Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Leaf on the Wind

Was it just two weeks ago I was whirling around the Sunset Café arms and legs flailing? Expressive Movement was back on Friday. I had enjoyed myself so much the last time that I was prepared to sacrifice a poetry night for it. The Pol-UK celebration of Polish poetry happened without me.

The evening began with me thinking of Cyprus. I’d lived in Cyprus for a number of years and got used to Cypriot timing. They may wear watches on their wrists but they pay little heed to them. A meeting planned for two o’clock doesn’t happen at two o’clock but more like half past or quarter to three. I have a strong punctuality gene. I chaff at the collar when things don’t happen when they should. Yes, I need to chill but I take seriously the fairy godmother’s admonition to leave the party before midnight and I visualise my coach reverting back to its pumpkin origins.

There were fewer participants this time around. The coffee consumers were given the choice between staying and joining in or finishing their coffee and moving on. No spectators were allowed – even down to a sweet, aged lady with her shaky legs and her wheeled walking frame. Lizzy opted to join in and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. She is never one to stand down from a challenge. She chortled her way through the opening warm-up of walking around the room. While the rest of us speeded up, or slowed down and did our best impressions of slow-motion running, Lizzy kept up a steady pace.

We did the circle in and out and jazz hands but there was more grunting and growling this time around. I was reading this morning in Psalm 81:1 about singing and shouting to the God of Jacob. There is so much we could do with our voices that we don’t do. Sometimes a grunt or a growl best expresses what’s going on inside – although I still like words! I was thinking about the stories of men heading off into the woods, peeling clothes off and shouting to the heavens as some kind of therapy. Do they really do that?

Gabriela issued us with balloons to blow up. We partnered off. The idea was to put the balloon between us, chest to chest, and tango around the room. I partnered with Marcin, a tall and energetic fellow. I’m sure the bent knees frame would have won points on Strictly, but he didn’t have much choice on the matter. That close was too close for me. My personal space was invaded. A bigger balloon was required. We tangoed. We were supposed to talk about the experience afterwards but even with his fairly fluent English and my absence of Polish it made for a stilted conversation.

Keeping the balloon between us meant that was had to adapt to each other. We couldn’t just do our own stuff, arms and legs flung about. We had to shift posture and think about what the other person was doing – and the balloon. It made me think about how I cooperate or not in the real world. We live in a world where we insist on having our own way, doing our own things and meeting our own needs. Dancing a tango with a balloon between us, I was aware of how my actions impacted on Marcin and his on mine. There was a constant watching and adapting, shifting and accommodating, re-balancing and maintaining connection. It was interesting. At this point in the evening we were also quite warm and sweaty so neither of us wanted to be too close!

We sat down, or lay down, for a while, listening to something quieter. It was cello music with a lifting, lilting, falling and rising kind of melody. If we had have been given paper to draw something I would have drawn a tree and leaves falling, caught in the breeze, dancing and drifting down. It reminded me of a poem I wrote years ago during a workshop:-

“Come play with me, little leaf,”
says the wind
tugging it gently from the branch
“I’ll be “it”
and chase you
In eddies and spirals.
I’ll draw you upwards
Close enough to touch the sun
And stroke the clouds
I’ll carry you in the
palm of my hand
I’ll toss you
like a father tosses his child
Let’s play
You, me and thousand other leaves
Till bed time comes
Then I will gently set you down
On the flagstone path
And sing you to sleep

I often think of autumn with sadness. As much as I love the changes in colour I see it as the precursor to winter and darkness, bare branches and an absence of life. I don’t enjoy dark mornings, short days and long nights.

This time I was thinking of something more settled, a kind of welcomed parting of the ways between branch and leaf. I thought not of the leaf clinging on to the branch, desperate for more days, but surrendering peacefully knowing that it had played its part and done what it had been asked to do and that being enough. Yes, I know I am putting feelings into things that don’t have them. Sometimes we cling to things when we ought to be letting go. As I listened to the cello music, I let go. I let myself be settled that in some area of my life I had played my part and done what I was asked by God to do. I suppose that with retirement around the corner the future isn’t mapped out into school days and bells and holidays like the past has been. I suppose creative movement is proving to be more than moving the body but involves moving the mind too.

We were reluctant to end the night. One last exercise became one more. We had inhaled and exhaled a sense of well-being and were reluctant to let go.

I think what I like about these evenings is that they make no urgent demands upon me. I’m not required to give more than I feel able to give. No one looks disapprovingly at me if my arm is in the wrong place, or it’s the wrong leg I step forward with. No one asks me to be something other than who I am. I like that! It’s a rare thing.

I look forward to the next time.

Thank you, Gabriela, Marcin and the rest of the gang for so much fun.

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