Coming Back

[A homely tale: On the eve of her own departure from her parents’ house, a daughter witnesses her mother’s return to her childhood friends and her girlhood’s passion–dance.]

It is necessary to return to be able to leave and go on with life. So it was with me. The return home for the last time as mere daughter was pensively laced with thoughts about what it means to touch one’s childhood once again. It was more than appropriate ,then, that I should return to find my mother negotiating her patchy return to a certain childhood through an art symbolic of youthful freedoms and promises in life. She was not alone in this. When I watched her among her friends and compatriots I realized I, in my limited capacity, was witness to the nuances of Woman and Return, and that when some women past the stage of grihasthya decide to celebrate again the efforts and environment of their girlhood through a return to the past, it is well, and welcome. This little piece, a cameo in the totality of the entire memorial performance, is applause for the women I saw and admired briefly.

It is still common for women to fill their “emptiness” with family and children, to find “other” vessels to receive the outpouring of their life; it was more so in my mother’s time. Therefore, I mark the act, witting or unwitting, of these artistes that speaks of looking beyond family and child and inward to who they were long ago. That ability—to seek, and if possible be, Self first, then Woman (or Man), then relation or kin, and thence everything else—is a gift every offspring should have as example.

To name is “to affirm, to identify, to give presence” where the act of doing grants being, not vice versa.  Through practice one invokes buried connections, and brings the lost back into memory. This has always been the purpose of art, and has also always been the way womenfolk knit together genealogies and relationships. What I saw, then, was an exposition of kinship and work in the practice of memory. The concentration of the circle of women on an absent center—a teacher now gone from them- ritually recreated the sorority and fraternity of the school. Whether they ever saw it that way or not, to my eyes this recreation, this play, lila, was the dance of mystic sisters, congregated to help each other over this step in life.

Art is not mere beauty, nor is it merely chaste or daring. Whosoever sought only beauty of form here would go wanting. No, here was a beauty more of function. In a pirouette was a spell. No. Time had not stopped, it had been turned inside out for a moment. Here the act of dancing again and again took out of childhood that memory of a dance school and reinstated it within the improbable present. And because it was taken out, it would be there always.

What did it matter what songs moved their feet or minds? It was enough, in these times, that some common music
brought their hearts together and stirred their minds to mythic beauty. I saw their hands lift in some mudra and thought of the unison of swan’s wings. Oh, you cannot separate the dancer from the dance! This was not body moved with age, a “tattered coat upon a stick”; to those who had eyes, these were girl-spirits who had never relinquished their childhood.

I watched them, mature trees, swaying in the wind. What is art if it does not flower in the midst of our life?

Love II

They were happy that they did not have the encumbrances of convention. ‘Love’ had fallen like scales from their eyes, and they were free, eternal children on the eternal seashore, content in nothingness.
But she looked at him sometimes and wondered what it would have been to clothe a tall, straight body in romance, just like those forgotten teenage years, a body made untrue and fiery by virtue of what one transfers from self to other. Surely there could be nothing more selfless than that.

Love

makes no sense to the thirsting mind.

 

She has my heart. My love. What is this, this love of a place? A place of birth, an arbitrary nation, a land torn and tumultuous, troubled in prediction, anomalous in progress? Is it distance? What is this tearing anger and grief of a place not yet real? So hard to meet childhood’s end? Will I mourn the child I will give birth to in the same way, remembering what I parted from in the moment of birth? This body and soil, bound in the same way, body and soul, leave the reasoning mind ungentled, free, and it escapes its prison for a freedom enticing to itself. Is peace the marriage of disparate yearnings, then? Is it marriage, union? Harmony? Meeting? Peace will be acceptance of this willing halter, and the abdication of doubt. Where shall I put this love, this welling? How shall I hide it from the mocking, grown-up world? A child must have playthings, and adults their respite.