel the need to escape.

 

   road trip by breahn

The friend I visited this weekend has stated there’s a naturally occurring bacteria in our gut that secretes a substance that gives us itchy feet, the yearning to seek far-flung places and novel experiences.  Really, it’s just about nutritional deficiencies and the bacteria’s attempt to get more of whatever it needs by pushing us out of our usual milieu.

Bacterium or not, I am refreshed from my weekend away.  The compelling parts of Friedman’s ode to Ohio’s foremost up-and-coming cultural center are dancing around in my mind today:

It’s a peculiar disease for us Americans, to think it a failure not to move away from what we know. As a twentysomething, I wanted nothing more than to live in Europe—where I’d stayed 6 months during a study abroad—and to be done with the uncultured and ignorant USA.

It’s like all young people to think this way—to imagine that the place where we come from is stupid and beneath everything else. Eventually you realize that all places are rather the same. Or, people are the same. You just find the right circles where you can be accepted or make a difference. The rest is just details.

It took a long time to accept that I’m a Midwesterner at heart. I want to be friendly and helpful. I’m not eager to talk about myself. I prefer a laid-back, unpretentious lifestyle. While these are not qualities unique to the Midwest, I don’t reliably encounter those environments elsewhere.

Emphases mine.

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May 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Renewal (III)

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In the form of dance that I have the privilege to learn, there’s a philosophy of tension and release: various aspects of the body move in opposition to others – and yet there’s no discord in the display.

Rather, there’s the relief of overall unison: the body gliding as a whole across the bhoomi – not to mention a continual movement of those parts of the body, occupying the same space for a mere millisecond.

You might see it if you’re lucky, sitting in the audience, and choose to define it as a pause.  It’s not as important for you to see it (and if there’s too much of one…well, it shouldn’t really be there.  It’s meant to be elusive.)  It’s more important to feel it, as a dancer – and continually, not just in a moment of a routine or performance.

This state of being only comes with enough practice – studied deliberation – such that the body flows through its routine, without the brain minding it constantly.  With the body engaged, the mind’s free to make connections and associate, soar through a day’s worth of experiences, examine them, and release them.  This deconstruction continues far after the physicality of practice distracts the body and frees the mind.   There’s a depth of sleep borne of the body’s exhaustion that allows fragments of memory, flitting images, and snippets of conversation to piece together and remain if necessary, and dissipate if not.

When I awaken, after such a practice, I’m replete – and in spite of the harried day that follows, littered with the steely reflection of cars and concrete highways, the taste of bitter coffee, numbers and spreadsheets blurring together, I discover that I’m anxious to return to the floor, warm up and push through a practice, beginning with my personal warm-ups, a set of exercises, and steps both square and sinuous.  After my body’s already humming with exertion, I push it to sing, push out the day’s dross.  If I do this often and well enough, you may see the results.  I can only practice, and hope.

Source: substation.org via Margin on Pinterest

Written by marginfades

May 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm

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Renewal (II)

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The idea of slowing down the pace of life is hardly novel: there’s entire industries devoted to explaining to you how their product or service will truly give you the space and time to relax.  Vacations, massages, and cable television usually promise us a measure of peace – and yet we come home needing a vacation from our vacation, or unable to have calmed our mind during a massage, and exhausted from watching yet another marathon of a syndicated television series rather than anything that truly engages our interest, from a myriad channels.

What I found unusual in that brief moment in which we see the lady in repose in her friend’s old apartment is not its fiction and improbability (for that’s what it is: just a scene from a movie, with an actress whose best emotion is a projection of serenity).

I think of the possibilities that scene evokes.  Does the dream vacation have to be an exhaustive tour of a place’s most famous landmarks, with people I do not know to like?  What if it were simply a stretch of days in a place that nurtures and inspires me, instead?  (Must it be a pricey all-inclusive? )  If the idea of a stranger’s impersonal, practiced touch heightens my anxiety rather than releasing calm within me, is it what I need?  And is the oblivion induced by hours of an endless television series sooth me, really?  Music does: wordless, mellifluous.  (If I really want dialogue and action, I’ll choose it – with friends, in person.)

Elements of entertainment pervade each of these activities, though – and that implies a certain threshold of engagement on my end.  I can’t passively sit there and enjoy; I must research, and understand, and pick apart a nuance until every element is dissected and exposed.

This is important to know: what brings relaxation to most only keeps me primed, at full attention, to absorb and evaluate.  I remain in a constant state of tension.  I must pursue relief – and paradoxically, my path to it is studied deliberation.

_______________________

Written by marginfades

May 4, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Renewal (I)

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reading chair by eflon

There is a moment at the conclusion of a recent Hollywood Blockbuster in which a supporting character (one of four close friends) is shown alone and in repose in her newlywed friend’s old apartment.  Unused for months – nevertheless, the apartment remains in readiness, with updated furnishings, for another occupant.

The character is shown as relaxed, seated comfortably, idly thumbing through a magazine – and you get the idea that she’s taking a quiet day to herself, away from her daily routine.  The movie and its franchise make much of these four friends sharing adventures, laughter and sorrows – out and about, enjoying their lives, social and seen.

And yet: there’s that rare moment of the movie, magnifying their individual needs, particularly one’s need for rejuvenation born of quiet, and solitude.

***

The scene reminds of my uncle: he checked himself into a hotel for a few days one summer.  Right there, in his very own neighborhood.  If he was anything short of honorable and a gentleman, the close-knit community he and his family live in would have buzzed with gossip (a tryst?  a mistress?).  Quite to the contrary, the staff welcomed him with nods of anticipation, in full view of the public, ushered him straight to the pool, handed him a stack of newspapers and a frivolous drink, and left him to his reflections.

The extended family was accustomed to his business travel, and assumed he was out of town – but imagine his favorite nephew’s surprise in attending a breakfast business meeting at the same hotel and finding his uncle relaxing, poolside.  “I can’t get away from business at home – technology is the devil, and a leash.  At work, I can’t help but think of which of the kids is having a birthday (or is it my wife’s?), or the next time we’re going to dinner with friends (do I like them, or not?  Will I have to pretend a business call, to get away?).  And at home again…it’s not like the kids are noisy, or the TV’s blaring.  It’s just hot, and I just want some peace,” he said simply.

The neighborhoods gossips didn’t even blink an eye.  This habit of my uncle’s was old news, and not very exciting at that.

He got the idea from reading of gentlemen of another era and culture spending the mornings reading newspapers and networking at their clubs, he told me, a twinkle in his eye.  He regrets giving up that particular hotel – his nephew and his friends frequent the place now that they “discovered” it, and he really wants no company except his own.  “I really liked that pool – something about the way it’s shaded.  I can enjoy the warmth without the sun beating down on me,” he shared wistfully.

Selfish?  There were those in the family and community who certainly made it clear they thought so – the expense!  the intimation of scandal!  such an odd habit, and if only unusual, a bad one!  what will people say (if they knew)!

But “people” already knew – and my uncle always came home smiling and refreshed, having missed his family, to a wife and children who were happy to see him, having missed him in turn.

No one could say much about that – except that they were a good, happy family.  The wife was lovely, the children happy.  And they always seemed so relaxed.

Window Seat by Judy Harrow

Inspired by that instant of solitude I glimpsed in the last moments of that movie, I’ve thought about turning a spare space in my house into a refuge.  I predict that if I actually went in and closed the door to that room, the household denizens (four-legged) would be pawing at the door within minutes, wanting in – and the solitary one (two-legged) would suddenly decide that my company was preferable to whichever puzzle or video game had held his interest for eons before.

I already have the elements for this refuge – they simply want arranging: a bookcase with my favorite reads, and a writing desk, and a money plant.  A shrine paying homage to all my inspirations, starting with the wideeyed inspirations for my movements, and various odds and ends that remind me of the complexity experienced out of simplicity and quiet.  Some bamboo shading with a silk swag to evoke the tropical climate best suited to my genetics, a window seat for the cat, a cushion for the dog.  Should someone choose to join me, a comfortable sofa that might do equally well for reading – and for dalliance.

(origin unknown)

____________________________

 

Written by marginfades

May 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm

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