Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Story of Stone


A note on my dreams: Often when I have a dream, I experience it with two "minds." The mind of my waking self and that of the being I am in in the dream. I say that I am "in" the being because that is closest I can come to describing the sensation that accompanies these dreams. I feel as though I am along for the ride, looking through some other creature's eyes; while I am there, I have access to their history, their thoughts, what they see, hear, touch, taste, smell. Again, I describe it this way because that is the language that fits.  Am I really along for the ride in some other creature? Anything is possible I suppose, but it really doesn't matter to me whether this is what happens, or if my sleeping self is connecting with some sort of collective unconscious, or if it is simply a creation of my subconscious mind. I don't really need an answer to that. I am fine with never really being sure...

What is important for me is that I allow the story to unfold, because, while I am capable of changing or stopping the dream, I find that that where it takes me is always interesting and almost always enlightening.

This is also why I also choose to tell the stories of these dreams in the first person, because while the "I" in them is not me, Joie as I know myself, I am experiencing the story as this other consciousness. It is not always easy, particularly when writing about it after, to sort out what are the thoughts of my waking mind as I move through the story, and what are the thoughts of the creature I am.  There are times when I think back on the story that I recognize I am projecting my own waking experience onto the happenings in the dream, but I do my best differentiate them.

This is the dream I had on the night of October 19th, 2019.

I am a creature made of stone. I stand outside the doorway of a sacred place that I was created to protect. I don't have a real sense of how long I have stood there, through the nights and days, watching the caretakers of this place come and go. I have no recollection of how I came to be, just that from the moment I came to be here, I have known that I am there for one purpose, to defend this place should it ever be threatened.

It is mostly a dry place, but I have memories of rain and the feeling of cold.  I know that the appearance of the caretakers changes but I don’t seem to have a concept of aging. There are a few that look at me, some even nod my way, but most pass on by.   I have a sense of affection for them, and I take comfort in their patterns because as long as they continue their coming and going, I know they are safe.

One night, at the darkest of hours, when the stars are hidden behind clouds that are pouring the heaviest rains I have seen, someone comes.  There is danger and I know that now is the time I have to fulfill my purpose.  I try to move, but some…thing, some force, is holding me back.  I push against it, I feel my stone body shaking, but I am unable to move an inch. My vision is filled with a red light that doesn’t quite blind me, but colors everything around me.

Men rush into the doorway of the sacred place and hear screaming, metal clashing, I know that the caretakers are being harmed and I am unable to do what I was created for.  Eventually all is quiet, and the men leave.  I am standing, still unable to move, in silence.

In time the red light falls from my eyes and my body lurches forward.  I rush into the doorway.  I have never been in this place before.  Inside there is a large room with a shining stone floor.  There are stairs and an altar at the top.  Brightly embroidered tapestries hang from the walls.  The place is covered with the evidence of my failure. 

My waking mind was surprised a this. This creature of stone seemed to have been created not only with a sense of purpose, but also the knowledge of what it meant when that purpose was not fulfilled.  I wondered if the creature’s creators intended that or if it was an unforeseen consequence of what they did to create it.

Metal lamps that have fallen spilled their oil across the floor. There are scorch marks where lit lamps set fire to the tapestries as they fell. The motionless bodies of the caretakers are strewn around the space, on the stairs, across the altar, on the floor…

I do not know what to do. I had no other purpose than to protect this place.  So I just stop where I am.  I wait. And wait.  I watch the light through the doorway as it shines each morning on the opposite wall and moves across the room until night fall.  I do not move.

Men dressed like the caretakers come.  They gather the bodies, the tapestries, and the remains of the altar.  They wash the room until nearly all the signs of the fight are gone.  As they talk, I hear them tell the story of the fight.  They gesture towards me and talk of a man who has the power to overcome my strength.  They talk of the red light and that he glows with it when he works his magic.

“I guess there is no use for you any more is there?” the last man says when the cleaning is done.  He leaves and I hear the sounds of building.  The light of the doorway becomes less and less as they place stone after stone in it, sealing the room with me inside of it.

I am in darkness.  But the room does not seem silent.  The last man’s words, “I guess there is no use for you anymore…”  seem to echo from the walls.  I do not understand what is happening.  I do not understand what to do with this feeling of failure. 

I think of how the caretakers closed this place once it was damaged.  And I hear the words of the of last man, “I guess there is no use for you anymore…”  They took all that made this place what it was, the altar, the lamps, the tapestries, the caretakers, away and closed it up.  They unmade it. 

I do not know how this place or  I came to be.  Was I, like this place, made?  Perhaps then, like it, I must be unmade too? 

I think of the man with the power of the red light.  He had the power to disrupt my purpose.  Perhaps he would have the power to unmake me?  I decide to find him.

I turn around and push against the stoned in doorway.  I step out into the light of day and I begin. 

What happened during the time of the creature’s searching would be a long story to tell – and I may share these stories yet. But years pass as the creature searches.  During this time the creature learns to read, and how to communicate through writing (they cannot speak as they have no mouth or voice). They learn about the fragileness of human life…that unlike themself, humans can fall ill, be hurt, and that they age and die. The creature learns to be gentle.  In time they can pick a flower as easily as they can crush a building or uproot a tree.  The humans they meet give the creature different names, none of which they keep. 

They learn how they came to be, or at least how other creatures like them come to be.  During the journey they meet only one other like them, made of wood and built with the purpose of carrying messages over a mountain pass too difficult for humans to traverse.  They have walked this path over and over again for so long they worn a rut deeper than they are tall.  The stone creature feels, at first, a sense of delight when they meet, but the creature of wood will not be deterred from its mission of delivering messages.  And so the stone creature learns they are somehow different from the creature of wood and feels loneliness for the first time.

There was so much more heartbreak in the creature’s journey, and joys too.  But through it all they still sought the man with the red light.  Until one day they finally meet…

When I find the man with the red light, I am surprised that he is still alive.  So much time has passed, and so many other humans I have met have died.  When he see me he is afraid and he uses his power on me.  My vision fills with red, but unlike the last time we met, I do not fight it or resist.  He sees this, and removes the force that holds me. 

He approaches me.  I stay still.  He circles me and I turn my head to follow him.   He taps my stone surface, and finally asks why I am here.

I point to a table with writing tools and paper.  He looks surprised, but steps aside.

I go to the table and I start to write.  Once I begin I don’t stop.  He brings page after page and I write, on and on.  When I am done I straighten up and turn to see he has stacked all of the pages into piles that are tied with rope.  He is seated in a chair reading the page I had finished a few minutes before.

I hand him the last page. He reads it.  Then looks up with tears on his cheeks.

“I cannot do this.”  He stands.  “Well, I can…I know how to unmake you, but I won’t.   Do you not see how wondrous you are?  What would those who created you think of you now?  No one expects something like you to have thoughts.  To learn, to become…a self.”

I write a word on paper.

“Please…”

He again refuses. 

I turn to the table again and start to write.  I write about how the world has changed.  How in all of my travels I met only one like me. I write of how there is no longer a place for a creature of stone who is built to protect the sacred places of humans.  I write of how my purpose has ended. 

He tries to convince me by sharing his library with me.  He takes me on long walks through the lands that surround his home and tells me his story, of how he came to discover magic and how few people there were left who knew what it was or how to use it.  He tells of the mistakes he has made, of how he sought forgiveness…but never found it.

He shares the stories of the plants, the trees, the creatures that crawl in the ground.  He tells me that this is where he seeks magic now. 

He calls me Stone, his unwilling apprentice.  It is the name I keep.

Every day I ask him to unmake me, and every day he refuses.

So much time passes that the man with the red light grows old.  His skin softens into wrinkles, and his hair turns white.  There are days he is very sad, he tells me these are the days when others like him have passed.

Our walks become shorter and eventually stop.  He takes to his bed.  I make him broths and teas to ease his pain.  I sit by his bed through each night.  I listen to him breathe.  

One morning he wakes and tells me the last of his kind  he knew passed long ago, and there is no one who is capable or called to take up this craft.  He tells me that he has only enough life in him to grant me my unmaking, if that is what I still wish for.

I feel sadness that his time has come.

He asks me to come closer.  I approach his bed and kneel…

At this point I forced myself awake. I sat in the darkness with tears on my cheeks.  I could not bring myself to be present for what I expected to be the unmaking of this wonderful creature I had the gift of experiencing the world through during this night of dreams…my heart was too sad.

And so, I do not know what happened after Stone knelt beside his friend, but when I close my eyes to visit that place, I feel like Stone is still there, waiting…but for what?  Well, perhaps that is another dream..

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Fall Belly Dance with Joie at Flourish Arts

Date:  September 18 - December 4
            (No class Thanksgiving week)

Time: 6:30 - 7:30

Location:  Flourish Arts
                  140 Main St
                  Biddeford, Maine

Cost:         $95 - Early Bird (before 9/8)
                  $110 - after 9/8
                  Installment plans are available by
                 request

Please note this is a session class - no dropins

Learn the expressive and beautiful art of belly dance in this 11 week mixed levels belly dance class.  You'll learn the foundational movements of the dance, and be introduced to the music and rhythms that surround this beautiful dance form (with live music!!).  You'll learn how to combine the movements to create improvised, flowing dances.  Whether you want to dance on the stage or in your own living room, this class will give you a great start.

Students will also have the opportunity to perform at a student recital in December! 

Joie teaches dance from an embodiment perspective, students will learn not only how a movement should look, but how it feels in the body.  She seeks to create a safe and welcoming space for student to explore movement and dance.

Belly dance is suitable for all body types and the class is open to all genders.  No prior dance experience is required.

You will want to bring clothing that is comfortable to move in (layers are wonderful), a water bottle, and a willingness to learn!

This class is a live music class with musicians Dorothy Barker and Stephen Carpenter.


 

The Hollow Tree


There have been times in my life that I have felt a great emptiness inside.   A hollow expanse that should contain all that is me but contains only muffled echoes of forgotten possibility.  At other times that space has felt like it is overrun with rottenness; a vile, decayed sludge that has seeped in through forgotten cracks until I am full up with foulness.   It spreads out from my core to the ends of my fingers, the tip of my nose, the top of my head, until I become a tower of unworthiness.  Unlovable, unwanted…

Yet, somehow I am still here.  Somehow, despite carrying this giant bag of self nastiness, I grew.  I moved through life, not always functioning in the best way, but still alive.  There are so many of us that live in this way – wounded, but still walking.  Dancing along the edge of the wallow…

When I sat last night to draw I wanted to create some image that spoke to this feeling.  This feeling of being alive, but deeply hurt.  I put the pen to paper, and I asked my body, my heart, what image will convey this?  And so emerged the hollow tree. 

The hollow tree is wounded, but it lives.  At some time in it’s life the  heartwood was damaged.  Fungi moved in, breaking the wood down.  As time passes the core breaks down, but the rest of the tree grows – the fungi only feed on the decaying wood.  Depending upon how you approach the tree, you may not see the gaping hole in its side.  You only see the living bark, the green leaves, the blossoms, the fruit; you may pass it by never knowing the emptiness that is inside.

But you might also decide to walk around the tree.  To examine it, to look more closely, as you come around the other side you see the great wound that is there.  A closer look and you also see the spots where new wood has grown in around the edges. You will see the remains of a possum nest, or where a squirrel has stashed its acorn bounty.  If the hole is large enough you may even step inside and marvel at the quiet of this hollow place.

I wondered how such trees could live; with their hearts rotted out.  I discovered that trees are remarkably adaptive creatures.  There are theories that the way trees rot is an adaptive trait, that the minerals, and nutrients stored there are broken down by fungi, returned to the soil, and used again by the tree as it grows new sap wood.  Some say that hollow trees withstand storms better, they bend instead of break.  Another theory is that trees will allow the rot to happen because the heartwood is not what keeps the tree alive, the new sapwood is, and so it turns its energy and resources to creating new paths for sap to reach the rest of it.

The hollow tree is wounded.  It is damaged.  But it is also resilient.  It is also strong.  It can grow, even flourish – there are some great hollow trees that are hundreds of years old. One in the UK is large enough that it has been host to a seated dinner for twenty people inside of its trunk! 

Today I sit holding this image of myself as the hollow tree.  Still reaching my branches to the sun.  Still creating fresh new green leaves.  Still blossoming and bearing the fruit of my existence.  The wound is not gone, but it is not just an empty rotting hollow.  When I step inside that space, that wound, I find that it is also haven.  Here I can sit and remember how I survived, what got me through, and if I reach out to touch the edges,  I connect to the tough, living wood that is my survival.