Monday, October 25, 2010

All She Wants To Do

I've been dancing my whole life.

When I was an awkward 9 year-old, my dancing took the form of dramatic ballerina-like twirls around my pink-carpeted bedroom. I'd call my mom to watch from the doorway. I re-played Dirty Dancing and Girls Just Want to Have Fun like they contained the secrets of the universe, marveling at my heroes of movement, Patrick Swayze and Sarah Jessica Parker.

By junior high I had a tight circle of friends, bound together by our common interests of junk food, Saved by the Bell, and endless silliness. We danced on trampolines, beds, porches, basketball courts, basically anywhere we could find footing and an audience. Sometimes we video-taped our moves. Were we any good at it? Who cares?

In college I found another tight group of friends, this time bound by our love of Mr. Hanky, dining hall veggie burgers, and snowy goofiness. In the scores of sticky-floored venues across Burlington, we swirled in smoky bliss, relishing show after show: Rat Dog, Leftover Salmon, Israel Vibrations, Dark Star Orchestra, Pork Tornado, and of course, Ani Difranco all spring to mind. I'll never forget the feeling of stepping into the fresh night air, my body's internal heat a shield against the freezing dagger of Vermont wind.

Today my dance posse consists mainly of familiar yet name-less faces. On Sundays at noon, 30 or 40 of us pack into a mirrored studio and writhe, wiggle, gyrate, shake ourselves exhausted. We are bound by the common goal of burning calories, something I never ever thought about in all of my previous dance modes. But it's much more than that. Emboldened by our anonymity, we are fearless, a sisterhood (with the random male thrown in) of acceptance. Any faithful follower of Zumba will tell you that it's really about having a blast. I would laugh way more if I weren't struggling for breath.
For all of you who love cutting up the dance floor, go to You-tube and search for "Dancing at the Movies." Four minutes of fun. (I spent way too much time today trying unsuccessfully to post that video here. Sorry.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


dear blog:

on this, our one year anniversary, i'd like to thank you for the essential role you play in my life, that of providing me the incentive and opportunity to complete a piece of writing roughly once a week for people to read if they so choose.

may this next year take us even higher!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Art of Work, Play, Nothing

My days have been passing like this:

week days, particularly Tuesday through Thursday, are grueling hard work. Early morning class at SSU, exceptionally fun, but I keep running out of time for what I've planned. I find myself rushing with five minutes of class left, the clock pulling their worried eyes, and me hurriedly collecting and dispensing papers. Not how I want to end our stimulating discussions and creative play. Not how I want to end anything, really.

At Nonesuch in the afternoons I watch my high school students get wide-eyed about the symbolism in Lord of the Flies and the risque dialogue of Angels in America. I teach them the steps of good persuasive writing and get so passionately attached it's hard not to write their essays for them. I come home exhausted, with papers to grade and more lessons to plan. By Thursday afternoon I feel like I could sleep until Sunday.

But then the weekend descends---magical and wide open. I work on my upcoming article for the Bohemian, pull my confidence out of the gutter and give it a good hose-down. I wash the week's pile of dishes and take a long walk around the Santa Rosa cemetery, breathing peacefulness and repose.

Saturdays are for adventure! Yesterday we headed to San Francisco for twelve hours of non-stop fun. We hiked at Land's End, where the cliffs are eroding into the Pacific and a few brave sailboats leave the enclave of the bay. I love watching the tankers roll in and the birds dive for fish. We walked ourselves famished, then headed to the land of the self-serve salad bar and thrift store wardrobes, the Mission.

And it just so happened to be the night of the Lit Crawl, where all the bars and cafes and bookstores are tuned into the hushed wisdom of the spoken word. We watched M's long-time friend Michele perform eight different characters in a puppet show retelling of classic fairy tales (using her own hand-crafted props). I bought a book called The Art of Swimming (first published in 1874) and Halloween masks. And I braved the overheated cafe to hear five poets proclaim their lyrical offerings, each one different, each one prompting me to think, I could do that, I could do that.

But Sunday should be for doing nothing. Nothing is the only thing I haven't done in weeks.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Love Chose Us

A glance around our lazy Sunday home reveals the wedding revelry of last weekend.

Dried cupcake icing smeared into the living room floor, piles of ribbons and wishes, leftover Brie and apples we can't eat fast enough, mason jars of ever-dwindling (but shockingly still vibrant) flowers, hand-drawn gifts competing for bookshelf space, a quiet cloudy melancholy creeping around the baseboards. Fall is here.

But a week ago our wedding went down in a hot blast of merriment, tears, laughter, cake-fueled dancing, and mending in the bridal chamber. Nearly eleven hours of straight party, starting with my weepy walk down the aisle of our front yard to the flowered porch altar.

The pre-wedding week spun on coffee, adrenaline, out-of-towner verve, and sheer elation. We stocked up on champagne and lists and tried to sleep. Friends sat on our living room floor making center-piece bouquets and door signs, mint-mashing in the kitchen and song-gathering in the cyber sphere. Mom brought over a present for each of the three days she was here before the wedding. My sisters, all four of them, swarmed me with hugs when I walked into the restaurant Friday evening, a giant inter-family gourmet Chinese meal to get everyone acquainted before the big day.

Later, in the dark chill of night, M and I sat on our porch couch and talked about our fears for the future. The next morning we took turns typing up our finalized vows. Sitting in front of the computer screen, I cried and cried and wondered how I would read them again, in front of sixty people, four hours later.

I had seven of my closest females helping me get ready, which consisted mainly of lacing up the back of my mother's 1972 union-made dress (altered a bit to fit me just right) and fastening some white flowers into my air-dried hair. One sister had a spot of powder, another one some lip gloss. I intended on clear nail polish and gold unicorn earrings, but they slipped my anxious mind. At the last minute, I decided to forgo sandals.

The ceremony was perfect. Our kindred friend married us, our vows surprised each other, and when it was all over we trounced hand in hand down the sidewalk to Karen Carpenter singing “I'm on the top of the world...”

The whole day wore a smile.

We chose the perfect date, right smack in the middle of summer's final victory lap. The day after the wedding was light and fluffy: cupcake for breakfast, mimosa for lunch, and serenity for dinner. We frolicked with dear ones in the surf at the warm tangy beach. Drove familiar vacation streets and showed everyone why we love where we live.

And then the post-wedding week spat me out on the petal-crushed lawn. Back to school on Tuesday morning, 8 o'clock. Mom, Dad, friends, sisters, gone. A dirty kitchen and a routine again. Nothing to plan anymore. Scrutinizing photos, finding ways to eat salmon at every meal, slowly paying off a steep sleep debt. So much sugar (we just couldn't let that exquisite butter-cream passion-fruit cake go to waste) that I felt crashed up on the shores of post-nuptial aimless burnout. Wishing I could just go back and play the day over and over again. Since I can't, though, is why it's magical.

Yesterday we celebrated our one-week anniversary by driving south with a picnic and a dim plan. We struck Bolinas fog and hiked on a new Marin trail. We uncovered handfuls of treasure at a church sale on Highway 1 and landed in full-blown afternoon Petaluma sunshine just in time to get warmed up again. New restaurants remind us that the exploration of the familiar is never-ending, as long as we are willing to do the footwork.

Memories keep distracting me. I've got an intimidating stack of English 101 essays to grade, a play to read, cards inadequate to express my thanks to write, a dress with a dirty train begging to be put back on (still hanging in the living room), and a cozy music-filled house missing all its visitors. But no matter.

I also have a husband.