Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The joy of gentle motion

My mother's passion was ballet.  She began taking lessons when I was a teenager. She was a "natural". Her body and soul responded to music like a sea anemone in a tidal pool.  The discipline of ballet was the firm bed of sand on which her art rested, turning the things she felt into poetry of motion.  

Many times, when I visited her in Washington DC and later in Tucson, I accompanied her to ballet classes. I loved watching her. For more than 40 years she attended classes multiple times a week. Even at the bar, she warmed up with a goal to perfection.  She approached each class as a serious student. I understand now how she set perfection as her goal.  She was straining to gain the skill that matched her art and depth of feeling.  She was that way about many things. Perfected skill was the medium that expressed what she could not say with words.  Everyone could see that Junko had "it". It defied age or the limitations of her body.  It was innate grace - the pale, pink petal drifting to the ground, the effortless lift of the butterfly's glide, the sea anemone in concert with microscopic algae.  Her impulse was as uninhibited as any unself-conscious creature of nature.

Once while sitting in a restaurant with friends in Kyoto, my mother wowed us with a spontaneous, joyful dance of classical ballet.  Who knew that the sweet joy of that moment with friends could be so beautifully embodied.

On her 90th birthday, Wally sent a link to Earth, Wind and Fire performing "Woogie Wonderland".  Mom and everyone jumped up to dance, spun and flung into motion by the force of celebration and joy.  It wasn't ballet...

Acupuncturist and friend, Larry, would come weekly to give her a treatment - mostly he came to hang out and talk with my mother. One visit, they danced together, mom in bed on oxygen and Larry sitting in a chair across from her. They danced with their upper bodies to a music they alone could sense.  It wasn't sound that moved them, it was feeling. I believe it was healing for both of them because I too could feel something of what they shared soothing me.

In my mother's last week she had a dream.  She wanted to thank hospice for their goodness and proposed to teach people in hospice care "the joy of gentle motion".  In her dream, she taught people to move their arms, hands, head, eyes, in whatever capacity they could, to move gently to music. She believed this would help them to feel better.  The next morning when hospice came, she excitedly asked if she could teach the joy of gentle motion to their patients.  She was told that most people in hospice were in no shape to respond to her teaching, much less move.  So, she asked if she could teach the nurses and caregivers...they just smiled. Mom seemed stunned.  It hadn't occurred to her that there was a point of no dance. I could see that death was becoming real.

 Steve Baranovics, and Junko at 80 
The Washington School of Ballet
Not everyone has clarity, as my mother did, about what moves them passionately.  I believe everyone has the capacity for it, which makes me think that passion can be cultivated.  My mother was in the middle of her life when, with minuscule joy and an ocean of longing, she began. Her pursuit of ballet grew into something that eventually spiraled and propelled her up and out of herself into a much grander movement, then slowing gently, manifesting in dreams until it was simply a final bow. 

I cannot imagine that the dance ends there. All movement is energy and energy doesn't die.  I'm still in the orbit of my mother's dance. I'm following it's motion through a door into another realm of reality where there is more to know and learn, where death is closer but without fear and there is more joy to discover. 

Take a moment to be infected by Junko's joy. Clink on the link below and dance, dance, dance...