If you are a person who reads, do you remember the first time you had the joy of being lost in a book? Were you 6, or 9, or maybe you were 15 and it was some book you thought you should hate, but instead loved? I don't remember a time when books did not carry me off wholly. I can't recall ever preferring picture books to words, to the magic of unlocking the secret code of letters in print on a page that smelled of the cool linoleumed Berkley Public Library, or the smell of mittens drying on the winter radiator, the smell I'll always associate with Pattengill Elementary's books. I remember my mother, cheeks pink with annoyance, pulling more than one book from my hands and saying, "did you not hear me calling you?" Clearly, my expression must have said....No. I was with the Bobbesy twins in their boxcar, or with Scarlett at Tara, or on any one of a number of Eastern Seaboard islands with names like Chincoteague, running wild with a horse named Misty and wind in my hair. Books are experience, for me. I'm looking forward to losing myself in one or two on my vacation.
I'm the oddity, I always thought. My childhood memories divided equally between the utter solitude of a book and the crazily noisy, social world of "them" - my immediate and extended family, the ones who had weekend-long parties and played music all night long and ate huge breakfasts in long, pork-filled shifts to fit everyone in. I loved the parties, learned to do Lily Tomlin impressions to make my mother laugh, and to be the center of attention. I felt most at home, though, behind a mask in those big social settings. Give me a stage, a microphone, a set of lyrics, or some comic persona to be behind, and I'm very at home in the center of it all. Or put me in a room with my wisecracking relatives, and watch us one-up the energy and humor until it's dizzying and our sides hurt from laughing. But know that sometime soon after I'll want my book, or my iPod and my bike - solitude and no verbal output.
What I've always sought and valued in my friends, in those I love, is the straight, clear gaze of someone who sees me behind my personas, who doesn't find my need for solitude or quiet to be in any way at odds with my laughing, top-spinning, high-energy self. They both are me, the true and happy me. It is good to feel at ease in that realization, and not to feel as though I need to prod myself to move more quickly or put on a happy face that I don't feel. It is lovely to feel true joy, and share it. And today I was thinking that I love the people who don't sit out the quiet me, waiting for the fun one to arrive. I love the people who don't make me feel a moment of discomfort on days when I just want to be in the presence of those I love for a bit. I have a lot of you in my life, and I'm so lucky in that.
So, tonight I came home from work and dressed in my yoga clothes. I put on my iPod, and went into the backyard. It rained today, and the earth was softened by the moisture, giving a bit underfoot. I stretched, then practiced bellydance moves in the quiet dark of the yard, my feet cushioned on the grass, my hips finding the patterns that feel right, and moving, as my instructor says, with subtley and intention. Tek - a was the beat in my head, slow and unhurried at first. Then speeding to teka teka and then to the hip shimmy, tiny moves, snapping hips and tekatekatekateka. No mirrors tonight, just movement and intention, grapevines and shimmys, lebanese hip circles and the difficult belly rolls, then those lovely easy hip circles, the slow, slow spin, one shoulder dropped and the shimmy effortless and impossible at once.
Bellydance is supposed to be performance, I'm told. I don't know. It's yoga with better music, or maybe it's just that I'm not ready to share, not ready yet to hide myself behind the public persona I'd need to dance in performance. But I don't care about that tonight, nor about worries, or decisions, or fence sitting or any of the things that my thinking self weighs every day. Nope. Tonight, I danced in the dark under a big sky, flirted with the moon through my Russian Olive's branches, moved through air sweet and heavy with the scent of summer dogwood blooming and Hyperion daylillies, and felt soft earth under my feet - which once again can dance.