We danced the last stand of the 2013 season yesterday the the New England Folk Festival. Why the last stand of 2013 you ask? Because Cotswold Morris is a May thing, and it isn’t May yet, of course. My brother , coming from his theater background, suggested we should have called it a “preview performance”. Perhaps that would be more fitting, given the train wreck that was “John Peel”. We never got it that bad at practice, and I suspect I was in the middle of the breakdown. The team recovered nicely though, and I even managed to not badly screw up Banbury Bill while dancing the first corner. After examining photos of the day, however, I am convinced that I both need to pay more attention to my knees during Queen’s Delight and lose at least twenty pounds.
Insight can come from the strangest corners. When I was getting quotes for the move a couple of months ago, I ended up having a discussion with the owner of the moving company. Movers often deal with people at emotionally intense periods of their lives, either for good or for bad reasons. Certainly the move into that house was one of the better events in our life together, and moving out alone was one of my low points. He talked about having met with someone who had suffered a loss, and again later after she had time to recover, and remarking to that she looked much better. Her reply was interesting enough to him that he remembered it and repeated it to me: “The grief is always there, it’s just how you dance with it.” He had no idea I had taken up the Morris to keep me moving during my crazy year. (It’s kind of disturbing re-reading that post from last spring and seeing how much that metaphor of rebuilding a wreck ended up playing out literally before I could leave the house behind.)
It’s how you dance with it… That thought came back to me yesterday when I had trouble recognizing a dancer in familiar kit from another team from across the room. I finally realized the problem was that I was looking at a face that was smiling, and was in fact used to smiling. The last time I saw her, the better part of a year ago, she still had that survivor’s face, the one that can’t hold a smile for very long, the same one I saw in the mirror so many times.
She’s learning her dance, I thought.
So many of us are learning our dances, and we all find our own way to do it. We don’t get to call the music in this life, but we get to call the dance. The music is going to play no matter what we do, so we might as well dance. So what if it’s in a minor key? It’s still music, and it’s the only music we’ve got. The music of life goes on, and it calls us to respond. It calls us to carry our grief back into life and move with it.
We can dance alone with our grief, or find another partner and dance a pas de trois, or maybe we find a team. We can dance to a boxman, a fiddler, or a tin whistle, 80’s rock, or big band. We can dance with bells and hankies, or garlands, or barefoot. Maybe at first we can only just shuffle along. Whatever we do, the more we dance, the better we get at it.
Spring is here, and I’ve got the physical wreckage behind me. I’m finding my feet, I’m finding my own smile again. There is a lot to celebrate, even if I will always have grief in my life. That is still a big change from last year, where I was struggling to find space for life in my grief.
Thursday, at sunrise the music comes around for another turn. I’ll be there, with my team, with bells on.