(38) Furious Dancing
Dear Achilles Heel,
I am so angry with you. I have been angry with you for a few years...
Six years ago, the best way to finish a school week, in my opinion, was with a whole school run or a game of loud tig. The more grown-ups involved with the tig, the better. It is good to see parents whoop and laugh and dodge and jump. On Fridays at home time, the children didn't go home, but instead made their way to the Walled Garden car park, and from there, with their parents if they were smaller than primary 4, they ran the Roes' Walk, along the larch-lined river, rhododendrons in May and June, up the steep short climb, past the viewpoint - mountains and then sea to the right - and then on down through the moss-carpeted woodland and back to the car park for juice and biscuits. If it was too wet, there was noisy whole school tig, with parents, in the village hall. Eventually, running became too much of a problem as my calf seized up and left me walking with one foot splayed out. Right calf first, then left calf. I would stop running for a few weeks and try again. After complaining more and more to Isabelle about it over the last four years, and walking less and running almost not at all, I have finally done something to address the issue of my Achilles tendon. Four years ago I knew really what I must do to heal the problem. (Wincing at the pun and the pain). I knew it but did nothing about it. At the same time as asking my GP for the important Achilles exercises, I also gave her permission over the phone (Lockdown consultations) to say to me the next time I felt sluggish and heavy to 'GO AND DO YOUR EFFING exercises!!' be they at the gym, be they at the bay, walking far away, swimming in the sea or running for very short bursts. My middle-aged, menopausal tummy is something else I had complained frequently to Isabelle about but I seemed to be refusing to do anything about that either..... In lockdown especially, with its slowed down pace, and time for more wine and naval gazing, I became even more aware of it.... The GP said she would be happy to follow my wishes. When I was suffering a few years ago from work-related anxiety and stress and depression, the same GP gave me good advice. She said that I, being off work, would probably want to hide away, not go out, not see friends, not go for long walks. She said, however, that these were all the things that might possibly help and that I should make sure I was doing them. Walking is my salve, my balm. It always has been. I have walked off anger, I have walked through grief, I have walked for sanity for as long as I can remember. When I was pregnant, I walked 10 miles each day, even until the day of my waters breaking. Two miles before breakfast, later on three miles, another two or three miles before dinner, and then an after dinner stroll. Every now and then in life, I forget to walk and I begin to feel low. I am not sure if I feel low and then forget to walk or if it is the other way around. But I certainly feel bad when I am not walking regularly. If you have ever walked with me, you will recognise the tell-tale huge sigh, a release of relief, I think, of being outside, of moving through a breeze. I have many recordings of the sound of my feet walking, through water, through snow, leaves, on sandy paths - the steady rhythm soothing and lifting me. After moving back up here there was a time of forgetting to walk. I was struggling with the pushchair of the boy I looked after, one of its tyres flat for some three weeks. I was too tired to walk after dinner, and then I began not walking on my days off either. I had to be gently reminded to do so. It happened again near the start of Lockdown. There were a couple of weeks of not remembering. I mentioned it to a friend who realised that I was missing this beautiful poem in my life - We Have Come To Be Danced, by Jewel Mathieson. I have tried it in the woods, up a hill and on the shore. This video is a highly edited version - for the full effect you need to truly bare your soul, with random vocal sounds as well. Only the shrews and the thrushes get to see that one. I defy you to try it and not feel somewhat exhilarated, refreshed and renewed, and somehow whole.
Furious Dancing. This is very specifically not about timing or, as Matheson says, 'pretty pretty' dancing. It is not graceful, not light. An advocate of timed dance and learned steps all my life, this is a dance that we are not taught to do. It is wild. It is keening. It is hurt. It is willful abandonment and at the same time sweeping statement, bravery, life affirmation. It is letting go and airing things, loudly. It is pain, sorrow, anger, indignancy, joy, rejoicing, HERE I AM!! Dances-to-her-own-tune springs to mind, and this tune goes back through millennia. There were a few angry things at the start of lockdown. I feel ashamed that I spent so much early lockdown time angry about Tesco queues that led to nonexistent delivery slots. Angry about government form filling which required phone calls to my mobile number, which I cannot open because I do not have reception here. Angry about having paid tax for twenty years and not being able to claim universal credit. Obviously I wrote a snippet about that. The snippet took place several weeks before I knew about the dance. It was also very cathartic - try shouting FUCK THE FUCK OFF! on a mountainside with only the shore to hear you.
Of course there are far bigger things I should be angry about and am angry about. I replay in my head the transcript of the last words uttered by George Floyd and I am stunned.
I watch the protests and the riots and I see how the police are handling things and I am stunned. Things will probably carry on as they always have and I am stunned. I see people not quite get the Black Lives Matter campaign. I see them pronounce that All Lives Matter. I do understand their misunderstanding. I listen to others berate them aggressively for their ignorance and I am actually stunned by that as well. I am not sure that aggression stops aggressiveness. I am not sure that tearing down statues will make things alright. I think we need to know our history fully, not block it out. Know it, learn from it, work out how to do better. Talk. Listen. I have recently been thinking more about history being made by the winners. About BLACK remembering history differently to WHITE. Whole sections of the past being ignored. Some of it excluded at the time from the press, some forbidden to be spoken about. We can pretend at an individual level or as a group, that things that have happened have not, and we know it is not alright. When a whole race takes on different truths from another race, we really need to start unraveling. There seem to be, right now, so many enormous things that we are aware of but not dealing with at all. We might shout but we are not communicating. The environment, equality, gender issues, poverty, to name a few. As the Minneapolis police chief said afterwards 'Silence and inaction — you're complicit.' These are difficult times. We need to dance furiously and then we need to stand up, stand with, stand against until something changes. It is not my Achilles heel I am angry with, it is myself for doing nothing about it.