Moving with Grace

“Grace is achieved only through some sort of vulnerability. We’re human beings, and that means sometimes the body would rather remain complacent. In spite of that, we dare to have grace. Grace is about forgiveness, and forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’re still not wounded by whatever injury. It’s a choice.”

-Robert Battle, Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

As told to Spencer Bailey of the New York Times Magazine, Aug. 25th, 2013

Alvin-Ailey.--Photo-by-Normand-Maxon_690x389_0Alvin Ailey (photo by Normand Maxon)

So often, in contemporary, mainstream, American culture we compartmentalize our spirits from our bodies. The concept of grace as something that invigorates the muscles is profound. Forgiveness strengthens not only our resolve in the race of restoration but also creates a humble flexibility in our words, minds and tendons. The reach for relationship is open-palmed. Thighs and abs flex with the position of lowering and raising the body to meet one another in brokenness and humility. Equality can only exist through moved lips, peaceful voice and attentive silence. Being, intertwined. Force and subtlety, pushing and pulling the space between us, to the music of the rotation of the earth.

Storylines

Like the tireless push of blood and air, stories wind their way through our bodies. Systems of disorganized movement, words and images, supplant the actual with memory. And as the streams turn to rivers and seas, we form cyclical connections with those who listen, who speak, who drink in the narrative of our collective journey.

During my time in Australia, several years ago, I learned about the Songlines of that continent’s original people. Through song-stories the people navigated the land and shared their history. The fluid of stories guided these ancient people through the tides of colonization and into the sharpness of invasive cultures. Paintings, songs, words carried the children of the Stolen Generation back to the heart of their homeland.

Hope resides in stories shared.

In my childhood summers I found light in the musk of old books. Creased and tucked into the lap of a mouldering armchair, surrounded by the swirl of dust and old glass, I would read for hours. I was finding a way home. I was listening to the storylines converging like a wild river.

Through the electronic hum I have managed, in my adulthood, to find those tributaries of rushing words. One such place is The Moth. “True stories told live (without notes).” Started by a cousin of mine, under the curtains of Spanish moss in Savannah, it has become a community of believers in the power of sharing stories (There is a free podcast available as well as youtube videos.). The Moth has been an important catalyst in the movement to reclaim our stories. And that movement has expanded to Charlottesville through a nascent organization called Big Blue Door Jam.

On Thursday night, my good friend Charlie told a story, his story in front of the Big Blue Door.

Listen to Charlie’s story

(Warning: This story contains adult themes and language and is probably not suitable for those under the age of 17.)

It was powerful to hear. Funny, dark, humble- it carried us, the audience, along the shores of who and where he has been. Past the fearful night of addiction and isolation, into the lull and push of tides changing. I was so proud of his honesty and thankful for the opportunity to listen. The storylines wound around our warm bodies in the small gallery, like the old wood of a sturdy ship.

Unexpected Form

From the deep ebony stain of years, of seasons, the dry crack gives way to the creep of unexpected color.

Bouncing funnels, yellow and fresh, make their way to the surface.

Clouds gather, convene and disperse. The stalks become brittle and shrink under the sun’s still breath.

But the water descends again and the dew awakens the dawn from within.

Snap of form, comfort of color again return with flush anew.