What do Vancouver, BC, Canada; Seattle; and Port Townsend, Washington have in common?
Nice people who came together to participate in my author reading/book signings of my novel Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace.
After one book reading, I pedaled on a rolling road through conifer forest to go dance in a refurbished military building. Polished wood floors gleamed welcome to the hundred dancing bare feet on the dustless floor as sunlight glowed through the tall paned windows and warmed the white-painted wood walls. The DJ was a Boomer grandmother. Woodstock era folks free-form bounced, writhed, and twirled on the dance floor.
This was Sunday morning in Port Townsend, Washington.
It was fun.
Yet I couldn’t help but compare it to dancing in Bolivia.
In Port Townsend my inclination was to make eye contact and interact with the other dancers. But soon I realized that this dance, as fun as it is, has its roots in the Cartesian fragmentation of Western industrialized society. Eyes refused contact, or if they did connect it was for only seconds before breaking the bond and dancing away. Each dancer was in a self-contained bubble. Aware of the other dancers, but only enough to not bump into each other. Something like driving a car.
Whereas in Bolivia, dances and music are all about connecting with each other.
In Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace we share in this experience.
“Blowing across the bamboo tubes, Lucy looked at the guia who played the six-tube siku like she did, to see which tubes to blow and when in this unfamiliar tune. The thunder of the music transported the sikuris into a single unit of life, as they played in concentric circles, facing each other.
“Lucy thought about how this music forms community. The point isn’t to be an egotistical star in front of an audience. On a stage musicians face the audience and not each other. Sikuris, when not parading through the streets or doing a choreographed performance for competition, face each other, face the center. Lucy felt the energy flow out of each musician into the center. The center grew stronger and fed the spirit of each musician.”
The dancers surround the musicians and hold hands, dancing in concentric circles like the spinning of our orb, planet Earth; like the celestial orbits of constellations dancing across the night sky.
This type of music and dance has its roots in the Andean Cosmovision of the original people.
The original people were not visible in Port Townsend.
I heard of a canal that the original people had dug across the tip of the Olympic Peninsula so the canoes would have safe passage, avoiding the turbulent seas where Puget Sound meets the Pacific. But that canal recently got filled in to build a Safeway supermarket.
“Didn’t the indigenous people protest filling in the ancestral canal?” I asked a friend.
“No. There are not very many of them and they are on a reservation somewhere else,” she said.
In Bolivia the indigenous face is visible everywhere and the indigenous voice is heard everywhere – leading the nation.
In the US, as I bicycle down the black asphalt road past Victorian cottages set in clearings of the lush forest, I sense the “wrongness” of this lack of indigenous presence, of the original people who have lived on and in and with this land for over 10,000 years. Of how our ancestors lived in equilibrium, in a sustainable way, for those millennia – hunting and gathering, fishing and digging up clams.
But now clams are often too toxic to eat, poisoned with the chemicals we “civilized” people have dumped in the water as part of “progress” and “development.”
My white skin and California accent give me entrance into Western Industrialized Society without an eye blink, where we dance in self-satisfied individual comfort. Yet my bones remember my grandmother’s legacy of being one with each other, the earth, and the infinite – where music and dance is an expression, a creation, of our interconnection and oneness.
I mourn the fragmentation of life even as we celebrate life – our bare feet dancing earth rhythms on a military polished floor to electronic drum beats.
Our bones remember.