Earth Day: Celebrate the Spirit of the Earth Within

As birds court the earth with their love songs, and we renew our vows of change and new life with the earth, I wish to share a special word and spirit with you: duende…

Michelle Adam

AMIDST CHANGE AND UPHEAVAL, AWAKEN DUENDE!

Dear Readers…I am taking a break from my regular blog to share parts of my recently published novel, Child of Duende, and to write about the spirit of DUENDE. May it inspire you! 

As birds court the earth with their love songs, and we renew our vows of change and new life with the earth, I wish to share a special word and spirit with you: duende. It seems so many people are talking about immense change, upheaval, and confusion in their lives. Yet, maybe, this simple, yet powerful word, duende, can give insight into what’s happening, and inspire us to truly see what’s possible in our lives.

Dancing and Singing in Honor of Duende, 2014

The famous Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca, once said that duende is “the spirit of the earth” that one must awaken in the remotest mansions of…

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Earth Day: Celebrate the Spirit of the Earth Within

AMIDST CHANGE AND UPHEAVAL, AWAKEN DUENDE!

Dear Readers…I am taking a break from my regular blog to share parts of my recently published novel, Child of Duende, and to write about the spirit of DUENDE. May it inspire you! 

As birds court the earth with their love songs, and we renew our vows of change and new life with the earth, I wish to share a special word and spirit with you: duende. It seems so many people are talking about immense change, upheaval, and confusion in their lives. Yet, maybe, this simple, yet powerful word, duende, can give insight into what’s happening, and inspire us to truly see what’s possible in our lives.

Dancing and Singing in Honor of Duende, 2014

The famous Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca, once said that duende is “the spirit of the earth” that one must awaken in the remotest mansions of the blood. He went on to say that duende both breaks us and is the constant baptism of new life. It is that transformative spirit from which all great art and performance stems, and which brings with it an almost religious enthusiasm. The duende doesn’t arrive or awaken within us, though, without a battle, or work, or without letting go of the old, warned Lorca.

This Spanish poet’s words seem appropriate at this time of great change. Yet, how do we awaken duende, this spirit of the earth that is within us, and that is our authentic self?  How do we let go of what we have learned to be, and allow our full spirits to be embodied, to be duende, to be dueño de, “owner of,” this temporary house that is our body?

I had been writing about duende for years as part of my recently published novel, Child of Duende, and had done so through the eyes of my magical protagonist, Duende, who carries the spirit of the earth within her. When writing, I connected deeply to Lorca’s idea of duende, and still do. But it was only recently that I finally experienced and learned to embody this energy.  

About a year ago, I met a Dutch woman on a plane who told me that she had encountered a duende. Until that plane ride, duende had only been a concept, an idea, a feeling. But this woman, who claimed she had never seen spirits or believed in them, told me that an actual duende—a nature spirit or goblin that, in Latin America, is seen as protecting the earth and rainforests—had arrived with a strong wind, and was so real and fierce, it alarmed her.

I went home that night, changed. The next morning I woke up with a sudden anxiety, but then remembered what she had experienced. Duende, I realized, was not just an idea or a transformative energy. It was a being that protects the earth and a spirit that is within each of us. Like the character in my novel, I realized that I too was this duende, and that the anxiety I had carried was unnecessary if I chose to walk in the world with this fierce, protective love that honored the spirit within me and the earth.

What transformed me that day, also transformed my novel, Child of Duende, which I finally published in early spring. I will soon have an official novel launch in late May or Early June, with Flamenco and a celebration of duende (for more information on this launch, book signings, and healing circles, please visit, www.michelleadam.net or www.childofduende.com). But for now, may this child of duende that you carry awaken within you and release its love into the world!

23. Freedom of Imagination

WHAT IS YOUR SOUL’S STORY?

BLOG 23: August-October, 1997“I was born in the back of a shadowy house, and grew up amidst ancient furniture, books in Latin, and human mummies, but none of these things made me melancholy, because I came into the world with a breath of the jungle in my memory…”

Isabel Allende’s words, her soul’s magical expression from her novel Eva Luna are with me now, years far beyond my father’s country, Argentina, where I had first read her story of the imagination. Now I write my own story, here, on the computer, in my home in the Oakland hills of California. I write with no clear beginning, nor end. Just an urge to give form, to create, to release words that long to find their way to my fingertips.

“I was born inside white-washed walls where ivy crawled, and where flowers sprung along the southern coast of Spain. On that day, the same day Spain’s dictator Francisco Franco died, freedom permeated the air. Yet, the earth waited, and not a branch dared break ….”

“I was born Spanish inside a German family. Somebody had made a mistake…”

“I was born…”           

My encounter with “Archie” on the plane ride home from my family reunion reminds me now that I am a storyteller, and that it is time to write my tale. And this time it’s fiction, and not magazine articles or poems as I’ve always done. My imagination gets to play, page after page, with words that amount to little, yet matter.

My writing becomes the dance I can no longer be. With my hips and legs in such pain, and no job and place to go, my limitations have become my wings. They have offered me a retreat from the pressure to become someone, and now anything is possible. My hands, which once held a pen—and in my ancestor’s hands were quills, the wings of a bird—now grant my inner world the freedom to be as I choose her to be.

I write, I start again, I play.  I am not writing for anyone, not even for myself. I don’t need anyone’s permission to be useful, or correct, or creative. I am like my dreams, free to roam the entire universe, only to come back to myself and discover the joy of being alive inside my body and imagination.

WHAT IS YOUR SOUL’S STORY?

 

22. A Flight of Inspiration

WHAT SERENDIPITOUS MEETING INSPIRED A PASSION OR WORK?

BLOG 22: July, 1997—Debilitated from having pushed myself dancing in California, I travel, armed in crutches, to New York State, to our annual family reunion at my uncle’s house. I haven’t seen family for more than a year, and never in this condition I’m in.

Everything I do at my uncle’s house and on his pond is an effort. At one point, my mother gives me a hard time for not getting up to fetch something I need, but I’m in pain, and I spend most of the time longing to lie down or sit to alleviate my condition. I can’t explain what I am going through with my family, because I myself don’t understand why my groin pull injury from last October has weakened me this much. I’ve had tests and have seen plenty of doctors and healers, but nobody has been able to help. So my family seems to create a simple diagnosis: either I’m lazy or I’ve lost my mind.

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Later, I begin to cry heavily in my sleeping quarters. My oldest sister walks in at that moment and I share with her my struggles—not just the physical ones, but the emotional ones that have been coming up for me around my family. She listens and consoles me. It’s probably the first time in my life I’ve reached out to one of my sisters like this and it feels good.

On the flight home, I sit next to a man my age who calls himself Archie, and whose personality seems a comical combination of Jerry Seinfeld and Woody Allen. To top it off, he’s writing a screenplay on his laptop. His real name is David, he tells me, but he changed his name to Archie when he wrote a screenplay a few years ago, as a film student at New York University, based on three months spent in a trailer park in the Dakotas. The premise of his screenplay was to discover if David, as Archie, with a completely different history than his own, could, in the middle of nowhere, become the person he wished to be.

Did David become Archie? I ask him, while laughing the whole time at his self-deprecating humor and story. No, he tells me. I laugh so hard that it actually hurts, and Archie, who seems to be flirting with me, tells me he wishes he could be could as bold as Archie—and not David—and just walk up to an attractive blue-eyed woman like me and talk to her. I tell him the key to overcoming his fear is to begin dancing.

The magic of our encounter is this: I go home and begin writing a novel. I don’t know it’s a novel yet when I begin, but Archie’s great story-telling for hours on our flight home made me realize I too was a storyteller (not just a journalist), and it was time to tell my story. Plus, I don’t have the capacity to dance, so I might as well put this hunger and passion somewhere. Meanwhile, Archie goes home to Los Angeles, puts music on, and dances. Later he takes his first dance classes, and I begin the novel that just two weeks ago I finally published!

WHAT SERENDIPITOUS MEETING INSPIRED A PASSION OR WORK?

21. My Spirit Dreams a New Dance

WHAT DREAMS HAVE YOU HAD BEYOND YOUR PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS?

Dancing in the Streets,  by Chris-Lamprianidis

BLOG 21: July, 1997—I can’t keep track of time as one day bleeds into another in my home in the hills of Oakland, California. My bed is still in the middle of the livingroom, but if it weren’t for my friend Geri coming over almost every night and massaging my legs and calves, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. My body is now perpetually gripping, my muscles so tight and inflamed, my blood trying to push through the constriction, and my nerves a live wire that won’t let my legs calm down long enough to sleep. The more tired I am, the harder it is to sleep, until Geri massages me, and helps relax my body.

At some point, my friend Eric from Albuquerque just shows up at my door, unannounced. I don’t think he’s aware of the depth of my condition—of how I pushed myself far beyond my limits after injuring myself in New Mexico—but it doesn’t matter. My housemate is out of town, there’s lots of room, and I’m more than thrilled to alleviate my loneliness.

In the mornings, Eric practices his opera scales out the window of my house. I smile as I hear his beautiful voice echo into the hills. When he stops, I beg for him to continue, and in the evening, he strolls up the road to the forest of eucalyptus trees to celebrate the life I cannot. He later tells me how he danced naked under the full moon there, and I marvel at his spirit. The last time I was with Eric, in New Mexico, when I could still walk, we had stood atop sandstone cliffs at Malpaís, him playing flute and echoing his tune into the bright orange sunset. That moment in New Mexico had been eternal, all having stopped to bear witness to the breathtaking beauty of life. And now, I’m glad to experience this again with his visit.

After Eric leaves, I continue to feel the magic. While I lie in bed, barely able to move without pain, I dream of my street filling with people dancing a celebration of life. I also dream that I have choreographed a dance. I am lying on the ground, immobile, yet the power of my vision and intent dance around me and provide a different kind of dance to share with others. Despite my physical limitations, my spirit and imagination experience what’s possible in this world.

WHAT DREAMS HAVE YOU HAD BEYOND YOUR PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS?

20.Perched up High,no Wings to Fly

WHEN DID YOU FIND PEACE IN THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACES?

BLOG 20: July, 1997—I am sitting in my bed in the livingroom of my home in California’s Oakland hills. I have nowhere to go now, no matter what I want to do. I am no longer working and I’ve applied for temporary disability. It’s a strange feeling to be in such a beautiful place with a gorgeous view of San Francisco, the bay, and mountains all around. I am a bird perched up high, on a bed of all things, and yet with no wings to fly. I’m only able to watch and to be still. I am strangely feeling a sense of peace with not moving. I have nothing to prove, nothing to become, nowhere to go. I am here, just me, with permission—possibly for the first time in my life—to be with me.

Prior to coming out west, and before living in New York City for a year, I had spent a summer at Omega, a holistic retreat center in New York State. I had lived in a tent and was first introduced to dance, shamanism, and earth-based cultures then. I used to stay up at night, reading Federico García Lorca’s poems in my tent under the rain, and I felt the preciousness of those moments where art and nature held me in their embrace. Back then, I tried meditating under the trees, but I kept hearing my father’s voice, telling me to be useful. It was a challenge being still, being with myself. This meant defying how I had been raised.

But here I am, and for the first time, I am not hearing my father’s voice, or maybe that of my ancestors, telling me to keep moving, to keep making something of myself, to be tough. I’m broken here in my bed, surrendered in my brokenness. There’s space for me to listen. There’s peace for me to be. During the day, my downstairs neighbor plays Roberta Flack on his record player, and rather than ask him to turn it down, I yell down for him to turn it up. Roberta Flack’s voice resonates “Killing me Softly with his Song” over the hills as my neighbor enjoys a moment of spontaneity. I make the most of life that happens around me, since it’s all I’ve got. And I stop for once in these hills of Oakland.

WHEN DID YOU FIND PEACE IN THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACES?

19. Crawling on my Knees

WHEN HAS YOUR STRENGTH BEEN YOUR DOWNFALL?

 BLOG 19: July, 1997—Life has never been the same since my ballet class in San Francisco. I’ve been in perpetual pain, despite the help I received from the chiropractor. When I walk, my hips swell up, becoming inflamed and making it too painful to dance, let alone move around. My injury that began as a groin pull when I stopped in New Mexico for eight months on my way to California has now become a chronic hip problem with little remedy.

Given that I’m in Northern California—the land of every kind of healer—I try them all. From regular doctors, who claim that my x-rays and MRIs are perfect, to the most out-there psychic surgeon visiting from the Philippines. I receive no relief, and in many cases, I only get worse with each treatment I try.

At one point, an orthopedic doctor explains to me my problem: “You’re too strong,” he tells me. You were able to push through your pain and not feel it, he says, and then goes on to explain that most bodies can handle up to 80 percent not working before hitting a tipping point. At that point the body breaks down completely and it’s hard to turn any damage around, he adds. I had done too much to my right hip by ignoring my groin injury, and this doctor, who works with professional football players, amazingly tells me that my biggest downfall has been that I’m too tough. I have never been accused of that!

I don’t consider taking drugs of any kind to lessen the pain, and instead, I begin living out of my bed, which my housemate suggested I move into the livingroom, one floor below my bedroom in our shared house in the Oakland Hills. It hurts so much to move that I crawl from one room to another—a sight that devastates my friend Jane, who, when she sees me, tells me I remind her of beggars she saw in India who crawled because they had no legs.

I do what I can to survive. I try working, but sitting for more than an hour is extremely painful. The muscles around my hip tighten so much that I want to sit on a small tennis ball all day to break up the tension in my butt.

The man who lives in the loft across from my work sees me in my new crutches and pain and gives me a piece of his Martial Arts wisdom. He tells me that any time he gets injured he gets real still with himself, for days if needed, and becomes clear on the lesson he needs to learn. Once he does, the injury heals. What is my lesson? he asks me. There may be one for me, I think, but either I’m too oblivious, too determined, or it just too late for awareness to change my fate.

WHEN HAS YOUR STRENGTH BEEN YOUR DOWNFALL?