Well, I made it. After posting on Friday, I finished my sabbatical application, got in the van, and went to pick up the dancers. The van:
Did I mention this thing was huge? From the inside looking back, it went on forever.
Big as it was, though, it barely fit everyone. To my great relief, I found the special back way that let me drive right up to the front of the building to drop everyone off (otherwise, it's five flights of stairs up), and we got there in good time. By that point, I'd been fretting non-stop (and losing sleep) for ages. About what to say to introduce everyone, about whether the dancers were going to be bored during the storytelling, about whether there'd be enough time for the storytellers to get their audio equipment going and to take it down, about whether the audience would stay past the intermission (and free pizza), about whether there'd be an audience at all (I can't tell you how embarrassing it would have been to have flown 11 people down here just so I could watch them dance). Fret, fret, fret.
Things went well. The dancers found the storytellers as entertaining as I do, and the kids loved them. There was, in fact, an audience (hence the kids). It wasn't huge, but the space was relatively small, and most of the seats were filled. There were some students, and my friends brought their families (none of them know I have a blog, but thank you, my friends!). I told everyone that the price of pizza was staying for the second half (I laughed while I said it, but you know the kind of laugh it was), and they did (I'm guessing they didn't need to be threatened). And then I introduced the dancers. I kept it very short, and Robert did an amazing job throughout the dancing of stopping now and then to explain what they were doing and why. It was absolutely perfect. And frankly, once the drum started, and the dancers came out with their bone flutes, nothing else really mattered.
The point of this kind of dancing is to sacrifice to the greater good. Robert explained to everyone (I'd known this, and I was glad he told them) that the dancing is meant to make the dancers work and sweat, to give something up for all the things that people get. And that the dancers do it for everyone. You get what you give, he says, and it's important to make a point of giving and not to just take from the world. He doesn't put it this way, but what I see when I see them dancing is something that I can only describe as purity of intention. These singers and dancers are completely and entirely there in the moment, and the energy they expend is awesome, in the true and older sense of the word. And it is clear watching them that they are doing it with joy and grace. In a world where everything is, at its core, energy, they are putting the best energy they can muster out there as a gift. And it truly was a gift. I stopped fretting. I stopped worrying. It was all good.
For me, being me, the hardest part of all of this was that I knew that the reason they were here giving this gift was because of me. Robert and I have been doing language work together now for years, and the folks in that group, whether they really know me or not, know who I am, and what we do. They've seen me around the reservation, at ceremonies, at people's houses. All of them said that they were happy to be there to do this for me. I am not very good at feeling worthy of that kind of effort. It feels like I am putting people to too much trouble, and that what I do is just what I do, not something that should haul 11 people from their homes and children, carrying regalia 600 miles to dance. So it is my tendency to feel guilty. I know I shouldn't. I know that when I do something requiring that kind of effort and time and (if I'm doing it as I should) purity of intention, I am doing it from love, and because I want to give something to someone who has given to me. In my case, it's usually cooking or knitting, creating something by hand to warm or nourish someone I care about. I enjoy thinking about that person and why I care about them while I'm creating; I feel that it puts the right kind of energy into the finished object. I think I was (and am) overwhelmed by the idea that these people were putting so much energy into something because to at least some degree, they feel that way about my work with their Tribe. It was truly a gift, and I came away from it feeling more whole and more taken care of than I had in a long time.
I tried to take pictures, but the dancers were (duh) moving (this being an inherent part of dancing); it was also fairly dim, and a flash would have really been disruptive. I eventually gave up because I prefer to experience something like this without a mitigating lens. Here are a few, though, to give you a sense (this is one of the few dances they do that it's possible to take pictures of):
Here they all are afterwards, out of regalia:
It was good.
I got up at 4:45 Saturday morning to get them all to the airport (after waking up every half hour most of the night to be sure I hadn't missed the alarm), and came home. Even after two cups of coffee, I fell over on the couch and slept for an hour. Then I woke up, realized that I had to return the van Right Now or I'd be charged for another day, and off we went. We stopped by the farmer's market on the way home, where I was seduced by the color and shine of these babies (and by a squash blossom quesadilla for breakfast, yum...):
It's not just yarn that sucks me in with its sheer beauty. Now I have to figure out how to make chiles rellenos. Hmmm...
Then I went back to sleep. I think I was just totally worn out with two weeks of planning and worrying, and trying to get everything else done while preparing for this week. I woke up to go to Tess' soccer game, which they won after a very rocky start (good job, baby!). And then home, to knit Kivrin's sock and finish Madhur Jaffrey's autobiography, Climbing the Mango Trees, which I highly recommend, and not just for the recipes at the end.
Kivrin's sock is done, and I have cast on for the second, thus attempting to circumvent the dreaded SSS:
It's my own pattern, and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. I also entered a contest over at Adrienne's site; she's generously giving away STR and Tofusties (!!). Go see her, and tell her I sent you. Any woman who's willing to share good sock yarn deserves a hit.
Sorry for such a long post. I think I'm caught up now. And I promise, no more bitching.