March 7, 2019
A week of dance in NYC and a climate workshop in Miami – what do they have in common? That’s what I’m struggling to find out. I had the opportunity to perform in my friend Kim’s tiny studio/gallery space in Brooklyn, the perfect venue for an intimate performance. It was an opportunity to share my movement explorations and have them witnessed in an open and generous format. Working with the metaphor of ecosystems, the one we share in nature and our own personal ecosystem, I’m exploring bones as the structure that most defines us and is the last part of us to decompose. How do we handle mitigation, adaptation and resiliency in both these ecosystems? What I found in the improvisation was a structure to hold my questions about and my desire for moving forward. Some comments that I received were from Kim who is my age and a childhood friend. She said what she witnessed was multiple conversations happening at once, a conversation with myself, one with the audience and the last with the wider world. Thryn, my daughter and a millennial, said that she found the piece deeply personal but with the questions posed creating a broader landscape that was inviting to anyone with curiosity. From Lynn, a dance peer engaged in environmental issues, came the question, “Where do you find the hope in the recognition of the desperate situation we’ve created?” My dance was an honest and personal response to the looming issues of climate change that confront us. Sharing it with this group of people resulted in an open conversation of personal opinions and feelings. A place from which to move forward.
In Miami on Tuesday night at the CLEAR workshop on becoming an environmental activist, I tried to use similar themes in a personal advocacy story that we were asked to create. I didn’t dance, I used the words that came from the performance. The questions posed to me were: “What are you trying to say?”; “What are you asking for?” Immediately I knew the weakness of my generalizations, of conceptual thinking without a clear focus. And yet there was meaning in these words in my performance – what was missing now? Movement, dance… But this was supposed to be a practice story to give to a governmental commission in two minutes. This was a different requirement. These questions are forcing me to be specific, to focus my movement, my emotion, toward a specific goal. In one situation the questions are enough, they generate thought and conversation but in the other situation we’re all there because we’ve asked the questions; now we’re advocating for answers.
It’s there between these two that my next dance begins.
Feb. 22, 2019
Where do we find inspiration to write? For me, the Everglades offered that every day while I was in residency there and then drawn back to daily responsibilities I lost the motivation to find time. Well I am back with a collision of motivations. If I were to use a car as a metaphor, (excuse me for that but then being a Miamian, my car is one of my closest associates and there’s the fact of emissions, environment, climate change, it all makes sense), I’d say that:
• the engine is my body – the movement I’m exploring as a dancer, my personal ecosystem and understanding it in relationship to earth’s ecosystem,
• the body of the car is National Water Dance – the major project that consumes me and where I’m continually searching for the deeper connections in reaching for environmental results and
• the ignition to getting this blog started again is Catalyst Miami – their workshop CLEAR – Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience. I just completed the 2nd class out of 10.
What I’m finding most meaningful is interacting with the community of people participating and seeing through conversation and structured activities the disparities in our physical realities. It’s one thing to read and know about inequities that exist. It’s another thing to be in conversation and listen to myself talk about my experience with hurricanes or my ability to have access to fresh produce that is affordable to me and hear the experience of others who don’t share that same reality. It’s forcing a level of emotional understanding in my critical thinking that I’ve only intellectually embraced. With that said the format and the purpose of the workshop is to understand the challenges of climate change and to learn skills to deal with them – RESILIENCE.
And that brings me back to my body – my engine- and my exploration of the structure of that ecosystem, my bones. Like all ecosystems it’s constantly changing, growing and dying. My challenge is finding resiliency in my movement and my understanding of my changing structure. But along with Resilience is Mitigation. How do we avoid total collapse?
And there we are back to the environment. Resilience isn’t enough, we have to work at mitigating the problems. They are so huge and facing criminal denial by politicians it can feel hopeless. But we don’t have the luxury to be hopeless. Here’s a beginning strategy that CLEAR offered to us. It helps to frame what we can do and offers a personal check list that informs us without being slowed down or stopped by the guilt of inaction. Choose to do one thing every week that deals with climate change. And in doing that one thing determine what kind of action it is –
It may be a simple conversation with someone you don’t know or someone you do, giving up cow’s milk for oat milk, writing to your representative, going to a rally or writing a blog post. So here is my public action for the week – my first blog post inspired by CLEAR!
I’m not sure that I can translate that approach to my body, but then again… We can start with the personal – Taking time to listen, to feel and to embrace these magnificent bodies that house us. I offer you an idea for beginning:
I know some of you don’t want to but those hard-working feet of yours deserve to be liberated.
soften your gaze or close your eyes and bring your attention to the bones in your feet.
see them and trace them in your mind’s eye,
feel where your weight is,
pay attention to what part of your foot is touching the ground and what isn’t.
move past “what’s next” and stay with “that’s all there is and it’s quite a lot”.
Just a bit longer.
Now take a step and watch how your weight is transferred.
What part of your foot touches first, second, third.
Let your weight spread out through your entire foot. T
here’s so much to feel here. So much material to listen to, to converse with.
This week’s personal action –
a conversation with your feet.