I walk along Chambers St. in lower Manhattan beside a massive Victorian edifice of pillars and arches to Gibney Dance, a busy warren of dance studios. It hides somewhere here. I’m meeting Erin Carlisle Norton, host of ‘Movers and Shapers; A Dance Podcast’. Erin is doing an impressive project recording life stories of those who shape the field of dance. I am happy to be interviewed for it. I find the entrance, walk up one flight and down a thin-carpet-over-concrete hallway beneath wall-mounted TV monitors running video loops and slideshows of dance. I mentally prepare, reviewing my life. I remember 1973, walking from the subway at Broadway along 66th St, through Juilliard’s glass entrance, past the security guard, and around the corner to call the elevator. You touched a slightly recessed, lit circle. It was my first touch sensitive technology. I had to take off my glove because it registered heat rather than pressure, which I suppose marked the end of proper ladies wearing gloves in public and began the time of the naked fingers on sensors. Read more
This is what I wrote to Catherine Ryder who I commissioned to paint this piece and who I also know as Layla, when the painting arrived:
“I knew where she would hang so I waited for a quiet moment in the afternoon to put her up. I love her so much. An amazing vision. I love the veils emerging from sky and land, hair combed into the wing feathers, the legs part of the mesa. I could see this in the photo but the reality is far more moving and deep. It is a beautiful painting. A real vision. I am glad I am part of it but it goes far beyond me. Yet I also know I am not just a model. And the raven. Just right. The eye gazes at me. I love the sun glowing at the edge, not a big feature but not absent. I love the tree raying up and the earth raying down, the feeling of roots and source and the ground growing into and emerging from the planet. I love the claws and the hands making diagonals. The glorious raven claws! My eyes closed as if letting my being see through the raven’s bright eye, hearing the wind around us. I love how the raven’s eye and my ear make an attentiveness between them. Everything moves out of everything else and yet there is beautiful definition. You have made something so wonderful.” Read more
Here is a new series about writing embodied nonfiction while loosely connecting to an annotated Skin of Glass. Sharing my memoir, Skin of Glass: Finding Spirit in the Flesh, in small bites allows me to include ancillary ideas that, ultimately, were not part of the printed book, but belong as tendrils, springboards, or backstory. (I love reading about artists’ process! How does that amazing piece happen?) Read more
Every autumn, I spend three solitary weeks at Ravenrock because—this is my incapacity—I feel my depth best when ‘worldly’ cacophony is diminished. The most sensitive dimension of self /non-self eludes me unless I’m away from wifi, news, traffic, etc. Here is one of my Solitude Writings.
It began raining at sunset. I went to bed soon after but woke, worrying, at 11pm. I put on my sheepskin jacket, boots, and a headlamp, everything but pants, and trod bare-legged across the Studio out onto the Stone Porch. A dense mist filled my headlamp light with a befuddling, edgeless miasma. Read more
They are all gone.
After a busy morning of breaking down the last of camp—the Privy Tent and the Shower Tent—stashing garbage, washing final cups, after saying goodbyes to the airport crew who will bump down the mesa road in the pickup to load into a van to the airport and fly back into civilization, after goodbyes to the drivers with many hours of road ahead of them, I stop. I feel the stillness. Soon, everyone will be home to proper showers and baths and laundry and clean hair and wifi, eating what they want when they want, feeling things moving and fluttering inside them. It is too soon to assess the retreat, too soon to understand internal motion. Read more
I have been invited to write on the topic of The Feminine for an anthology. Such an enormous prompt will take its own time; meanwhile I let the theme make its presence felt in whatever other writing I take up. The following piece has come from a solitude at Ravenrock. I didn’t plan to learn what I am learning but think now, in reflection, that the experience is far more powerful than anything I could have theorized and designed.
I’m in a time machine. I read Virginia Wolf’s essays, written hundred years ago, as if they are written now while living in a place without electricity or running water that could’ve been typical in a rural setting a century ago. Only the occasional highflying 747, a propane refrigerator, and a phone where teensy weensy heads of state underscored by terse headlines break the spell. The refrigerator is in a shed in the meadow; sometimes I forget to go to the fridge. Sometimes I forget to look at the phone. Sometimes I forget which current events I’m in. That, it turns out, though I didn’t plan it, is my great experiment—reversing time. Read more
One evening, near the end of the 2018 Movement Monastery retreat, we did Witnessed Self-witness. It yielded for me what our minds might consider a surrealistic episode, yet for the body this is a normal perceptual way.
The exercise: Witnessed Self-witness. Couples sat cross-legged, facing one another murmuring. One person spoke with eyes closed, tracking sensation in the body and speaking out loud these self-witnessings while the partner listened. In this retreat, we have explored listening, or visually witnessing, in a new way. We moved beyond responsibility for and guardianship of our partner, and opened to being influenced. In the Old French and Old English, the meaning of ‘influence’ was “the flowing in of ethereal fluid affecting human destiny.” Read more
As I continue to delve into the significance and apperception of embodiment, the gap between sensorial terrain and day-to-day living’s emphasis on appearance widens. It is almost a schizophrenia.
This morning I admired the elegant, understated attire of the female finches at my feeder. Devoid of their mates’ fancy crimson headwash, their long deep brown side stripes are neat but not fastidious. They look well-put together. Shortly after birdwatching, I read Virginia Woolf’s adept, scathing review of ‘‘The Belle of the 50s’ (‘The Essays, Volume I’), Read more
‘Pretty, fit , and fun’—that is how we value dance in our culture. Part of me always cringes at this pimping. We pimp dance because it is in a body and it is bodies the culture pimps. Anyway, I did that, danced and dug into that mud, wringing as much as I could from ‘pretty, fit, and fun’ all the while yearning and fumblingly dancing into my earthy darkness to visit my secret heart. I found my heart’s dance. I know how to get there and take my inevitable rustling and rooting in ever-new undergrowth in stride. Because of this, I champion all bodies who yearn. Read more
I’ve taken a break from working on Dancing into the Deep, my book on Dancemeditation, because I’ve come up against the problem of declaring myself. Nonfiction tends to require taking a position and if I don’t explicitly state one, I have to at least know it, or let the reader know my ambivalence. A book about striving into one’s interiority implies the reach for something greater than the self, and the typical assumption is that ‘greater than the self’ implies god. I feel coerced by these assumptions. I resist. Read more