I came back this afternoon from an overnight in the farmlands between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol to visit my friend Susie. Susie had hosted the first official workshop of my Tour de Word project, on the day I left for the trip. I love her easy hospitality and our meandering conversation and her sincerity and the way she really pays attention and her big kitchen and huge family room and the views out the big windows to the little pasture with the two horses and the donkeys and the rolling green hills spread out behind them. I wanted to take a little mini-vacation, and this is a great way to do it, drive just over an hour from home to a place so far removed from where I live that it feels like I up and went to Georgia.
We hung out in the afternoon, and then the rest of the family arrived - Susie's husband Mark and her three boys, ages 10, 13, and 17. We sat down for supper - homemade split-pea soup (perfect for a rainy day) and chicken sausage and roasted squash, and then Susie took me to see something I've never seen - A gym-ful of teenagers, ballroom dancing (her eldest has been taking classes for several years). It seems like there were thousands of kids in that gymnasium, all dressed to the nines - ties and jackets for the boys, dresses and white gloves for the girls. This was the last lesson of the season, apparently, with a big party coming up on Friday, so things were all abuzz about that, but when the music came on it was all business, the couples in unison, looking earnest and focused with their moves.
As a kid (and even now), I never fared too well with choreography, so as I sat there and watched them spin each other around, there was a part of me cringing in memory of my failed attempts at ballet. Bun another part of me was electrified by how excited they all seemed to be. It was clear that they took great pride in this class, and something about the dress code solidified this. It gave them a maturity, a presence, a level of engagement with the work and with each other that was quite beautiful to watch. There was a small awkwardness, certainly, but I knew that there was a part of the dancing - the sensual fluidity of it - that they would get later on, when they had spent more time in their own bodies. For now, there was a sort of happy collision, and a willingness to mess up and try again, and mostly, a sense of such...community. That gym was humming with it, something of the care, collaboration and equality. And at the heart of it, joy.
I thought it all a perfect antidote to the tragedy befalling Japan - and the world - and the catastrophic events of the past week. It reminds me of the stubborness of hope, and these windows of moments where light pierces through. I don't know what these kids are thinking about that earthquake, and the tsunami, or the nuclear reactors and the plume of potential poison drifting over the Pacific. But for a few hours yesterday, they transported me away from the horror of those headlines, and landed me smack dab in a different sort of present tense, where dancing was. And even if I was just watching from the sidelines, it was enough. It was enough.