the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Randall Beahm

still learning how to sail

Hi Friends,

I am re-staging “Jo’s Journal,” Sharon Randolph’s beautiful ballet that imagines Jo and the March girls through flashback from Jo’s perspective. I have danced this role at 17 and 27, coached it at 37 and re-staged it once at 39. My new Jo is 17 and auditioned for me 4 years ago, and though all Jo, she was too young. Now as a “little woman,” she is so very ready for the role. While coaching her to be in the body of the grown-up lady Jo, I asked her to imagine into the future (since she couldn’t go as far back into her past). To think of all the bodies who have danced this role and how old we will be when she is 27. To see us as an extension of her–to feel our lust for those 17 year-old knees, that gratitude for surviving those early 20s, and that wistfulness for the confidence that finally started to come in our 30s. To see the now almost 44 me, who, while teaching Jo, still tries to dance like she 17 (though her feet hurt like they’ve aged in dog years) and is looking into the future, uncertain, once again. There are multiple moments in this ballet where I remember myself at every decade–remember myself exactly–the feel of my face, the shape of my heart, and the strength of my want at that time for what was to come or what had already been. I teared up three times yesterday–watching this young girl become herself and her future. Thank god my  heart is packed in memory foam–to help seal the cracks as I glue myself back together with the knowing of all these women I am, and all of those great women who have come before me.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship”

Louisa May Alcott

Thank you, Louisa. Thank you, Sharon. Thank you, Jo.

love to all,

not-so-silent e

word of the day: dapple

Hi Friends,

Just the other day, while heading to the zoo, me, my ez, and our dear friend Megan were hit by a semi truck. Yep. An 18-wheeler who decided that he needed our lane to turn on to I-70, whether our little blue Rabbit was there or not. I rarely swear in front of ezra but with a large blue Peterbuilt barreling down on us, FUCK!!!! came flying out of my mouth faster than I could almost-6-year-old censor myself.

Spoiler alert–we were all completely fine, the chain-smoking truck driver was ticketed, and the car is likely totaled.

While sitting on the berm waiting for the police in 100 degree weather, however, there was a lot of kid- brain processing going on–ez feeling guilty because he had been fussing moments before we were hit, ez’s fears about who would get in trouble, would the car be ok, would we still get to the zoo. To shift his focus from fear, I looked to humor. “Did you hear that F-bomb mama dropped?” Giggles from the backseat. “I should really work on that, huh, buddy? What if those had been my last words?” More giggles. “That would have been terrible, mama! You need to say something better before you die.”

I have long been obsessed with Famous Last Words and have a little love affair with the image of these final utterances hanging in the air over the just-dead, falling on them, letter by letter, like a soft, final rain. Some favorites:

Sir Isaac Newton: “I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

O.O. McIntyre,an American reporter, who spoke his last words to his wife Maybelle: “Snooks, will you please turn this way. I like to look at your face.”

Oscar Wilde: “This wallpaper is terrible – one of us will have to go!”

Emily Dickinson: “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”

Steve Jobs: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

word of the day: dapple

Back on the berm, we started playing the game “Better last words” and laughed as we practiced yelling favorite words like, “Ocean!” “Luther!” “Baked potato with butter!” Imagining ourselves careening into the unknown calling out our favorite foods, pets, and people got us all breathing again. These last words, hollered in the face of fear like magical incantations, would shuttle our spirits along better than “f-bombs” (as ez was excited to say, over and over). I landed on “dapple” and couldn’t get past it. Besides the ocean and ezra’s eyes, I might like nothing better–in sound and in actuality. The definition of dapple is none too artful, but its use always conjures horses, clouds, sunlight, and cottonwoods. I can imagine no better path into the afterlife than a dappled grove or fullmoonspeckled country road, no better escort than a soft-nosed, mottled grey and white mare. ez, returning again and again to humor–and food–screamed into Death’s mean mug my favorite Starbucks order, “Half caf soy latté extra ice!” and “Noodle!” making me laugh harder and relax.

But “Dapple!” I kept yelling, like the children in Peter Pan who are looking for their fizzy-lifting spell. “Dapple!” I cried, hoping to firm the word into my fight or flight response so that the next time the Reaper moves into my lane to cut me off, I’ll be ready. dapple.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

 

awake

Sitting outside this morning, I am actually cold, even in my  slippers, flannel shirt, and long, green sweater. There is nothing like a chilly summer morning, except perhaps the color a stone turns when wet, or my child’s sweaty hand in mine. Sleeping in is impossible–even when I am granted the grace to do it. Sleeping in would mean missing this soft beginning.  Sleeping in would mean missing out. I would rather be awake for this moment–when the undersides of things are the same minty temperature as their surfaces and my brain the same quiet as the air. Right now, the day is still a cool stone in my palm, all its colors revealed. And though it will be dried by the heat of the day and my mind busied with the frenzy of passing hours, I have this small window when I am truly AWAKE.

stars

I so desperately want to believe that the stars hold the answers or our ancestors. They might just be light late to our eyes, but isn’t that what awakening is anyway?

a fearful gesture

What is this?

A fearful gesture

An amazing 180

The window at half-mast

This not knowing what’s to come

This glorious new curiosity

 

Here in my chest

Right here

As if it were my own

there is

one last taste of strawberries

that song

one

more

time

 

Here in my chest

I recognize it

Bigger than all the plagues and dangers

Right here

There is hope

To smell the leaves change

To sing the tune without the words

To push off the wall

one

more

time

 

But right here

Here in my chest

Bigger than all the plagues and dangers

A fearful gesture

To hold hands like I mean it

To know myself without

To perch on the soul

 

And

Never stop

At all

 

talisman

“Hold this,” you said, then gently placed your heart in my hand.

magic camp

Yesterday, my five year-old went to Harry Potter art and yoga camp where he made a wand, a magical keychain, and some spellbound candy–including a jawbreaker he named “stardust”–“when you eat it, stars light up, even in the day.” They did yoga and meditated with their own Sorcerer’s Stone. I am desperate for a grown-up version of this camp–a time and place where I could learn to create my own sweetness that reveals the stars, a moment to sit quietly with the belief that magic is everywhere, and a required “free time”  where I would be reminded that when I do open my mouth, the words I utter have the power to transform my world, with or without a bedazzled wand.

lighthouses and love

In the worlds of lighthouses and love, where some lights flash (longer periods of darkness interrupted by brief periods of light), and some occult (brief periods of darkness interrupted by longer periods of light), you, dear friend, are a fixed beacon–one that never goes dark.

word of the day: prevenient

Hi Friends,

Today I am honored to be giving the eulogy for Charlotte York Irey, the brilliant and feisty pioneer who founded my Dance Department and impacted the lives of thousands through her tenacity and belief in DANCE. Whenever I have to write something, I look to those who wield words far better than I to give me a shoulder to stand on. One of my favorite authors, of course, is Marilynne Robinson, and yesterday I found this gem about having the “willingness to see” and “prevenient courage.”

“It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance – for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light …. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? …. Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave – that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.”

word of the day: prevenient

Prevenient grace, in Christian theology, is the notion of divine grace that precedes human decision. As it is mentioned in the bible, it relates to humankind’s kinks and bends towards sin, giving a folks a “get out of jail free card” through their God-given free-will to chose (or not to choose) salvation. Prevenient alone, means “coming before or anticipatory,” and Robinson’s notion of prevenient courage illuminates that bravery depends upon first having the desire to take action. What a thing always in our lives, to be willing to move forward, to turn your eyes towards that ember of what could be, even though there is fear in your heart. Before there was fear–based in the knowledge of pain experienced in real time–there is a prevenient (pre-you) calm of courage that leads us on.

A dancer trains to listen and access this prevenient drive, surviving that dark moment in the wings before the entrance, thanks to the practice and practice and practice of taking action:  the preparation before the leap, the deep coiling in towards trust to allow the improvisational impulse. In life, just as in dance, we sometimes need that little nudge into the light–that rolling snare, that anticipatory “5,6, 7, 8,” moving us towards bravery.

Charlotte had a lot of this prevenient moxie–it was the engine of her pioneering heart, her get-it-done-ness, and was the antidote to the loss she suffered in her life that could have immobilized her. “To Dance is Live!” she was fond of saying–to take action, to trust, to move forward–what a bountiful willingness to see! And in that fearless seeing she modeled for me, who knows her more through a patchwork quilt of other’s memories, that ability to turn that small grey ember back into radiance. prevenient.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

word of the day: touch

Hi Friends,

ez has a friend at school who is blind. ez loves this friend and is eager to learn braille because of him. He even looked for braille valentines at the store (there weren’t any), but chose some with glitter so that his friend could have something to feel and could, perhaps, read his friendship in the upraised sparkle. What a thing–to look for the language of our dear ones to try to better communicate with them– to find the ways that are specific to them so that they can feel our love.That my five year old has this capacity and curiosity about loving sends me aloft.

I have never researched the braille alphabet until this morning. It is beautiful– complicated and elegant at the same time. Based off of Barbier’s “night writing,” Louis Braille’s new cellular notation was the first binary form of communication in the modern era. A man who lost his vision in a childhood accident riffed off the French military exercise of night writing, creating our first key-hole view into the language of computers. Until this morning, night writing meant a full moon, a half-emptied glass, and a tear-sodden piece of parchment. Or deft hands moving over the glowing skin of a lover. Or a last minute flurry on the keyboard for that paper on Descartes’ Passion of the Soul.

word of the day: touch

Braille and night writing both use the fingers to communicate– they use touch to be in touch. Nicole Krauss writes about “The Age of Silence” in her most brilliant book, The History of Love, and how “at night, when it’s too dark to see, we find it necessary to gesture on each other’s bodies to make ourselves understood.” In today’s age of noise, we spend much of our time using our fingers to hammer out things for the eyes to see, not the body to feel. Our poor hands, so much work with so little sensation in return. I am just now noticing the metal slick of my keyboard, the smooth wet slate feeling of my mousepad. I spend more of my day with this object but rarely do I feel it.

Perhaps it is due to this sense of alienation that I have taken to carrying a rock lately, a reminder that my hands need a tactile treat. They give and give and give but how often do they receive? That small, rough, pink pocket stone has a braille all its own; it holds the night writing of a million years, and a history of love and loss longer than anyone could ever record. And while Safeway may never carry braille Valentines, ez and I will keep searching for new ways for our love to be raised up and truly felt. touch.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e