Around the Medicine Wheel with Jim Frank

—Don’t we all want a map with a big arrow that says, “You are here!”

The 2011 Long Dance

The 2011 Long Dance at Bird Song Peace Chamber was last weekend, June 4/5, and I have struggled to write about it. I am reminded of the saying, ‘talking about silence is talking’ and writing about dancing is writing. I know I can’t do justice to the dance itself but here are some thought on this recent dance. Perhaps you can join us next year and have your own experience.

Although we know every dance is different and we try not to make comparisons, one of things I have enjoyed about other Long Dances has been how the interplay of the light from the Moon and the fire combine with the movement of the dancers. This, and the wind’s way of bringing the banners to life, create a whirlwind of visual motion in the arbor. It feels crowded with dancers. I have always enjoyed this visual sense of dancing with the ancestors that come back to dance with us. But this year, by the time that the twenty- four beautiful dancers entered the arbor, the slim crescent of the New Moon had set. For hours we danced in the starless darkness under a heavy blanket of clouds. The darkness was almost complete.

So, it was the sounds in the arbor that rose to prominence. Each dancer’s drum or rattle produced its own music. And in the more complete darkness the drumming wandered back and forth between beautiful harmony and a cacophony of individual beats. The effect reminded me more then ever of the importance of taking responsibility for what sounds I produce. In the discordant times I held my drum a little closer to my ears so I could dance to my own beat and not be distracted by the others. In the times of harmony, I beat a little softer so my drum might better merge with the others. That is a great dance.

And then there were times too, when the drumming quieted and the sounds heard were only those of the grass yielding to the feet of the dancers. At one of theses “low energy” times, I sat by my banner and listened to the steps of the passing dancers and the sounds of their feet against the grass. Then I remembered Beautiful Painted Arrow telling me about how the swishing sound of feet through grass is a calling of the ancestors. Then I understood. In this dark dance, we were to use our ears to hear the ancestors instead of seeing them with our eyes in dancing shadows.

My thanks go out to all of you who have ever danced the Long Dance, and especially to this year’s dancers.

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