On my way to town I heard the song, Morning Moon and I looked up into the western sky and there it was, slim and translucent as the inside of a tide-worn shell. It’s cold now, the road scrambling with brown and yellow leaves, skunks, porcupines, racoons and squirrels twisted open every mile or so, caught in mid-hurry as they tried to prepare for winter.
At home, the gazebo stands cold and empty, waiting for the inevitable stripping bare, river toys have been stacked untouched for weeks on the lawn and four bush cords of mixed hardwood lie where they were dumped on the driveway a week ago.
I lit the first fire of the season this morning and it jumped to life, crackling and snapping, flames springing open like lighters at a rock concert. Yesterday I harvested all the green tomatoes and today I’ll wrap them in newspaper and tuck them away in a box, to be opened one by one until November likely, their dark green skin transformed in the darkness to deep red. Two nights in a row this land has been stilled by frost. So much for the forecast of a long hot summer. It was long in coming, briefly hot and then it abruptly ended. But the lilac leaves are still green, clutches of cedar berries pull branches almost to the ground, and soft mist sways across the green-black surface of the river.
This weekend my son dances at the last pow wow of the season. As I drove him to Curve Lake yesterday, he perched forward on his seat, lifted his tucked elbows so that his shoulders rose and said, “I just want to dance.” Such music to my ears. A son that dances. His dance is different than mine, but only in its trappings.
I tried to conform, took lessons for years, but at twenty-three I left the studio and returned to my high-flying, high-stepping, free-wheeling dance. In my thirties I discovered Gabrielle Roth and her 5Rhythm offerings, and that provided the forum and guidance I needed to fully discover, express and celebrate what my body loved to do.
My son is a “Grass Dancer”; he wears a version of the expected regalia and he dances his version of that style of dance.
At a recent pow wow he competed with four others in his age group. Last year at this pow wow he won his category. This year his dance has blossomed into something like a prayer. His grace and fluidity bring much attention. All ages are drawn to him; they want to find out about him, his dance, his outfit, but really, what they are witnessing is presence. When he dances there is only the dance; he is IN. There may be some small element of performance there, but the real draw is his state of being. As Osho said, he dances until the dancer disappears and only the dance remains.
There were five dancers and four prizes. He didn’t take one of them home. The look on his face when they called the final winner shredded my heart. He picked up his staff and his dancing stick and said quietly, “I’m going to pack up now.” I watched him walk back to his campsite, his shoulders straight but his eyes cast to the path and thought about how it is that “judges” cannot judge real art; how they miss the magic.
Later, I talked to him about how Toller Cranston was largely ignored and criticized when he was in his prime. He did his own thing. He was the first person to bring dance to figure skating, and they weren’t having it. Now, all figure skaters dance, Toller’s flicking steps are part of the requirements. He was a rule-breaking, ground-breaking artist, and he was punished for it. I don’t know if my son believed me or if what I said helped.
But last weekend my son went to the Midland pow wow and picked up his feet and danced. Because that’s what he loves to do. The “loss” at Rama didn’t stop him from dancing his heart. An Elder took him aside and spoke to him about his dance, his attitude, his being. He said, “I’ve been watching you over the past year…” and he presented him with an eagle whistle.
After receiving that gift, my son spent a long time in prayer and meditation at the sacred fire. His father said that many tears were shed that evening. My son wears the whistle on a chain around his neck, keeping it close to his skin and to his heart.
He’s changed. I don’t think it’s just the gift, but the acknowledgement tipped him over the gate he was already climbing on his own. He seems both kinder and sturdier. Would you rather be judged in a competition to be found worthy? Or would you rather be acknowledged by someone who can see?
The season is changing; the lushness of summer gives way to the cool breath of autumn. And my son’s grip is firm on the handle of the door to manhood.