t um blin g at the edge of the world i fall down tumbling with the awkward grace of a dancer unhinged unfettered unbridled and entirely undone free free now and cascading freely down and over the edge and at last tumbling tumbling down t um blin g down and and into the l i g h t
between worlds i fly with stars sun and moon dancing my heart wide open
One of the precious things about friends is that they do little things for you which they know will mean a lot. The above photo is a painting of an ancient Japanese dancer holding a branch of tsubaki (camellia) flowers. To me, the painting expresses a unity of nature and dancer, freedom of movement within tradition and continuity, as well as love and sheer joy. Grace and surrender. Ecstasy. It is everything I’d wish to express myself, in my own dancing body.
Knowing that I would love this painting, my friend who happened upon it by chance, took a photo and sent it to me. And for this alone, I will treasure our friendship forever. There are these threads which we do not see, and yet they are there nonetheless—somewhere and somehow, weaving together our gestures and our footsteps into criss-cross patterns in the unfathomable sky.
We are dancing this mysterious journey, together, across seas of tumultuous unknowns… across space with no dimension and time with no border. Dancing, without destination nor particular goal. We dance, for love. For joy. We dance to dance the dance.
It is a prayer in the dark; and sacred offering in the light.
I will be there dancing, always.
To dance for you. To dance with you.
To dance the dance.
*仲間 nakama means friends or partners in the same group, often those you have a long-term relationship with and shared experiences. This mini-essay was written for my traditional Japanese dance nakama, to whom I am infinitely grateful.
~a short meditation on flight~
the sky beneath your feet gravity moves in two directions, and falling into earth has its own fleeting transcendence the sky is not always overhead, but when we do fly up and skywards we push down first, and then suspend in a heartbeat we are birds, soaring everywhere there is space and into the strong arms of wind we go twirling swirling tumbling landing just when, the ground rises it is a love affair with light it is surrender and a prayer and dreams surfacing into day it is the sky beneath your feet
LOVE is light which like the SUN has no place to hide.
Once upon a very, very long time ago, the world was suddenly thrown into utter darkness and chaos. The notorious Susanoo, god of storms and the younger brother of the sun goddess Amaterasu-Omikami, wrecked havoc in the goddess’s rice fields and committed other acts of flagrant violence which so angered Amaterasu-Omikami that she hid herself inside a cave and barricaded the entrance with a boulder too heavy for anyone to move. She would not respond to any appeals to come out of the cave.
Faced with this dire situation, all eight million deities of Japan convened in front of the cave and devised a plan to convince Amaterasu-Omikami to come out of hiding. A large mirror was placed in a tree just outside the cave’s entrance and another goddess, Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto, proceeded to dance atop an overturned bucket. Dancing with abandon and stamping upon the bucket, Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto danced and danced and danced and then tore off her clothes all at once, causing the other deities to laugh uproariously.
Hearing all the commotion from inside the cave, Amaterasu-Omikami could not contain her curiosity. What on earth could all the deities be laughing about in her absence? And so she opened the cave a tiny bit to peek out and saw her own brilliant reflection shining back at her in the mirror! Bedazzled just long enough, the strong god who had been patiently waiting there at the cave’s entrance then pushed the great boulder aside and pulled Amaterasu-Omikami out from the cave. A shimenawa, sacred rope, was placed in front of the cave, preventing the goddess from going back inside.
And at last, light was restored to the world.
no place to hide Do not hide your love, little one. Like the sun, be bedazzled by the brilliance of your own light, of your beauty, and your love. Go ahead now, step out, boldly and brightly into every sky, Shining. Dancing, all naked, raw, and real. For not a single day goes by, that does not need your light and your love, that does not need you.
Dancing for the dead is not macabre.
Dancing for the dead, we celebrate continuity, community, and life itself.
In Japan, Obon is a traditional celebration in which the ancestors are remembered and honored. Family altars are cleaned and special offerings are placed in front of photos of the departed. Those living in far away cities return to their hometowns and to their families. Indeed, it is said that our ancestors too, return to our homes during Obon. For the living, there are gatherings at local festivals with music, folk dances, and stalls selling food and games. Bon-odori, folk dances performed during Obon, are usually done in a circle and the movements are simple and repetitive so that everyone can enjoy dancing together. In the commemoration of “the dead”, we join together as a community and culture—vibrant and sustained.
The stars do not cease to exist during the day simply because we cannot see them. Likewise, the souls of those who have come before us do not suddenly cease to exist at the end of their days. Rather, death is like night—a passage of time between skies full of light. And like the stars, our ancestors dance among us.
do not be afraid do not be afraid in the quiet blanket of nighttime do not be afraid dreams come alive and love shines in candlelit cascades of whispers and caresses it is darkness which makes the stars visible guiding us home unveiled and holy do not be afraid to cross deserts windswept wildflower fields seas and mountain rains the open blue of day welcomes you warm outstretched and just around golden pink corners
(photo taken six years ago at an Obon festival)