Wednesday as dusk came settling pink and hazy I danced with my girl Belle. She was in her pajamas with her dark burgundy hair in pigtails, draped against her big silver hoop earrings. We are both mimics, and have been dancing together for years now, which means we know what to expect from the other dancer. I can watch her out of the corner of my eye and anticipate her next move, a delightful communication, a physical connection. Our bodies respond to the music in the same motions, and although we are shaped differently, the shapes of our bodies are very complimentary. We trade off following and leading without being self-conscious about it. She's a doll.

Our oven has crapped out, so while Belle & I danced, S made smoked pizza in the outside grill that turned out to be the best pizza ever, and we ate quickly while visiting with Belle. She had things to do and so did S & I, so we parted ways as the night pulled her dark curtain across the earth.

The moon hung liquid and yellow like a candle light amidst the tall trees when we left the house. As we drove East towards the river we could see the shadows shifting on the bright yellow moon's face, and disregarding the clock or our classes we needed to attend, I pulled the car over in a pot-holed vacant gravel lot off the pot-holed empty spur of a street. We sat quiet like children, fogged up the windows, then sat on the front bumper listening to the rush of cars on the freeway and the sounds from nearby industry, and watched as the shadow of the earth moved across the face of the moon.

The moon hung suspended between telephone wires, between streetlights, above the spires of fir trees, and the shadow crept from the lower left edge, an upside-down Cheshire cat's grin. A balmy wind luffed our hair, and then time felt tangible, so we drove on our way with the moon riding backwards to our left.

Dance class was small; there were only a few of us but we shook it to make it rain. I blew dramatic kisses at the badass hip-hop girlies sweating to their super-duper-loud music in the next studio room as I closed their door, and was rewarded with big grins and laughter as they kick-punched their aerobic slams across the floor in coordinated trios. We bellydancers could still hear the driving beat of their music, but not the shouting and yelling and calls from their dance drill instructor.

In class we're practicing two choreographies, both very involved and difficult, with lots of precision motion locks and undulations. It takes a great deal of concentration and muscle control and strength and flexibility and balance, and above all, practice. Working those abdomens and thighs and calves and feet, oh yes.

After class I collected my dear one from under a romantic streetlight on campus, we paused for a dark alley kiss, and we drove to JJ's place for an unexpected little party. JJ and Glenna had already partaken of red red wine, and finished the bottle, so JJ opened the Maker's Mark to serve us scotch. We sat talking about handsome bicycle mechanics and JJ's pending trip to Canada and about life and happiness in her little brightly lit home. While S and Glenna talked politics in the living room, JJ and I ended up on her bedroom floor.

She has been learning to knit, and bought some alpaca wool, which the snooty salesclerk at the hoity-toity yarn store informed her she would have to roll into a ball. JJ didn't want to ask the snooty salesclerk how to do that. I worked on trying to untangle the snarls and knots for about an hour while we sat on the floor talking about truth and beauty and music and relationships, sipping our glasses of whisky not whiskey. We sang along with the music and joked and laughed.

JJ also talked S into trying the sound-light machine, which is this psychiatrist tool that changes the wave patterns of brain function. He donned the headphones and the dark glasses which, when activated, flicker with lights. We three girlies sat in JJ's bedroom, instantly transported to age seven, when the most acceptable place to sit at a friend's house is on the floor. We tried to be quiet but it was fun to sing all together the songs we all know, and talk about laughables.

When he was done with the sound-light session, S said he was no longer tired or tipsy, and JJ said she wanted to experiment on him again later, after she attends the conference in Canada. We had many hugs, and JJ sang her sweet soulful songs, and we had some more hugs and JJ lit all the candles on the mantle and burned her thumb, and we had more hugs and JJ sang while she and I held onto eachother under the last shadow of the eclipse, which felt like heaven holding her while she raised her incredible voice to the stars with her eyes closed, and then we four had one big hug, and headed for home in the middle of the night.

And all the trouble went away
And it wasn't just a dream
All the trouble went away
And it wasn't just a dream

In the middle of the night
We try and try with all our might
To light a little light down here
In the middle of the night
We dream of a million kites
Flying high above the sadness and the fear

Little sister just remember
As you wander through the blue
The little kite that you sent flying
On a sunny afternoon
Made of something light as nothing
Made of joy that matters too
How the little dreams we dream
Are all we can really do

In the middle of the night
The world turns with all its might
A little diamond colored blue
In the middle of the night
We keep sending little kites
Until a little light gets through
Patti Griffin


Winter is coming in, sing Goddamn, Goddamn, winter's a-bluster, a-murder, a-waiting. No asylum, no kindness in that creeping withering grey. A three note trainsong the engine and engine and another engine pulling miles of lumber, how many trees? How many trees in a mile?
But they grow amazing here and they undress their gold and scarlet robes in the cold. I forgot my hat. Oh yes, I remember sidewise rain and the wind came turring at my coat and hair. I walked with clocking heels the red and yellow carpet on top of a damp sidewalk through leaves blown swirling like red and yellow confetti. The colors shake with the wind and change nightly, the greater the difference in temperature between night and day, the more vibrant the colors. A hitch in my getalong across the train tracks, two shining steel ribbons and a million crushed red and yellow leaves. The sky is blue but not clear, the clouds are thick blue, not grey. Blue and dark, and out of the Northwest, out of Alaska. Sing Goddamn. Winter is a-comin'.

Ezra said it.

Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm,
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.


I’ve been otherwise preoccupied, a long thought, some wilder-ness coming down the lines that slice the fog, seven crows black shadows cast on the rose brambles below. The sunlight shines hazy rosy through the gray swath, bundled dirty little town on the riverbanks. I can hear from here the train yard clanking, humming, whistling, the crashes of connections.

We went gravestone walking on Sunday through the clouds come down to earth, careful don’t walk windershins around the trees. Dogs intent on red squirrels, a hundred mushrooms brimming up from underground, acorns and fir cones scattered. Burning muscles, residual fatigue from Saturday’s day-long strenuous dancing, the simple act of walking up stairs reminded me of that curious blend of life and pain.

Saturday I was a body in motion from dawn to dusk, with four classes and two performances and no pause in between. In the morning I taught basic motions, much control and isolation, and then learned some secrets of drum rhythms, and flamenco skirts, and double veils.

The drumming and zills workshop helped me focus on tempo and timing, two essential elements of the dance. The Spanish skirts class was enjoyable and enlightening, taught by a beautiful flamenco dancer of soft voice and great strength. We kicked like horses and pawed the ground, and shook and twisted and swirled our big skirts. I wore the blue one my mother and I made, fifteen yards at the bottom hem, long enough to hold both sides out at arm’s length, or wrap again around my body, while still covering my legs. The weight of the fabric adds a weight to the dance motions; flamenco is earthy and solid, gravity gives it grace. Come let us stomp and clap and fight bulls.

The double veils lesson taught me new tricks. There is a fine line between artful veilwork and fancy gimmickry. Often, the tricks are just that, and take little time and less effort to learn and execute than the audience can imagine. For my own self, I think art must precede artifice. Call it integrity; I would rather see hours of hard work and sweat for an excellent technique channeled into genuine interpretation of a song instead of a clever flip of sparkly fabric.

After the dance workshops the performance began, with a long lineup of dancers, an extravaganza, a festival. The group choreography I have been practicing with trepidation went well, or at least it was over quickly and nobody made any glaring mistakes. One photograph looks as though I’m asleep, and another girl is about to fall off the stage, and a third dancer is about to kick me in the ass. Which is, after all, appropriate. I danced solo, also, and was given good feedback from both loved ones and my instructor. I don't recall anything in particular that I did, the whole thing was a blur. S said I looked tired, and then mentioned he thinks he's the only one who could tell. Some of the usual spring was lacking from my step, he said. I was tired. And hungry, since I had only eaten two hard boiled eggs and a small slice of pizza during my ten hour day.

S took me out to sushi dinner and then home, and I went to bed before 8 on Saturday. Sunday found me exhausted. Monday? What happened to Monday? I moved furniture and dusted and did laundry and dishes, and worked on my sewing project, which involves lots of silver beads and lavender velvet, and will hopefully work as a dance costume when I'm done with it. I got a good look at some of the imported costumes for sale at the festival, and dare say I can make a custom costume better. Especially since the mass-produced cabaret costumes cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000; even if it takes me a year to make it, it will not only fit me, but will be one of a kind.

Tuesday was double the usual work, with two people on vacation, and then in the evening my dance class helped stretch the rest of the muscles loose again. Tonight I'm missing class to see a concert with JJ and S, and also to watch the last Presidential debate and eat soup in a house with a big blue door.


It glides, scales and skin and muscles and bones, a unity, a sliding. Elongated, serpentine, a constriction. Many a truth is spoken in jest, a perhaps plot of twisted whispered words. I have no use of it, for it, with it, I have no means to uncover it for others; seek it for yourself. The flickering globe within the box, beware the assumptions and question the rationale. Even magicians feel anxious behind the curtain before the performance. What magic is this? Summon me a skeptic who believes in faith of love, not someone whose ambitions revolve around materialism. The coils of greed tighten again.

It is a long dark road and something massive with matted bloody shaggy hair and small eyes and a cavernous long-toothed mouth slouches this way.


Friday night I smoked a big hookah pipe. I saw the smoke curl and dance and I thought it might be visible laughter.

Our host rinsed the big ornate metal hookah, and cleaned it, and heated small chunks of charcoal on the stove. He packed the bowl on the top of the pipe, which was two feet tall and had a swivel base for ease of use at a party (how clever), with saturated fruit-flavored tobacco. The greasy sticky sweet brown stuff came from a glass jar covered with miniscule Arabic writing. He set a screen over the wad of tobacco, and placed the charcoal on the little screen.

The pipe bubbled with a deep voice, like laughter, like our own laughter, fueled with wine and music and apple cobbler. Great billows came surprising, and I could not feel the smoke as I inhaled because it was cooled by the pipe's water. We sat on cushions, a red Bokhara beneath us, candles lighting the smiling faces, hearing and telling many tales of journeys.

Saturday morning my Egyptian cabaret style beginning bellydancing class began at nine o'clock. Two students returned from the previous session, which I considered a great compliment, and six new faces watched me with undivided attention. We incorporated some basic elements of muscle isolations into our warm-up, and I think this class will be a difficult one to teach, but I know it will be worth it. Most of the women said they're taking my class to increase flexibility and strength.

The motions used are sometimes foreign to people who have never taken dance or aerobic before in their lives. The notion of movement and muscle isolation seems incomprehensible. I show them how, and I tell them, keep your head and your hips in place, balanced, face forwards, but now slide your rib cage side to side on a horizontal plane. For some, this is difficult to grasp. They lean side to side, they lunge using their legs, they rock back and forth, they tilt their heads left to right. It is not easy to describe, in words, the motions necessary for the muscle control, but sometimes it is easier said than done.

I did get them all dancing, though, and they didn't realize it until I pointed it out to them. Everyone managed to execute a hip lift, in which only one hip at a time lifts up and forward, and also a hip tuck, in which only one hip at a time lifts up and tucks in directly beneath the ribs. We combined the two moves, lift, tuck, lift, tuck -switch hips- lift, tuck, lift, tuck, in time with the music tempo. I said, Excellent! You are all dancing. Those smiles, the feeling that fills the room when people realize they can do what they're trying to do, those are wonderful things. I was told my class is a lot of fun. And that's always nice to hear.

Saturday after my class we drove to the mountains, up into the deep dark wild woods. The lovely and kind JJ had rented a cabin and invited a few people. It was nice to have a party away from home, although everyone was tired from hiking, and went to bed by ten on Saturday night. S and I stayed up, sitting near the fire he had built outside. We listened to voices across the water, to the splash of fish in the lake, we listened to the big wide open silence and watched the yellow gibbous moon rise over the opposite ridge. The moon and stars reflected bright in the cold water, dark shadows cast by trees. S saw a shooting star and pulled me close against him, which is my favorite place to be.

In the cold clear dawn a pair of bald eagles came sweeping over the lake, rising and descending and splashing for fish, scattering the ducks across the water. The low mist on the water curled faint tendrils and drifted across the black surface. The air was cold but not frosty. Everything seemed to crackle with the energy of the dawn, a blinding brightness shining from the sun, reflecting from the water, light as a tangible thing crashing into the cliffs and the forested hillside. The air felt alive and vibrant, a shimmering with light refracting from the rippling water.

We walked along the wooded shore, a well-worn path beneath the firs and pines and cedars, thick with ferns and huckleberry, sedge and rushes. The wide shallow creek burbled and gargled around a bend, and in the cold water we could see the salmon. The land-locked salmon live in the lake and spawn in the fast cold mountian streams; their vermillion and crimson bodies with bright green heads rode the current and fought for space above the rocky creek bottom. We watched them in their swirling grace, facing upstream into the current. They rushed at each other, and fought, and slithered sideways, turned course, then let the current take them downstream, only to turn again and glide upstream again. It was acrobatics, it was dance, it was combat.

The fish were molting, their flesh beneath the brilliant red scales beginning to decay. We saw a number of dead fish in the shallows. They swim and spawn and die, and the lake freezes over in the winter. This is the cycle of things.

The day ended too soon, and we drove home, descending out of the mountains, into the valley below. And of course there is so much more to write, and no time to write it all.


We watched the debate last night sipping wine on JJ's bed. She cooked beans and rice and we provided meat for burritos, and then the neighbors came over with homemade split pea soup, and cole slaw that went great with the burritos.
And we drank red red red red red red wine.

I had my doubts about voting for Kerry, but watching him last night made it an easier decision. I thought Bush behaved like a petulent little boy, who thinks he's a lot cuter than he is. Someone, somewhere kept track of how many times he said secure, and freedom, and hard work, and mixed-messages, and simple, and all those other over-used buzz words, the meanings of which many people seem to have forgotten. Me, I just kept track of how many questions he provided a succinct clear answer to, and found none untainted with digression into safe territory of buzz clips and phrases repeated ad nauseum.

Whatever. Differences between candidates aside, political agendas are all the same. I pay them nevermind most of the time.

Tomorrow morning begins my class; I reviewed my lesson plans and went through the stretch routine just to remind myself that I have to go slow, that some of the women in my class are older, and not as nimble. I will work their asses, but I'll be gentle about it.

After class, S & I have a rendez-vous with JJ in the mountains in the woods, a little cabin by a big blue glacier-fed cauldron lake, other friends and dogs too. It promises to be cold, with much food and laughter. I hope it is clear, so we can see the stars reflected in the lake's still waters, and dream of heaven on earth.

Have a delightful weekend.