Rhea Dances

She Dances

After her conversation with Ursula at Bear Essentials, Rhea bicycled straight to the barn at Benden Farm, making the mile plus in record time. The classic wooden structure at the bottom of the hill from the house seemed blessedly empty of people at the moment. She breathed in its characteristic smells of straw and animal feed and walked in past the small tractor and its attachments, plus assorted carpenter and garden tools. Most of the latter were hung neatly on the wall in their appointed places as Carlos was a stickler for orderliness (“You’d think he had Swiss blood,” Cali often quipped). But a few were jumbled against the wall as if someone had just left them recently. She listened for activity outside and didn’t hear anything but someone could be just around the corner. No matter. Not at all inclined to linger in the working part of the barn, she wound her way up the intricately decorative spiral staircase – welded by Johan when he was first getting going.

In contrast to the tidiness below, the huge upstairs loft was a creative jumble. Soft couches draped with India prints and old blankets lined the walls joined by colorfully painted booths garnered from a restaurant remodel. A low stage at one end held a drum kit, a marimba and a pair of conga drums in stands. Other percussion toys, as well as a tuba and two trumpets were jumbled here and there. Instrument cases indicated more musical riches, as did an appropriately battered upright piano. There was even a pull down projector screen that bespoke evenings curled up in the couches watching movies.

Colorful banners and an earth flag dangled from the rafters. Huge paintings in very different styles hung on the walls and there was a partly finished mural on the floor in the west corner that looked like a new group effort. A few beer bottles and cider jugs indicated another recent use of the space. Rhea smiled at the memory of that evening. It had been fun adding Uri’s amazing didge playing to their eclectic mix.

She wasn’t much of a musician so the instruments didn’t call her but she made a beeline for the sound system. After a few minute’s search, she found what she was looking for among the jumble of CD’s on and under the table. Loreena McKennitt. The Visit. When she was at the store she hadn’t consciously noticed it, but riding home she realized that Ursula had been playing “Tango to Evora” – the theme music to the Burning Times films a bunch of them had watched together last year at Halloween. If she was going to take Ursula’s witchy class – for that’s how she thought of it – then she needed to come to terms with the fear in her body over the thought of exposing herself in that group – or to the community at large. To do this was taking a big step in owning what she had known about herself ever since weeping over those movies.

She slipped the CD into the player and that song on repeat. Taking a deep breath, she stood quietly as the music began to fill her. Shivers washed along her spine when the wordless female voice began. Good. Rhea had learned that shivers meant she was on the right track. An image from the film ran through her mind: a lone figure playing a violin on a hill top. Rooted there, strong in her convictions about her wisewoman self. Strong in her memories. Then and now.

With the thought of those generations – eons – of strength, Rhea began to feel herself as a tree, roots going down, branchy arms beginning to wave, trunk swaying. Thank goodness she’d learned about grounding from Ursula the other day at Illahee. Rooted, she could face the music – literally – and begin to dance.

Another image from the film flooded her: a woman, cape flowing, wending her way down the narrow alley of a medieval stone town. Her terror of hounding persecutors was palpable and Rhea took it in. Owned it. Re-membered it in her own body. Darting here and there in this familiar modern setting she knew the feeling of being chased, even as she was driven by her need to counsel a sick old one, tend to a woman in labor, heal a neighbor child’s infection. Her basket of salving herbs was on her arm, she had only to get in the door…. this time. Yet inevitably another alley and another door awaited. New fears and new betrayals.

Soon the fires burned and screams filled Rhea’s being. Her own. Her friends. She choked and moaned until shrieking, her body whirled and dashed, seeking refuge and other times. Yet, still the beleaguered images came. A dark-skinned Romany woman in ancient India. Men on horseback swooping viciously. The colonial village of Salem, Massachusetts. Neighbors shrieking. Fingers pointing. Priests and sanctimonious ministers torturing, condemning.

Dance the pain. Dance it out…. Swooping and swirling in the storm, treelike, to bend but not to break. Promises of future success…. Was now the time? Here at the beginning of the 21st Century. This life, these people. Could they betray again? Possibly….

As terror threatened to well again, there was a sound at the top of the stair and two men appeared. Rhea gasped and, still the grips of the dance, flung herself towards them in a fury. A tall African-American man – dark brown skin and curly dreaded mop bouncing – and a slim Asian with features blurred by Russian and Mongol parentage.

Yet their stance was open and their expressions warming enough that the steam went out of her engine. Panting she slowed and then bowed as with a look at each other, the men dropped their bags and danced towards her. The music swelled again.

Fingers touched lightly. “Arlo and Uri.” She breathed their names, turning slowly in a circle as they wove a dance around her, their maleness softened by their need for her to feel safe and loved.

Soon she let herself go again as new images whirled past her. African villages where the wisewoman was honored. Asian steppes where the drummers were women. Arawak healers in the Amazon jungles searching out and brewing the powerful vision medicines throughout the ages and doing it still, sharing their skill and lore with seekers from the north.

All were part of their world’s heritage. If these dear men were any evidence, the times truly were changing. The ancient ways were re-emerging even into this dominant, increasingly tortured culture. She knew she could trust these men and the women around her. Rhea blinked…. For Cali was here too now and Carlos. Jay and Fern. Ariel.

Circling, they all joined hands. Someone had changed the music. No longer a lone tree or a solo beleaguered witch, she was in a safe circle of beloved souls, triumphantly dancing their new world into being.

 

Ecstatic Dance

When Raven and Pia opened the door to the empty Mahonia Community Center, its characteristic stuffy smell assailed them. It would soon be alleviated when the other doors were opened. Such a dear familiar space. How many times had it been transformed into how many different magical settings?

They lugged in a couple of bags of supplies and a basket of scarves and skirts as well as bags of Christmas lights and things for an altar. Raven hooked up his laptop to the sound system and cued up the play list he’d organized including Gabrielle Roth, Bob Holroyd, and James Asher. While he did that, Pia laid red, orange and blue strings of lights around the perimeter creating a circle within which to dance. In unspoken agreement they pulled down the window shades to give privacy.

Pia dug in the bags and found a red-and-orange-stripped square of silk embroidered with flowers to drape over the piano stool. A large mandala painted on silk by one of the young people went on the wall behind it. She reached in for the small trash art statue Raven had made of Shiva Nataraj – the dancing, many-armed masculine deity who graced so many Hindu temples – and put it in the center flanked by prismed glass candle jars that would refract the light. A series of small dancing figures went in a semi circle around the larger central figure – a Sufi whirling dervish, a belly dancer, a hula girl and a Native American fancy dancer. Pia stood back with her hands on her hips to survey the effect. Satisfied, she took a deep breath, bowed and began to move her body sensuously to the slow strains of Margo Anand’s, “Calling the Sacred Yoni.”

Meanwhile, Raven donned a sparkly shirt, tied an orange silk scarf turban-wise on his head, and added a half-mask with peacock feathers sticking up along the top. He too began to dance, his arms reaching out to swirl around him. The two of them moved to dance together, not touching physically but with the energy shimmering delicately between them, especially between their palms mirroring each other, inches apart. This was an important moment, one they’d been dreaming of for months, maybe even for years. Lifetimes?

Of course, with the arrival of others, the spell shifted, but they grinned with the promise of group energy to build on in a bit.

“I couldn’t get Charley to come,” announced Ursula as she came in the door. “But I did bring the spring water you requested. And some plastic cups in case you didn’t have any. People can put their names on them so we don’t have to throw them away.”

“Or wash them even,” said Pia. “Thanks.”

“Owen is not coming either,” said Thea who had gotten a ride with Ursula and the young people. “We stopped by but he was reading up on animal symbolism and didn’t want to go anywhere.”

“I thought you’d like a little male support,” said Carlos as he swept dramatically into the room in a purple cape under which, it soon became apparent he wore a gypsy skirt and blouse.

“Thanks. Nice outfit,” Raven grinned, his eyes twinkling behind his mask.

Rhea was decked out as well in a swirling cobalt blue rayon dress with a low neckline. She had bright ribbons braided into her hair.

“You look smashing,” Thea said, hugging Pia admiring her sexy black top with sparkles all over it and her swishy full skirt that flashed with bands of sequins. “I wasn’t sure what people would be wearing….” She was a little embarrassed at her plain black yoga pants and top.

“Have at the basket there. All sorts of things to play with.”

Thea dug in and found a jingly belly dance belt and a rainbow colored skirt. She’d had the forethought to put a tank top under her long sleeved shirt. No matter what this type of dancing was, she couldn’t imagine not getting sweaty and wanting to shed a layer.

Molly had walked to the community center with Mariposa, her new tenant. Dressed in her usual plaid flannel shirt and jeans, she soon found a blue headband and picked up a purple scarf to tie over her shoulders. She felt pretty self-conscious but maybe in a bit she would put on one of the gauzy skirts in the basket.

Pia lit the candles. “Let’s gather in a circle,” she instructed. “The candles bring fire to the circle. Let’s feel our roots going deep into the ground, the blood flowing in our veins, and our wings beginning to sprout. I call in Crane and Heron to help us with the dance, as well as Shiva and Shakti. Our intention for tonight is to be fully in our bodies. I’m convinced that eventually, if we keep playing with it, we can find our true selves that way. Feel free to move uninhibitedly. As your body wishes. Nobody can see in the windows if that’s a concern for you. Sit if you want, roll on the floor, play. But no talking. Let’s stay out of our heads. We’ll dance for an hour. The music will start slowly and build to a crescendo before it gentles again to softness. I’m imagining ending in silence.”

“But let’s see what happens,” interjected Raven. “I’ll start the play list I’ve put together.”

 

“I’m scared,” thought Mariposa as she donned a sequined skirt from Pia’s basket. “Next time I’ll dude it up with an outfit anyway. I wonder what I’m supposed to be doing.” She watched surreptitiously as people began to move with the slow dreamy music. Some stretched, doing standing twists and backbends. Some twirled gracefully. Others were stiff and self-conscious. That made her feel better. She wasn’t the only one unsure of herself. She spun a little to see if her skirt would swirl and was captivated by the sparkle of it. Pretty soon she was in her own little world.

Ursula stretched slowly to get herself warmed up. A forward bend became dog pose which, as she rose with her arms held out, turned into warrior pose. Strong and firm. But then, almost of their own accord, her arms began to flutter with birdlike movements. She went up on her tippy toes and then slowed like a heron coming in to land. How would a hummingbird dance? Flit, flit. Seeing Pia with a long iridescent scarf, gave her an idea and she went to get one to give herself wings.

“Can I let go of decades of Dancing and shift into Movement?” wondered Thea to herself. Though this music was different from her usual, her hips still fell automatically into the familiar shimmy and shake, egged on by the jingles tied there. She loved this feeling and went with it for a while. It had been another long painting day so it was good to get her wiggles out, but as the music went into Lorena McKennitt’s “Santiago,” even the belly dance figure eights and bicycles rolls began to feel too formal for tonight. “If I dance the same ol’ way, I’ll be the same ol’ person and I want to feel differently. How do I do that?”

Keep moving.” The notion from inside her head startled her, but the advice was sound and she had asked for help, after all. She moved faster as the music sped up and lightened. Noticing Ursula and Pia running playfully with bright scarves streaming behind them, Thea had an inspiration. She imagined her Cougar prancing beside her self as the little girl of her Soul Retrieval. She grabbed a huge veil and soon was leaping and skipping with the other two, enjoying giggles and flirty eyes as they swooped their veils over each other’s heads. Raven joined in with a scarf of his own, his mask making him both mysterious and fey. Ariel found a rainbow streamer on a stick and began to swirl it around them all. “What a lovely romp,” thought Thea breathlessly as the song ended. Surely, that counts as play,” she told her Higher Self as she got a drink of water. Then, “African drums. Yum.”

Draw your energy down into your second chakra.” That felt good. After a bit she noticed she was paying less attention to what others might be noticing about her and could tune into the ancient fire that her ancestors had danced around. The music changed again to a didgeridoo and some animal sounds. She liked it that there were no words to any of this music that she could understand. It wasn’t emotional music. Especially not all that lost and lonely whining about being done wrong. She was so over that co-dependent shit. This sound and beat hit her in the gut – right where she needed to be.

 

As the music sped up and became Middle Eastern again, Pia began to move in a pattern like the hora’s grapevine, familiar deep in her bones from her Jewish and Palestinian ancestors. But soon her movement became looser with a dipping motion that reminded her of the birds she’d called in. Others joined with her and they spun in a circular motion around the perimeter.

 

“Tribal,” thought Ursula, “What bliss.” As she began to tire from the strenuous dancing she entwined her arms like two snakes to conjure up a new sort of fire, which she could then feel rising sinuously from her root up to her belly towards her throat. Watching the tracery of lights through her fingers made her feel delightfully trancey, a feeling she was learning to enjoy.

 

Rhea and Carlos mirrored each other, their hands doing a kind of push pull. Rhea was conscious of how this was different than dancing in the barn. The floor was better for one thing, though they missed the live music. Experimental and rough as their jamming was, Arlo and Gabe’s drumming and Fern’s keyboarding added an aliveness even though off notes or children’s bounciness created jerky hesitations in their connections. It had been deepening lately, as they’d hoped, with the addition of Uri’s didge. Dancers and musicians increasingly were able to feed off of each other in a way that canned music could never do, but it was chill to hear the crazy beats of Brent Lewis. “Maybe I’ll borrow a few of Raven’s CD’s to inspire me.”

 

Raven felt flushed and sweaty after putting so much of his attention into tracking the energy of the group as he danced. Not that they needed much tracking he was happy to see, but he was curious how everyone would react to the music he had put together – how the flow would go. It was different, of course, than just he and Pia, but as he had hoped, the energy was magnified. No doubt there would be people who would distract from time to time but they definitely had a core here who could carry it. Assuming they all wanted to play again.

As the last piece started up, Ashana’s Embrace, he was pleased to hear others begin to tone with it. Most settled on the floor in the center of the room, a few still floated around. He lay down with his head towards the middle and soon others had shifted so they were the spokes of a wheel. The music faded but their toning continued – soaring voices, fed by the energy of their loosened bodies. When they finally settled into silence hands reached out around the circle and the energy buzzed clockwise around. He could feel his own and everyone else’s hearts soaring in a great cone of power into the sky.

“There spirits, take that. Take our energy and feed the hungry world.” Raven spoke aloud.

“Wow,” said someone, descending again into earth plane reality. “That was incredible.”

“Indeed, and it will only get better if we keep doing it. See you next week, I hope. Same time same place.”

 

“That went very well,” said Pia, as they drove home. Cleanup had been quick with several hands staying to help.

“Fabulous, if I do say so myself,” responded Raven. “I loved it that everyone got into the spirit of it. Or perhaps I should say, ‘let Spirit come into them.’ I saw some new looseness in a number of folks.”

“Wasn’t it great to see Molly cut up? Maybe next week we’ll get her into something flowing. I loved it that the kids from Benden Farm came already dressed to play.”

“And it wasn’t even Full Moon.”

Four in the Hot Tub 1

“This lentil stew is really delish,” said Pia, rubbing her tummy. “I love that it has the kids’ vegetables in it and your own kale. Thanks for making it vegetarian, but I can’t eat another bite. What a treat to share it with us. And it’s so good to get caught up on the details of each others’ last few weeks.”

“Thanks. And don’t worry, I didn’t make any dessert.”

“What?! No more juicy bits about all the people we love to nurture?”

“I’ve been thinking,” Charley spoke up over their giggles, “about new things we could be doing to move things along magically in our community. Now that I’ve got my feet on the ground in the community organizing realm, I’m wondering how to mix a bit more in spirituality.”

“Bravo on the PSU coup, by the way. There were a lot of other communities vying for their adjunct program.”

“Don’t forget that consensus building is a spiritual practice.”

“And so is sustainability consciousness…”

“And so is gossip,” added Ursula. “It has a bad rap but I’ve always maintained that the news we exchange about each other and our talk about the others’ problems are ways of checking out our information as well as our gut feelings and energy hits. I really needed confirmation of you-know-who’s subtle icky energy a while back and I welcomed reassurance from others that I was in my own drama about that new massage therapist that pissed me off. Right now, I’ve been noticing Sylvia’s depression. Do you think it’s a long term problem we need to pay attention to or is it a passing thing?”

“Good example – in fact, I am concerned about her too. That no-good boyfriend of hers finally took off but she doesn’t seem to be able to get her feet back on the ground. I’ve tried reaching out but she’s angry at the world.”

“I wonder if….”

“Now wait, you both jumped right over my sincere conversational gambit,” complained Charley.

“Sorry,” said Pia. “We did, and you’re right that it’s time to up the ante again on the magical and intentional content of our activities.”

“Hey – before we’re off and running on all that, let’s get in the hot tub,” interjected Ursula. “You guys have time? That little rain shower seems to be over and there’s a full moon arisin.’ A good time to take stock of what we’ve accomplished and get ready to move forward.”

“That would be lovely. We haven’t done that together in a long time.”

“Just leave the dishes. We’ll get them later,” Charley and Ursula said to Raven as he started to clear.

“Guess you must be sure since you said it in unison. Is it ok if I leave my clothes out here?”

“Sure, I will too,” agreed Charley. “That leaves room for you female types in the bathroom.” The guys stripped down quickly and headed out to the tub through the south facing sliding door, Charley stopping to pee over the railing on the way out.

“I’ll need a hair tie,” said Pia as she and Ursula headed the other direction.

Soon they were all in the hot tub knees not quite touching. They’d only had to apologize to a few autumnal spider webs on the path between house and tub. The moon was indeed just peeking between the trees to the East, having risen behind the Mountain a while ago.

“A-a-a –rooo!! Yip! Yip! Yip!” they all howled, Pia and Ursula adding a vocal belly dance flourish at the end, while Charley yodeled. “Awk. Awk,” called Raven.

“Yip Yip Yip,” echoed a real coyote from across the hollow on the mountainside. They were all silent for a moment taking in the beauty and power of the night.

Charley broke the silence, “I keep getting that we have this opportunity to create the world we want to see. What do we still need to do to move things along? That’s my visionary Aquarian moon talking and being the Virgo sun that I am, I want to stay on task.” He looked at Pia with a twinkle.

“Even in the hot tub,” Ursula chuckled.

“What better place? You’re such a water creature, I know you do some of your best creating here!” said Pia.

“We did a good job of calling in help a few years ago. Look at all that’s been happening,” said Raven. “Damn birds landing everywhere!”

Pia laughed. “We’re enjoying having Arlo around again. Even though he’s living upriver, I love bumping into that sweet son of mine at the Post Office and Natural Foods Store. It was fun to see your Salal and his lovely sweetie at the coffee shop this morning. How long are they here for?”

“We don’t really know. He’s pretty closed mouth with us. But we had a nice supper with them last night. They’re staying down at Cali and Carlos’s. Thank goodness those guys are attracting interesting younguns’ with their farm. And surely the baby is part of the arrivals.”

“You lucky grandparents, you.”

“Salal is one bird who hasn’t landed back here yet, and I’m pretty resigned to the idea that he might not,” said Charley. “Whether or not Marina will is still an open question.”

“On the good days we’re resigned,” laughed Ursula. “And we’re still not sure if Jay is really here to stay. His relationship with Fern is looking solid but you never know. But I’m feeling much better about it all since our Demeter and Persephone ritual.”

“Ariel Lyons is back,” said Charley, taking the heat off the thought of his longing for all his four kids to be around.

“Really? Ariel was one of the early Illahee School kids but her parents divorced and moved away when she was seven,” Pia explained to Raven since he was a relative newcomer, having flown in himself only about ten years ago. Pia had been a single mom during the early Illahee days.

“She’s staying at Sitka House while one of their housemates is in the Amazon and she’s been hired by the Arts Center to develop their teens program – both theater and visual arts. I guess she has an actual degree of some sort.”

”That’s so cool. I wonder where her parents are.”

“I didn’t have the strength to ask about them and we had so much else to talk about. So how do we up the ante again?” Charley wasn’t going to let this one get away.

“We have manifested help for ourselves,” Pia responded. “And if the astrology stuff I follow is to be believed, and I do, then big changes are nigh upon us and we don’t have much calendar time. Now, magical time is another story, as Raven here would say.”

“Awk!”

“The end times predicted by the Mayans so long ago seem to overlap with the notion of the shifting of the ages from the Piscean to the Aquarian. It’s the completion of a 28,000 year cycle. Some say even a 104,000 year cycle. I can hardly grok what that means in time or in practicalities, but it’s of Galactic proportions. And the stuff I’m reading now on the Internet is saying that we’re already well within the window of that cosmic astrological event.”

“We’re hearing that too,” said Ursula. “So many of us are making big changes – doing the deep work – that the New Age is coming to fruition faster than anyone – even the spirits from afar – thought we’d be capable of.”

“Hurray for our side,” said Charley. “Even though sometimes it feels like things are inching one step back for every two steps forward and that the bad guys are still in control.”

“The layoffs and closures just keep happening, plus there’s Global Climate Change….” Ursula’s voice trailed off. “Makes me feel guilty about this luxurious hot tub and all the electricity we are using.”

“I figure as long as we share it and use it for most of our bathing, that we’re doing ok. We’re all still learning to wean ourselves….”

“I wanna dance!” shouted Raven.

“Right now? I mean it is the Full Moon and all but personally, I’m not feeling that jazzed,” said Charley.

“I mean let’s add Ecstatic Dance to our Medicine Group offerings.”

“Trance dance?”

“Yogic dance. Whatever. Pia and I have been using Gabriele Roth’s music most days for at least a little bit.”

“Do tell.” Ursula could feel her energy lift after the dip of the last few minutes.

“When I started doing yoga on my own beyond my usual two classes a week,” said Pia, “the movements kept turning into dance. Slow and stretchy but flowing and intuitive rather than the long held poses of the yoga of our teachers. I love that too. There’s nothing better after a long physical or mental pushing sort of day. But we’ve really been having fun with this extrapolation. When I heard Roth’s music and read up on her Five Rhythms I realized it was just what we needed to add more dimensions to the process. She’s been doing it for years. I can’t believe I never heard of her.”

“I think the young people have been dancing that way in the Barn,” said Ursula. “Sometimes even with live music. Maybe we could set up a regular time at the Community Center. What days would work for you?”

“That’s one of the things I love about you, Ursula,” said Raven. “You just hone right in there on the details to make it happen.”

“It’s her Capricorn moon. You’re so airy you need us administrative types around,” said Pia thinking of her forays into Shamanic Astrology. “I’ve got it too.”

“Don’t I know it,” rejoined Raven. “But I love you anyway. I’ll put together music for the dancing.”

“I’ll bring scarves and things so we can be like little girls…kids, I mean,” said Pia.

“It would definitely improve the playful element around here for us. I just know that’s an important piece of what the New Age is about,” said Raven.

“I agree,” said Charley. “And I predict it will spill over into the healing aspect of what we’re up to for ourselves, the land and the community.”

“Our soul tribe at least. Thank you, Raven, for the idea and for personifying that playful piece,” said Ursula. “You double Gemini you! Even if you make us uncomfortable at times, your teasing Heyoka energy is important to show us who we really are…. Now here’s another idea,” she continued. “It’s not as playful, though it could be. I’ve been getting that it’s time for me to do more active mentoring, starting with teaching a class. It’s about all the things we’ve been exploring together over the years in our Medicine Groups – basic stuff like calling sacred space, smudging, grounding, and moving on to dousing, pendulums, tarot….”

“Kinesiology, hands-on healing,” added Charley.

“Manifesting,” said Pia.

“Speaking of moving things along.”

“Exactly. Thanks to Charley taking over the bulk of the organization work from me and with some new help the store can now afford, I’ll have more time again. We need to be more formally sharing the skills we’ve developed over the years and not just one-on-one like I’ve been doing.”

“Bravo! I’ve been thinking that might be a good next step for you,” said Raven, perching on the side of the tub to cool down.