Earthdance

A photograph of this morning from the shore of Tulum on the Yucatan peninsula, on the Caribbean Sea. (captured by Kathryn Bagwell)

Bagwell Tulum MX

Stillpoint..that point in a dance where the dancer pauses. In that stillness, all that has come before in the dance is beheld by those privileged to see. Yet- simultaneously- the moment bursts with the promise of what will be. It is a point which cannot be contained in time; it is past, present, and future in a single breath of the dancer.

The moment passes immediately but it is enough. The clouds roll in tandem with the movement of the tide as both are guided by the Moon’s sweeping caress, toward landfall and the dissipation of their various and many forms. Yet nothing is lost. The water is still water, even as it raised upward, molecule by molecule by the rising and warming Sun into the clouds which are gestating the births of raindrops.

The Mayans, who first looked out on this great sea with the wonder of sentient beings, knew the cosmic dance before them as sexual, life-giving. The intimacy of the Sky with the Sea is what brought forth life. It was life that teemed within the Mother herself, and life which was poured onto the land by the Father. All that dwelled on the Earth- the people, the animals, the mangroves and trees, the grasses- all of life was a part of the continuing story of a creation that was at times both terrifying and beautiful.

But here, now, the transparent greens and turquoise blues are lifted in a crescendo against the gray promise of morning’s Light and a pink/magenta Sunrise. Silent thunder rolls across the eternal stage and pelicans begin their flights just above the waves, the clouds open in rippled separation, the Earth exhales in a warm western wind, and..Stillpoint.

And the Dance begins again.

 

 

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April 22, 2010

April 22, 2010

Two days after the oil from a mile deep British Petroleum well began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate so voluminous that nobody seemed to have the first idea how to quell it (remember the dumping of old tires and tennis shoes onto the leak?), and two days after a shotgun wielding man (in local Wichita Falls news) dispatched the doorman at a night club then took off for the local Hastings bookstore where he shot and injured seven others in pursuit of a former girlfriend before putting the gun to his own soon-to-be-lifeless self,

Mom died.

She had been wheeled in on her bed to the Serenity Room at the Christian Care Center in the same town where all that gunfire had occurred two nights before- a tastefully furnished, subtly lit room where people living at the Alzheimer’s Unit at the CCC were taken to breathe their last breaths. There were several Bibles in the room and the de rigeur book of Helen Steiner Rice poems (Oh, God, please don’t let anybody read HSR to me as I lay dying. Read to me from Mary Oliver instead, or Rumi, or Rilke, or Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, which made me laugh harder in 1972 than I have ever laughed before at anything in print, or since. )

I watched her breathe those breaths knowing that she was down to the last thousand or so of them, maybe less. Each breath was a separate, distinct, and instinctual breath now, a gasp- short, shallow, and separated by increasing seconds. At the beginnings of life, our breaths- the first ones- are reluctant ones, forced on us by organs within over which we have no control and which are a damn sight more harsh than the gentle liquid flow of oxygenated blood passed to us through our abdomen in the deep rhythms of our mother’s interior thumping and whooshing heart and lungs.

That  first mother- made music we hear has a great beat, is easy to dance to, and is never forgotten. We’re rarely conscious of it, until those times when it speeds up, misses a beat, or finally crescendos , then stops. Mom’s interior music had now become a pianissimo staccato. As I sat in front of her, about a foot away so she see me clearly, I could  feel  my own breathing beginning to match hers in either an unconsciously sympathetic rhythm or a prevenient rehearsal of my own someday swan song. Or perhaps both.

I thought incongruous thoughts as we breathed in strange tandem:  1. If the whole Gulf bottom rose in a massive methane burp (as some wild pundits were punditing) and engulfed all of the Southern states and Mexico and Cuba in a lethal greenish cloud, Mom would- hallelujah- be spared the burning, choking death the rest of us would suffer. 2. Please stop knocking on the door, Care Center workers, to see if I need anything. No. “I am watching my mom die, what could I possibly be in need of?” I didn’t say, but thought, each of the ten times it happened. 3. If I try to call Robbie, my brother, the kids, what will Mom hear me say to them (on the very off chance that she was still able to put words and thoughts together), and if I left the room and she died she would have died alone, so I went to a mirror in the room and angled it so I could see her even though my back was to her and called Robbie and my brother, the kids could wait.  4. And..

The time we stood on the corner in Akron waiting for the bus and I was holding her hand and her purse strap was in my hand and I thought I’m holding it and she’s holding it and then the bus came and she lifted me to the first step.

The time some young woman came to the front door and wanted a drink of water and I stood peeking around the kitchen doorway and the woman was crying and my mom held her hand even though she didn’t know who this woman was.

The time she fainted and fell under the dining room table after, earlier that day,  having some dental work done. I ran outside and found Dad but my mouth opened and I couldn’t say anything.

The time there was a note on the kitchen table when my brother and I got home from school. It said, “Dave and Denny” and “Dear Boys” but those two greetings had been crossed out and then this one: “My dearest sons” followed by the words “Grandpa died this morning..” and there was more and I can quote every word of it but fifty years later I can still cry remembering the utter poignancy of the words (and am).

The time I handed her one month old grandson to her at the airport.

The time she brought intricately decorated Santa Claus cookies to my fourth grade classroom and Grandma was with her.

The time I fell from the hay mow in Grandpa’s barn and had the air knocked out of me. Some cousin ran to the house and I looked up and saw Mom, Grandma, and Aunt Betty running- running!- to the barn. I remember their hair, their aprons, their dresses, their arms moving in..

almost a dance, a flurry of fast-moving color against the gray shingled house behind them..almost a dance, more like a furious rhythm, a crescendo of communal heartbeats, almost a dance..

like this one in the Serenity Room which came to an end about 10 p.m., just before many people would be watching  the latest news about the book store shootings and the disaster in the Gulf.

I sang “Amazing Grace” to her because I knew there would be – please?- some part of her that remembered, and then the breathing was down to the last three..two…….

one.

Since that night three years ago there have been  two grandchild weddings, and three great grandchildren: Charlotte, Robby, Ike, and another coming in July. A sister has died.

 And there have been many more oil leaks and spills in places all over the Earth.

Bernice Weber, center, with sisters

Bernice Weber, center, with sisters

Things without names preclude titles for them, too

There is no name that I am aware of for this:

When an adult has a baby- a little baby, a 2 month, 3 month, maybe 6 month old baby..

When an adult- and it doesn’t matter, woman or man- when an adult

has a little baby in their lap and the baby is a little bit awake or not at all,

the adult will softly wiggle, almost without thinking, the first knuckle of their little finger into the baby’s fist.

There is no name for that wiggling of the little finger into the smaller much smaller hand,

nor has there been, nor will there be..

there shouldn’t be, mustn’t ever be

because to name that moment or minute or whole naptime (it doesn’t matter)

to name that time would be to shrink, subdue, even subjugate that time into meanings

understood only (maybe) by the adult so squeezed when, in fact,

the baby- no matter how small, even a day, even an hour- has begun with the adult

to change

history;

to make all things

new.

Because that’s how important such an encounter is, even one like this that is nameless.

The adult and the baby..

(stop here and remember, not with your mind but with the skin of your little fingertip, the last time that wiggle-then-squeeze happened. If your fingertip doesn’t remember then bring the memory up from the ancestral imagination that you were born with and that was unlocked the first time forever when you squeezed that impossibly warm handful of someone’s little finger however many years ago that was. Either way, remember without words, without meaning, just feel).

The adult separates the softclenched baby’s fist with a softmaneuvering fingertip. Why?

Because the wave spills onto the beach and reaches into the sands there as deeply as it can;

Because flower petals spread in the heat of the sun to gather as much sunlight as possible;

Because the crow lifts its head then it its wings to the updraft blowing to nowhere but lifting joy.

That’s why: it is the only reason why it has to be the only way it is that humans can be.

A stillpoint in the history of the universe. Touch, squeeze………

now..and pause.

Pause, don’t breathe for a moment. Pause.

The dance ends and the dance begins, the dance of everything that was, becomes the dance of everything that will be and both halves of eternity rest now in this moment where stories end and stories begin and where spirit wiggles and spirit squeezes and it is a single action that reverberates in all that is

including God.

Or maybe that single action-wiggle/squeeze, squeeze/wiggle- is God,

or maybe not.

There is no word that I am aware of for this.1

1 The difference in the ages of the participants in this..dance, shall we call it?..means this: not much. The adult, thus squeezed, will never separate from the baby squeezing and will, if asked, if the need is known, if privileged to, die even violently rather than know the baby is to be harmed in almost any way if such sacrificial action does not occur. Adults so touched, part of the eternal stillpoint, will lose part of themselves- their indefinable wordless selves- forever, willingly, in the baby’s fist and the baby, even without the cognitive ability to recall anything specific about the adult, or even know that the warmth squeezed was an adult will, nonetheless, hold that adult within the deepest part of their historic memory, that part of memory which belongs to the ages and always will.

@David Weber, December,2010

Dancing the Noise Away..

“When the sun rises, I go to work;                                                                   When the sun goes down, I take my rest;                                                                                                                   I dig the well from which I drink;                                                                                                                    I farm the soil that yields my food.                                                                                                                I share creation; kings do no more.”

(trans. By Y.S.Han, in the Christian Century, 1927. This poem is recognized as one of the oldest Chinese folk poems, roughly dated 2500 B.C.E.)

Once upon a time, We were in rhythm, and We danced, We: the Universe, My Ancestors, and Yours. We were indistinguishable then and for a long long time: animated Starstuff at the mercy and the glory of Winds and Waves, Thunder and Moonlight. It was hard to say where You began and where I began and where Your reach ended and where My steps stopped, etcetera etcetera times a billion or two, such was the Eternality and the Encompassing Everything of the Dance.

We danced in the soil to the beat of the sun,

we danced in the rain when there was nowhere to run,

and we danced all night to beat of our hearts.

When we danced that way, we danced as One.

And then one of us rose from the common dust and the rest of us followed and one of us would get ahead and the others would catch up, pass by, get there first, not make room, “Move along now” etcetera etcetera times a billion or two and the Rhythms seemed harder and harder and harder to hear.

And then on May 14, 1801, it became Silent. (Pick a date, they’re all arbitrary, all contrived, all confusing- in fact it may have been a spring day in the 17th Century, or Christmas Day, 1822- the dates, after all, are part of the suffocating, stultifying, stupefying of humanly concocted Noise that hinders our hearing even of our own heartbeats.

It became silent and then..the noise, the real noise the noise of iron-slurried coal and the noise of generators burning and of locomotives and rifles and the noise of screams and steam in heat-searing shudders and the tearing apart of mountains and bird’s nests, of rivers and negros’ backs. And the dancing stopped here and there, then mostly here and there and everywhere..

Many of our moonlit sisters and sun dwelling brothers died under the weight, the crush of the discordances. They rolled over in sweat-wet beds and could stand it no longer and died of any number of medical maladies all of which were hatched in Noise.

And we descended into hell.                                                                               And on the right day, we rose again.

That day, too, is arbitrary and for many (most?) still unrealized, but on that day, a day of particular noise, a day of eye-burning smoke

and ice melt

and fuel spills

and fish kills

and land fills

and death knells,

the Music was heard, again..

By, some on the wind;

by others, on the waves;

by all with ears to hear..

in the beating of our Heart(s).

and some of us remembered

and some of those who remembered,

Danced.

And the rest of us will, too,

and then all of us,

because the noise of silence and

darkness of being still

not-by-choice

could no longer be tolerated

and the jagged edges of the dance floor need to be smooth again

because that’s what we are always moving toward,

that’s where we will learn to breathe again

one by one,

etcetera etcetera times a billion or two,

then to Dance.

2010, David B.Weber

Dancing with God. A Christmas Journey..

Luke 1:46-

 “And Mary said,  ‘I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.”

image She is, let’s say, 16 years old. She’s not married. We must assume there’s a Mom and Dad around somewhere, and given the Deuteronomic law they live and move and have their being within, the parents have got to be upset. And her boyfriend has the legal religious right, almost obligation,  to get a gang of his buddies together and stone her. To death.

Are they looking at her? Can they see yet? She’s brought shame on her family, her fiance, her neighborhood, and herself. She deserves whatever happens to her! She does!

Dirty, dirty, shame, shame..!!

All right, now..what follows now is my imagine gone wild (but certainly within these wide-getting-wider scriptural boundaries ). I’m imagining the “wise-beyond-her-years” Mary becoming more and more aware of her predicament. She knows what it looks like to the world. Maybe she has put off telling anyone about that weird night that may have been a dream, but it wasn’t a dream, and now her belly is swelling and she knows she’ll be able to hide for awhile from the men around her.. but not from her Mama. Mother will know.

Her periods began just last year, and Mom has helped her each time to clean herself because that was important and the scriptures said that’s how a Mother and a daughter should do it. This month, Mom would be wondering then asking why Mary was late, “Let me see,” she might say, and so Mary has to tell her, show her. Her breasts are a little sore now too and while she is not afraid of her mother, she is- afraid? yes, a little/ a lot- of the men around her.  Because that’s the only way a baby could get in there- right?- but she hadn’t done anything.. had she? She doubted herself sometimes- maybe? somehow? what if?- but no!no! nonono: she knew what she knew and even if no one else believed her.. she knew.

Will he believe her? Will Joseph believe her? How could he? But he will! Of course he won’t; who will ever believe me, she wonders. So what will happen?

Mary knows she should be afraid than she feels and part of her is-really- but it’s like she has to remember that she is supposed to be afraid because there is something really weird and..it feels kind of wonderful..about this thing growing in her- this baby- a baby?- yes, a baby. She even imagined that she could feel it moving. She knew it was a boy, somebody said it was a boy, or had she dreamed it was a boy?  She feels..peaceful, and she knows she shouldn’t be feeling that way; it doesn’t make any sense to feel that way!. And she doesn’t understand why but she feels so peaceful, that it’s like some kind of strange joy that seems to run like oil from the top of her head down to her feet. She walks outside and stands between the olive tree and the back of her house and because she must she raises her arms into the air and she laughs and she dances and she dances and she dances…

because it is the only thing she can do and it is the only thing she wants to do and she can, if she must remember to be afraid later..,

maybe..

or maybe she will never need to feel afraid again..

***

“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

— T.S. Eliot

Battles

I dreamt, after wakening, that there really are prophets who can hear the One Sound- the music of Creation as it battles Death.

It is the Sound of the Ocean and of Blood, the rhythm of the Moon and the response of our Pulse in a saltwater symphony. It is the voice, not of the god of our imagined fears, but of the triumphal entry of All That Is into the squalor of Jerusalem.

It is the music that proclaims, “it is finished,” even as crabs scurry across the sand and even as ocean waves spread New Life in metered rhythms of New Beginnings.

There are prophets who hear that terrible Harmony even as they are crushed by its Beauty.They laugh and they cry at once for the horror behind them and the hope in which they are wetly standing.

And they must tell others- those few others who can hear the music wherever they, too, are wetly standing. So that they know their feet are not wet in vain, and so they know their always breaking hearts are vital to the continuing Music.