Roses all around.
Music stirring, scent wafting, a perfect rainbow slicing through the fountain.
Sweet captivating magic in the air.
It works a bit like a flash mob, but without anything planned or practiced in advance.
The instructions were to show up in the Victorian rose garden: dancers and musicians. The musicians were given the name of a book of waltzes they’d be playing from. That was it. You just show up.
We made our way down the narrow garden paths, surrounded by roses, gathering under the meeting point of four trees.
Eighteen musicians and maybe twenty five dancers.
They began playing waltzes.
We began dancing.
No gender rules about who leads and who follows, you just ask for the role you want. Sometimes lead-follow switch in the middle of a dance.
This isn’t fancy ballroom waltz with ramrod posture and flair. This is social waltz, peasant waltz, cross-step revival waltz, the kind people do for the sheer joy of life and aliveness.
There is always a certain magical something that happens when creative play engages. That shiver-moment of shared connection.
People felt this and flocked towards us, not in the flash mob way of “hey this weird cool thing is happening” but because it had a pull of meaning. A pull of life.
Life is happening here!
Little kids joined in, because kids all know how to dance even though they don’t, because they do. Some of the waltzers danced with the children too, and showed them how to feel it: one-two-three da-da-da, and we were all in the slow, sweet rhythm of the music.
Full contact laughter.
There was so much laughter, because laughter and magic and joy go together.
The kids were giggling happily, and then so were their parents and the dancers and the onlookers. Not the laugh of hahaha what is happening this is nuts. No, the laugh of oh how beautiful it is to be here in this moment.
I was dancing with a woman whose name I can’t remember, one of the musicians, and next to us was Jorge dancing with someone visiting from North Carolina; he pulled us into their pairing and walked us through an unfamiliar round folk dance that involved lots of turns and bowing.
A melody or two later, Scott and I collided with another pair, which is easy to do on these narrow intersecting paths, where there’s no Line Of Dance the way there is in a ballroom.
He apologized, and the barefoot woman who was probably in her mid-sixties shouted back, “NO WORRIES! Waltz is a full contact sport!”
And we all laughed and laughed and laughed, because it is. And also because that is the most ridiculous thing to say. Ridiculous and improbable and true.
The musicians played for an hour (including an original waltz that one of them had composed!), and then they did a reprise of the first waltz, and then they played Goodnight Irene, which everyone sang as they danced.
It was one of those Moments where you just feel connected. To community, to joyful creative self-expression, to love.
When it was over and we all wandered away, I played and splashed in the fountain, feeling peaceful and happy and abundant in all things. A fountaining-over of joy.
I read this story. The story-teller befriends a couple getting married, by mistake, and it gets increasingly weird and beautiful.
I hope it is true. It fills me with delight.
There is a thing my father says, I can’t remember what it is from: “Not only is this story true, but it also happened.”
Steve Lambert, a wonderful art-activist and thoughtful human, did this project in 2007.
Here’s what he said about it.
“When I do stuff I arguably ‘shouldn’t’ be doing, I prefer to do it in the light of day. If I get caught, I don’t want to run or hide. I want to say, ‘Hi! Oh this? Yeah, I did this.’ For example, if you wanted to paint over a financially predatory billboard, it’s just a whole lot easier if you do it at noon with a ladder and write “Will You Marry Me?” In fact, everyone loves it. Neighbors come by and get excited. They cheer you on. That’s how I like to work.”
There is so much I could say about this, but for now just this:
Activism and advocacy and bringing our light (and our self-fluency) out into the world in order to make a difference, these are things that can be really challenging in so many different ways, and I like remembering that they can also be joyfully defiant, playfully noncompliant.
So here’s to sparkly dissent, and all the magic (and power) in Unlikely Combinations.
Yesterday Richard and I were walking through the park on the way to a secret op, and there was a summer camp group of kids who looked to be about eight years old, on a field trip with backpacks.
They were marching in a line, chanting at the top of their lungs, with POWER:
Everywhere we go! People want to know!
Who we are! So we tell them!
We! Are! The Mighty Mighty Nature Crew!
We Are The Mighty Mighty Nature Crew!
WE ARE THE MIGHTY MIGHTY NATURE CREW!
And we’re going to win at camp! BECAUSE WE’RE AWESOME!
And this repeated.
Joy for mighty things.
Every single person walking in the park was smiling from ear to ear, partly because it was so adorable, and partly because, while tiny and sweet, they did seem mighty.
They were so loud, and so impassioned about being the Mighty Mighty Nature Crew
And even though no one had any idea what a nature crew is, or what they do, we were all thoroughly convinced of their mightiness.
I want to walk around with my crew of selves, all yelling WE ARE THE MIGHTY MIGHTY HAVI CREW!
With Wise Me at the front of course, and then all my selves. Writer Me and Dancer Me. Scared me and Tender Me. Some of my selves might need to be carried by stronger selves, on processional thrones or elegant litter vehicles with hidden compartments, and some might be resting in their safe rooms, but we are all marching in spirit.
I feel Enthusiastic about small life-affirming connection moments between people.
I feel Enthusiastic about rejoicing in other people’s expressions of what they feel moved to express.
I feel Enthusiastic about magic and about truth.
And also I feel Enthusiastic about feeling Enthusiastic!
So I am convening an Enthusiastic in this post and in the comments so that we may enthuse here together! Yay!
Come enthuse with me!
You are invited to enthuse in any way you like.
It can be Calmly Enthusiastic, Quietly Enthusiastic. Wildly and Ecstatically Enthusiastic. Sweetly Enthusiastic. Powerful Steady Grounded Enthusiasm. Dragonly Enthusiasm. Mighty Mighty Nature Crew Enthusiasm.
Choose your flavor or flavors, they are all welcome. Including the most unlikely combinations.
Mainly, the invitation is this:
I am feeling joyful about surprise moments of human connection and shared joyfulness, about smiles with strangers that don’t have to mean anything other than delight in shared aliveness, about powerful self-expression, about conscious interaction and presence, about moments.
And I want to share this and bubble enthusiasm together!
And maybe collect some more moments, some more true stories that also may have happened.
You can add your own. You can just delight with me about how special it is that we are human and we can connect and feel and know. You can say yay and huzzah! You can share anything that sparked for you.
And even in those (very legitimate) moments when we get disconnected from ourselves and from aliveness, we can take a breath or eight breaths and slowly remember. There is beauty in the world. There are growing beings who feel their mightiness and haven’t forgotten yet. There are real changes that we can make here.
A big glowing of love from my thank-you heart for everyone who reads,