Sunday, June 26, 2011


This is the first sunny morning for a week I think, maybe more. The birds are singing with pleasure. I feel like June has mostly slipped away in the clouds and rain, instead of sparkling and blooming as it usually does. Egads, here it is already the 26th!

The twenty-fourth of June is "Midsummer" in English tradition and St Jean-Baptiste, the fete nationale in Quebec. It's a day for bonfires and dancing, the solstice-season celebration, just as Saturnalia-turned-Christmas was/is the date to celebrate the returning sun at winter solstice time.

That urge to make a festival and let go cares at these significant turning points in the year is deeply embedded. And so maybe that's why this year we decided to have a dancing party on the 24th. What a great thing, to be able to dance and play with the doors open to the long-bright evening sky, voices soft in the summer air, the lush green of the garden a generous backdrop, enwrapping everyone in the oasis that is our small back yard.

Some people are picky about the music they'll dance to, while others dance to whatever is on.... And it doesn't matter. In fact, when the music's on and I'm dancing, not much else matters: I'm in the bubble and high of moving and feeling free of care and any thought really. I forgot that I'd had hurt in my left foot, I let go of worries about the edits I need to do on the Burma book, and all those others nagging things that can make me bog down and lose track of the big picture. High on endorphins? High on summer?

Maybe the joy of dancing is that we retrieve our freedom. It's freedom in movement, freedom through movement. Young E, now a few months past her fifth birthday, sure felt that freedom. She danced on her own and with others on the wide open floor, and instead of tiring, seemed to get more and more composed and happy, energised in the best way.

There were summer flavours to sustain us, as well as the music. The stars were the snap peas that Brenda brought down from her CSA farm in Grey County. She'd picked them that morning. We put out a huge bowl of them, raw and brilliant green, de-stringed but otherwise as nature (and Brenda!) grew them. They vanished. Other treats were two different boxes of home-made cookies; mountains of organic grapes, red and green ones (OK not local, but a great refresher after a stint of sweaty dancing!); a brilliant hummous topped with pesto; a creamy lush guacamole; three sauces from Burma, such taste hits; and more that I can't remember. Evelyn's Crackers, and lots of sticky rice - white with a little black mixed in for texture- were the backbone that held it all together.

People drink water when they dance, and yes wine or beer, but they're not pouring it back, so the gaiety doesn't get loutish or stupid, or morose! We had six young people sleeping over on Friday night... When I headed to bed at 3.30 most of them were still up and chatting in that comfortable post-party way, reluctant to lose the intimacy of the night. But as I drifted off I heard the first birds chirping: it was already time for the pre-dawn lightening of the sky.

It reminded me of a time in northern Finland long ago when, camped by a lake, a friend and I stayed up through the night to photograph the midnight sun as it made its circuit. It dipped north in the "nighttime" hours but never went below the horizon. The sounds of the forest went on without a pause. When summer is short and winter is dark, there's not a moment to waste.

If that's a metaphor for life, then engaging with it and enjoying what we have in the way of health and friends and meaningful obligations, while we have them, is what the dance of life is all about. We don't need dancing shoes! It just takes an awareness that the music's playing and the invitation is ours to accept...

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