Sunday, October 28, 2012

the standing ovation

Sometimes, often actually, too often sadly, you sit in the theatre and driven by the drivel that is unfolding on stage, you seek refuge by letting your eyes wander to the audience. You encounter bodies that mirror your own state of mind - boredom, mad screaming boredom - the bodies are listless, unresponsive. Then you know it is time to worry. You KNOW what is going to happen. Because as soon as the piece is over, they all stand up around you and they give a standing ovation as you hold your head in your hands. This is because they are SO bored, that the standing ovation is what their bodies NEED to do in order to feel alive. They are clapping to survive.

dance like dying salmon

Speaking of death, about a week ago, Jason took me, Amélie and Guillaume to see salmon spawning in the Coquitlam River.

I marvelled at the lessons that could be learnt from the salmon fucking and dying.
That painstaking dance of waiting, adjusting, negotiating between the elements, other fish and the inexorable drive of their dying horny bodies.

The stillness of waiting in quiet pools, listening to openings in the water.
The sudden, swift darting from one part of the river to the next.
The work ethic! Digging up the river bed to create perfect places for their eggs and sperm on the way to meeting the love of their lives.

All this, amid a holocaust of dead and dying bodies.


dying well

All these years in Canada, the one thing I have not gotten used to is Halloween. Nothing in my upbringing and experience prior to Canada has prepared me for the ritual of dressing up as ghouls (or worse, skanky whore fairies) and threatening people in exchange for candy, and every year, I get anxious around Halloween. But recently I discovered the Night of All Souls at Mountainview Cemetery, a festival of sorts, I suppose. It is my antidote to Halloween. One wanders in the dark cemetery, looking for candle-lit makeshift shrines that have been set up all over the cemetery. Along the way, we peer at gravestones and cry for strangers. When we get to the shrines, there are often musicians playing, sometimes someone reading poetry. 

Last night, I discovered death haikus: haikus written by poets on the verge of death. 

An example from Basho:
On a journey, ill; 
my dream goes wandering
over withered fields. 

It occurred to me, that a good death is one that would allow me the moment to compose a death dance. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

old men

I talked to the wise old man in my life today after a hiatus of close to a year, a hiatus caused by a surgery he had to have, a reminder of our mortality.
We talked about the old men in my life. There have been many.
Of course, the first old man in my life was my grandfather, Andrew Lee Eng Kong. I was reminded that he had been not just my grandfather, but my mother and father also. 
And when he died - I was 12 - I lost the one person in the entire universe I had felt safe with. 
Today,  for the first time in my life, I spoke about what that all might mean.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How to be a tiger #2

"In the jaws of a tiger, one's body is, for all practical purposes, weightless and, in the case of Andrei Pochepnya, it appeared to have no substance at all. This begs an obscure metaphysical question: if the body journeys through the viscera of an animal - if its substance and essence become that animal - what happens to the soul? Hurricanes, avalanches, and volcanoes consume people, but such random acts of insensate violence are considered acts of God; they don't pick their targets, nor do they metabolize them. It is rare that one is confronted as these men were, with such overwhelming evidence of one's mutability in the face of a sentient natural force. In this way, tigers and their quasi-conscious kin occupy an uncharted middle ground somewhere between humans and natural catastrophes. Under certain circumstances, the tiger can have the same nullifying effect as a long look into the night sky."

I love this passage for the possibilities of dance contained within it. The body transformed through viscera. The mind emptied by the sublime.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How to be a tiger

I am reading The Tiger by John Vaillant : "A true story of vengeance and survival" about a man-eating Siberian tiger in Russia's Far East.

While feverishly turning the pages, I stumbled upon a passage that made me think about dancing.

"Clark Barrett, a professor in the anthropology department at UCLA and an expert on predator-prey dynamics, describes the deer's advantage as the anywhere but here principle: all a prey animal needs to do is be anywhere the predator isn't - it doesn't matter if it's a foot away, or a hemisphere - and it will live another day. The predator, on the other hand, must be exactly where its prey is, and at exactly the same moment, or it will starve. Thus, for a predator, mastery of both time and space - in addition to  thorough understanding of terrain and prey behaviour - are crucial."

I love that.

I would like to think of the dancer as predator,
master of time and space,
to be exactly where the audience is, and at exactly the same moment.