55. Honoring Body, Earth, and Air

Blog 55: July, 1999— “I lay out big like New Mexico tonight, the stars speckling the skies in every direction,” I wrote after relaxing outside my parents’ home under New Jersey skies. “It makes me aware of how amazing it is to be walking on this earth. What a gift it is to be inside this wonder—to know that every day we have this, yet we crowd our thoughts and lives with so much that clutters our view.”

Then, it seemed, life felt more alive, more resilient, inside the warmth of summer. I was reminded of what I had once had. I had danced in New York City before becoming injured, and I had lived in New Mexico where the earth and her big skies had invited me to slow down, even though I wasn’t ready.914e43fb9aef1d21aab3d064540aae1e

“When I think of dancing now, I think of an inspiration that followed me, almost stalking me. I still feel how beautiful it was to dance, to take that deep breathe that is dance,” I wrote. “I want to start again, slower this time, with care and love, listening and understanding that this body is my love, my gift. When I do, I will know how a body is, what a body means, how it is mine in more than dance to take care of.”

That day in New Jersey was like today in New Mexico. Storm clouds cleared to reveal snow-covered mountain peaks as the sun melted the cool breeze dancing inside springtime. I stretched, walked with a friend, and enjoyed being in this body that has been through so much—so much of my neglect and taking for granted the gift of what I had been given. I remember how, when I had lived in California (after leaving New Mexico, and before that, New York City), I had felt such immense despair at not being able to get out onto the land…with the idea of not having open skies, trees, fresh air, and water to bathe in when my soul felt weary.

Back then, I had taken for granted my body’s gift—the gift of housing my soul, my life’s force—and, in the pursuit of becoming someone, forgot the importance of my connection to the earth. Now I know how precious both are, and that, in our neglect, it can take a long time to repair the damage we’ve done.

Today, I think about how we, as Americans, have been blessed with living on this breath-taking land once called Turtle Island by Indigenous Americans. Yet, recently, our leader has threatened to roll back protections for land and air. It’s in the name of progress and jobs, President Donald Trump says. Yet there’s no progress when we can’t drink the water, breath the air, and celebrate this body of life we’ve been given.
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There’s no progress when we no longer wake to visible sunrises or share in the diversity of people, plants, and animals that makes this earth so precious.

I reflect on my journey of unraveling the layers of my mind’s clutter so that I can care for my body, my home, and live from a place of greater gratitude for this earth life we have been given. For me, pain cleansed and cleared away layers that maybe, without it, would still be blinding me from the gift of my body and this earth.

Maybe, just maybe, we don’t need so much pain to learn the gift of what we have right here, in front of us, though. Maybe, as we journey together through the troubled maze of our time, we can all let go of the clutter we’ve carried and make room for a more sustainable and healthy earth walk.

*My novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story honoring the earth and the spirit of “duende” within. Check it out on Amazon: Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

 

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38. In Wildness is the Preservation of the World

Blog 38: April-June, 1998—Naturalist Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “in wildness is the preservation of the world.” His words resonated with me as I contemplated my life back on the East Coast, in my parent’s house in New Jersey. I wondered what, if any, higher reason I had for coming back to the East Coast after two years out West (beyond the fact that I had trouble walking and needed my parent’s help after having injured myself). How would I feel at home in a place that felt so contained and “civilized,” lacking the expansiveness of the West?

I longed for that wild spirit that I had discovered out West and had experienced as a child in Spain, the country that inspired my novel that I continued to write while healing at my parent’s house. Writing out the wildness of my soul helped me survive the suburban life, as did going outside, on the back porch, and taking a few puffs of a clove cigarette while looking up at the sky as cars raced along the highway nearby. The earthy, sweet taste and smell of the cigarette connected me to the ground below.

I also continued to write in my journal: “There is something innately wild in us wanting to breathe the air again. We have protected ourselves from the elements that are mirrors to our humanity, and we have, in ways, become like fearful styrofoam, reacting to our emptiness. Isn’t it because of this that the bullfight, the dancer, and the duende of Spain, attract us so? Isn’t it because that element of freedom is still there?”

“I read tonight about the mountain lion coming back, walking through the malls, killing humans. Is this not what we ultimately fear? Yes, there is order in everything, even among animals and their packs. But there is also danger; there is also wildness that needs to be left alone, to be that part of nature that is so much of ourselves, that is unpredictable and unafraid of death.”

“I look at the face of the mountain lion, and I see myself. I see us. I turn the page of the news and I also see a story of young children killing each other with guns, without remorse, and I feel that these two worlds are not that separate. Is it not our own fear and ignorance of our primitive, natural selves that actually breeds unnecessary violence?”

“It seems we are searching for ways to crack the mirror of our illusionary race of perfected humanness, so we can get a glimpse of what it’s like to be complete—to be both primitive and refined, innocent and enlightened, both lover and seeker, both alive and fearless for just a moment.

*My recently-published novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is about this kind of wild spirit and freedom. Check it out on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Duende-Journey-Michelle-Adam/dp/099724710X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474233011&sr=8-1&keywords=child+of+duende  or at www.michelleadam.net

A Night of Gypsy Dance (novel excerpt)

JOIN IN FLAMENCO with my novel CHILD OF DUENDE (blog intermission):

Duende stepped reluctantly deeper into the tavern. A short, stocky Gypsy man began to sing in Spanish. He called out the anguish of a people who swore they would never forget the beating of their hearts. One, two, three. One, two, three. “I am Gypsy, and this port carries the tears of my people…aya… aya…” His voice elbowed its way through the room. “Aya… aya…aya… my warm tears fall in a cold sea.” The man sang from the deepest part of his throat, producing a sound like the bow off the strings of a reverberating cello. (Child of Duende Website)

“Paquito, Paquito,” the crowd cheered, but Duende remained still, watching at least a dozen spirits dancing fiercely in a circle around her, almost dizzying her by the time Paquito ended his song and broke the spell she was under.

“Come here, darling,” the singer said, his voice as full as the ocean. 

Timidly, Duende stepped toward Paquito, who took her hand and introduced her to Graciela, the dancer. “Show her how to dance Gypsy,” he told her, releasing Duende’s hand. His sweat remained in her palm and thickened with her own. All eyes were on her.

Graciela moved forward with her masklike face—black eyebrows, blood red lips; her wrists wrapped in multiple colorful bracelets resting on her waist. With her hair pulled back in a ponytail, stretching her mouth into a broad smile, she lifted her arms as her hands hit each other, making a loud, clanging sound. The woman smiled through her missing teeth. Graciela’s eyes held Duende’s gaze. The girl stared, frozen, waiting for some signal to call her into action. The woman nodded a subtle invitation to begin and lifted her skirt to her knees. 

Duende looked down at her pants, her little fingers grabbing what material she could. The room remained quiet. The other dancers had stopped moving, their eyes on the girl who now watched Graciela intently. Tap. The dancer pressed the toe of her foot to the ground. Tap. Her heel lifted. Tap. She looked at Duende. Nodded. Duende felt the stiffness of the pants she wore. Her hands shook as she noticed her sneakers. She shrunk in front of this queen and her black-heeled shoes. The room broke into laughter, the crowd clapping, calling out in a clatter of exclamations: “How adorable.” “Look at the little one.” “Look at those shoes.”

But then a loud clap broke the noise. Duende’s heart thumped. Her eyes darted back to Graciela, who directed fierce concentration toward her. Clap. Graciela commanded the room. The girl’s feet pressed forward against the floor, her heels, one at a time, lifted. She fumbled for balance as she looked up at her hands attempting to come together. Clap. She raised her hands to the left, slightly above her, imitating Graciela. Duende didn’t dare take her eyes off the woman.

Again, she clapped, but this time the flats of her palms met like discs of rusted metal. Smack. Graciela’s eyes turned to fire. Look, her eyes insisted. Clap. Her hands cupped slightly to produce a fearless sound. Hollow on the inside. Solid on the outside. The lines of her hands found each other like suction cups.

Duende followed suit, this time producing a sound that echoed the dancer’s. Clap. The corner of Graciela’s mouth revealed a quick grin. Duende let her thin lips stretch across her face, while cupping her palms to clap in time with her feet. Point, clap. Point, clap. Graciela added more. Duende’s eyes remained fixed on Graciela’s. The dancer approved. Never lose your partner’s eyes, she seemed to tell the girl. That night Duende knew at least this. Point, clap. Point, clap. The crowd picked up its pace, becoming louder and louder, cheering olé, before others joined in the dance. Paquito sang and Duende became lost in other people’s movement, and inside a bubble of spirits encircling her in dance and celebration.

26. A Vision of New Life

WHAT BROKE YOU SO YOU COULD BE PIECED BACK TOGETHER AGAIN?

BLOG 26: November, 1997—It’s not a dream or my imagination. It’s a vision as far as I can tell. I see a woman in pure white, with a baby burning in her belly. I get scared. But this lady tells me not to fear, and invites me to take the baby into my arms despite the burning, dark place it is in. I reach out and hold the child, and when I do, something happens. The fire ascends, and somehow, I become the woman in white who has embraced her shadow—who is unafraid of the fire that renews—and who, like phoenix rising from the ashes, becomes anew.

It’s been over a year since I left the East Coast, eager, anxious, longing, and since then I have lived eight months in New Mexico, and currently five months in the hills of Northern California. And I, too, hold a burning sensation in my hips that won’t go away. I write my story that later becomes my novel, Child of Duende, because it’s with words that I can now express this fire, this dance, that lives inside me, eager to tell her story.

Maybe what is happening to me is an awakening, as in my vision…an awakening to duende, this spirit of the earth inside me that the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca once said, “burns the blood like powdered glass” and “rejects all the sweet geometry we understand.” As I battle my pain, and ache to find myself inside the chaos of all that I have known falling apart, maybe the beginning stages of my novel are telling the story of Lorca’s duende:

“Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.”

WHAT BROKE YOU SO YOU COULD BE PIECED BACK TOGETHER AGAIN?

25. A Chance Encounter Becomes …

HAVE YOUR EVER HAD A CHANCE ENCOUNTER THAT BECAME MORE?  

BLOG 25: October, 1997—I’m sitting on my bed in the living room of my home in the hills of Oakland, California . I’m not alone. A friend, who is a professional massage therapist, is on my bed as well, giving a massage to Archie, the man I met on the plane ride months ago—the one who inspired me to begin writing what today has become my novel, Child of Duende.

Other friends join me on my bed, or on the couch, or sit nearby. I’m shaking my torso to music blasting “Oops Upside the Head” inside a sequin top I managed to find at a second hand store during my few jaunts outside the house (yes, I’m able to walk, but not far without massive pain). You’d think it were a typical California affair (in December, I end up going to a New Year’s Eve Party where everyone—I mean, everyone—is naked, massaging each other and much more), but it’s actually my birthday. I’ve invited everyone and anyone I know to celebrate my late 20s, and since I’m living out of my bed in the living room, it seems an ideal place to celebrate!

You may wonder how Archie—a man I merely met on a plane—arrived at my birthday party. It’s simple, though. He had given me his card before we parted ways, and I sent an invitation to his Los Angeles address. He thought, what the hell, let’s live it up—as did I—and he arrived with a friend to find himself in my living room receiving massages and having a good time.

The day after my extraordinary birthday celebration, Archie and I meet up to discover if there’s any romance in the cards for us. We talk, on my bed, of course, but nothing goes further than that. He talks baseball and I’m more interested in some deep philosophical, soulful, and romantic encounter. He suggests I drive south with him to Los Angeles and let the wind determine where we go, but I decline. This body of mine can’t handle a trip right now. But we’re both glad that we took a moment out of ordinary time and rational behavior to celebrate life.

HAVE YOUR EVER HAD A CHANCE ENCOUNTER THAT BECAME MORE?  

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?