Dancing for Freyja and the world

I’ve been a little down in the dumps about finding a place for dance in society lately. People don’t seem to care, there’s no funding (and Congress wants to cut what little there is). Art in general is pretty underappreciated, but I think dance is pretty far up on the list of most underappreciated art forms. So I wanted to go ahead and speak a little about why dance is important, especially from the framework of a devotee of Freyja. I’m sure a lot of this will be things I’ve said on here before, but I’d like to put it all here in one spot, so that I can come back and look at it when I’m feeling useless again in the future.

Dance is not the twinkletoes silly thing most people bill it as, and modern dance is not the “interpretive dance” of people pretending to be trees and the wind as it’s so often mocked to be. The people who mock dance as being silly or pointless or whatever have a)probably never seen good dance and b)probably are pretty disconnected with their bodies.

Being disconnected with our bodies is an extremely common problem in the society in which we live. Women, in particular, have a pretty strong distaste for their bodies and spend endless hours talking and thinking about how much they hate their bodies, and money and other resources on making their bodies more to their liking through plastic surgery and dieting, as if somehow dieting or getting plastic surgery can make you get sort of updated to a better model. But a body is not a consumer product. It isn’t something to ignore or despise. It’s easy enough to hate yourself if you like your body, and since our bodies are ourselves, hating your body is basically equivalent to self-loathing.

While I am not going to try to argue that dance helps people like their bodies better, especially considering how pervasive eating disorders are among dancers, I do think that dance has the capability of teaching us that our bodies are important parts of ourselves, and, as parts of ourselves, need to be tended to.

One of the things that people often say when they first get to know Freyja is that she makes you face your body. She likes to teach people to embrace the pleasures of their body–whether that be through doing something pretty with their hair, or taking hot perfumed baths, or even just enjoying sex more. Freyja helps us to remember that our bodies are our growing selves, the parts that come from the same nature as the trees and flowers. Our thoughts are cultural, but our bodies are made from the stuff the earth is made of. And she wants us to see them as beautiful, just as we do sunsets and flowers and trees.

So I like to promote dance as what might be Freyja’s favorite art form, the one most closely aligned with her other domains. They overlap so strongly–beauty and bodies, energy raising, skill, joy.

In general, I think aesthetics are not given enough credence. Our workplaces are drab, our city streets colorless. And while it is true that beauty is not necessarily required for life to go on, beauty is often what makes life worth living. And here, of course, I mean beauty in a broad sense–not just visual beauty, but the beauty of all our senses–sound, touch, taste, kinesthesia, even story and emotional beauty like joy. Art teaches us about the world in which we live, teaches us how to cope with the difficulties of life, gives us the freedom to say those hidden thoughts that cannot be expressed through normal conversation. People are happier in places with a good sense of aesthetics–I certainly am.

Dancing is how I bring Freyja’s mysteries out into the world where they can be appreciated even by people who don’t know her. Where people can learn to align themselves with their bodies, their most expressive entity, so that they may learn to take care of themselves better. If we actually engaged with our own bodies, and tried to take care of them as we do our family members or even beloved objects like the heirloom necklace my mother gave me, instead of making them into commodities, then perhaps we can fix our world, too. Perhaps we can make a world to take care of ourselves instead of our wallets, and we can try not to pollute them. We could fix the world.

It is, perhaps, too far to think that teaching people dance could teach them to take better care of the planet. But what if? What if we really listened to our bodies? What if we really acted as if our bodies mattered, as if they are more than a vessel for our brains? Could we clean the air for our tired lungs? The land for our tired food?

For more on why art is awesome, see: The Artist Rebuttal Book Project

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Hanging on to Spring

I remember, early on in my pagan days, when a friend of mine, a Buddhist, was talking about her seasonal diet, and how eating seasonally had made her feel healthier, and more in tune with the earth. At the time, it seemed strange to me.

I feel differently about that now. Early last summer, I saw a man walking on the street eating an apple, and it bothered me that he was eating a fruit out of season when there were so many wonderful fruits in season. It made him feel disconnected to me. Which isn’t to say I never eat foods out of season. I have just found that eating foods in season feels better. I like to eat hot bowls of soup in the winter and fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer.

This isn’t really a post about diet. It’s really about the power of the seasons to give us something to hang on to. I’ve been a bit depressed, as of late, as the seasons feel that they are turning painfully slow and winter will never end and the leaves will never explode with their vibrancy. I am tired of days indoors and layers of clothing. And as I feel trapped by the weather, I’ve been feeling trapped inside myself as well. I feel as if my life right now is a cage keeping me from doing what I want to be and being who I want to be and living the life I want to live. I feel trapped by city living and my low paying job and the leafless trees.

Some of the trees have flowers now, and the leaves are beginning to peek out their greenness here and there.

Spring is a season of renewal and hope. This past weekend, we planted seeds in our garden, to help end the plantslessness of our neighborhood. I will feel so happy once they spring up with their tiny green tendrils. The daffodils are sending up their green shoots everywhere where I hadn’t even hoped they would be, and soon the sun will be shining in the yellow flowers all over the city. The seasons, like life, always go on. When it’s cold and dark, eventually daylight savings and leaves and flowers will come up seemingly out of nowhere, and life will get better.

I love that the seasons give us something so basic and eternal to hang on to. Certain things that follow each other, over and over, no matter what. That cycle makes me feel grounded, makes me feel like there is a sense to the world, makes me feel like Life Goes On.

Sometimes the seasons are surprising, like how I am finding that there are daffodils hidden in the buckets of dirt on people’s front porches, and how suddenly green the grass has become. How very much more beautiful the daffodils are than I remembered. But even these surprises can be counted on. Not only does life go on, but it is filled with surprises.

It’s not yet springtime inside my life, but the burgeoning sunlight and the return of the flowers make me feel like life and joy are coming back to my life where they have been gone for so long. And springtime and Freyja and magic and blessings. So things will get better and my life won’t continue as it is and there will be joy all around. I have missed the sunlight, and I will keep hanging on to the coming of Spring.

Yearning for Spring

Spring is definitely on her way. Gent and I took a walk around the neighborhood the other day, and we saw the shoots of daffodils peeking up through the soil in a flowerpot in front of someone’s house. And a cherry tree was just starting to show her blooms for the spring. I gasped in joy at the surprise of it. I had thought I wouldn’t see any flowers for at least a few more weeks.

All the same, spring isn’t here yet, and I’m having a hard time with the last few weeks of winter. My life has been undergoing a sort of emotional spring cleaning, so I’ve been identifying things that generally make me unhappy about my life. I’ve been doing a lot of reevaluating.

Some things are picking up speed as the weather grows warmer–a friend of mine are in the beginning stages of producing a show of our own choreography, which is thrilling and wonderful. And it makes me feel very blessed to live in a city that is full of a fairly thriving arts community.

But then there are the things about late winter that just remind me that I’m unsure about this city. The one tree in bloom filled me with hope. But that one tree is surrounded by so much concrete. It’s not in a forest. The neighborhood I live in is easily the most concrete neighborhood I have ever lived in in my life, and so much of Philly is like this. I living in a brick rowhouse with a sidewalk in front and then a street. There is no strip of grass. There is a tree, which makes me feel like the luckiest person in the neighborhood. Our “backyard” is really a concrete patio surrounded by a five foot tall wall of cement blocks. And our backyard is about ten by fifteen feet. The view from my bedroom window is the side and back of other people’s stuccoed houses.

The weather is picking up steam for spring, but it’s hard to feel the revival fully. I want so desperately to feel the joy I usually feel in spring, when the Earth begins to laugh her joyous and melodic floral laugh and the colors begin to unfurl from the fingertips of the trees. I want to watch the buds of the daffodils swell with their seasonal pregnancy and then give birth to the yellow sun, heralding the official beginning of spring in their smiling yellow glory all over the city.

But here, there are a few trees to look for the hints of budding, and the single cherry tree’s budding. I feel as if I am missing the most exciting and wonderful parts of spring because the plant to person ration in my neighborhood is so severely deflated.

In these last weeks of spring, I long to go running through chilly dewed grass on weekend mornings. I want to feel the earth waking up beneath my feet. But here, all there is is concrete.

Perhaps I will feel differently in a few weeks when the few trees here and there in the neighborhood, people’s potted plants, our own garden out back are renewed and instead of empty flowerpots, houses will have little worlds of life on their doorsteps. But for now, looking at the dead plants in pots and the trees without leaves, this world feels desolate. Spring is so close, now. I am having a hard time waiting for her. I want to see her smiling face so desperately, to bring new life to this barren and desolate land of concrete and flowerpots. Why is the sun not yet in bloom?