Planet Waves | Genexhibitionist by Maya Dexter


"Superstition" by William Dellings, 1997, courtesy of Astrology Picture of the Day


Genexhibitionist | Maya Dexter

Holy Communion

Earth Day 2000
.......The drummers on the stage settle easily into a euphoric rhythm. I stand anxious, close behind bodies I have seen transformed by years, children, work, and love. I stand close behind bodies I know better naked than clothed, bodies I know by fire best of all. Swaying our hips to the drums, we shuffle quickly out toward the open patch of grass in front of the stage. Making our way through the mountain pass of blanket-sitters, we dance in the spaces between each other. Dancing with our whole selves, we are blades of fire igniting the observers so that these hot strangers are lured in to dance among us.
.......We are family united in motion. I shake and sway and spin my ecstasy into the oneness of this dance, awash in ablutionary sweat. Undulating gleefully over to the blanket where my daughter sits, I pull her into the fray. We dance together, holding the rhythm in our clasped hands, bare feet stomping the earth into our soles and our souls. I want her to feel what family means. She shakes her three-year-old bottom with abandon. I think she knows.
.......The spiral descends upon us, the need grows thick and I feel it ripple across the crowd. These hearts have spoken in silence for years and we acknowledge the subtle shift in energy with eyes alone. We trudge backward, forming a loose circle, cramming ourselves tightly into the open grass flanked by the blankets and the stage as the drummers work into a rhythm that pulls me between the worlds. We reach out to each other. A stranger reaches for my daughter's small hand and she grabs it without a second thought.
.......Jasmine leads the dance, nurturing her feet with the ground. She steps off, crossing left foot over right and the people train takes off. The spiral curls around quickly and I move instinctually; step in front, step out, step behind, step out, bobbing up and down as I move sideways through the dance. Jasmine winds her way around until she is inches from my face and we lock eyes for a moment before she moves on, and then I am eye to eye with the next person. They move by so quickly, it's like watching the world go by out a car window, but the landscape is nothing but eye after eye rushing past and seeing through me even as I see through them. We are one in this dance, drawing each other round like a galaxy toward an invisible center. My mind reaches into the spiral and I find myself dancing in a dozen places at once, staring into the eyes of all those with whom I have ever danced. Unhindered by time and space they are at once lit by fire and sun, young and old, all of each of them present within these immortal steps.
.......I finally spiral into the center point and turn outward so that as I dance I see the rainbow hair of all my relations twisting back toward the edges, dancing for each other and themselves. We smile to the witnesses, our shining spirits elucidating the infinite possibility that springs from intent. There is no sound in the park except vibrating skin as we wind our way back to the original circle, again seeing all of our faces, flushed and smiling this time. Raising our arms we rush toward the center, we push as tight as we can cluster together with hands held, then back out into our circle again, cheering and breathless.
.......The drummers pause for a moment before tumbling into another sensual cadence, the crowd dances alone again and I walk around and through them, placing my hand on as many of those dancing strangers as I can. They touch my hand and smile at me, acknowledging the unity we felt just then. Pure liquid bliss rolls over my skin like giant tears and I seek out my family to embrace them. We planned this spiral dance to weave community, to be the drop of water that falls into the pond and creates a ripple that travels out to the edges. I know we have succeeded, even though we can't see the ripples just yet.

.......Later, I sit at a huge round table that holds 30 of us at a Chinese buffet, surrounded by part of a tribe that has grown and changed as much as I have. I fell into this family when I was barely grown, at a Beltane festival I went to with a roommate to see what all this witch stuff was about. I embraced them all instinctively and we instantly accepted each other as intimates. They have watched me grow up, making my mistakes and fixing them, clumsily at first and later with clear-eyed conviction. This clan has seen me naked; they have seen me cry; they have seen me wearing a jester's hat and holding a chicken. My people loved me when I was a high-heeled advertising assistant and loved me when I decided I was not. They held my newborn daughter and blessed my marriage. I have done these things for them as well. They are the family I choose.
.......Community is not something that happens, it is a commitment that must constantly be created and maintained. In the beginning it was easy, love bloomed fervently among us as we laughed and played and stayed up all night talking and tasting and learning each other. Our experiences together strengthened our bond: we came together for love and loss, we danced in the cold rain and gave birth to each other and ourselves. Together we made our own definition of love and we shared it gratefully with one another. But in the last year or two things have changed, we see each other less and less and sometimes the visits feel heavy with tension. Somewhere we stopped trying. I don't exactly know what happened then. We began to judge, I can tell you that much. It seemed like everyone wanted something more, but at the same time were resistant to anything that wasn't just like the way it was when we were happy. Resentment rode in on the back of jealousy and fear as we fractured into small clusters and soon we were avoiding each other, all the while talking of how much we missed everyone.
.......I suppose I knew somewhere in me that a marriage cannot maintain the passionate and invincible feelings of new love. The marriage of a hundred people to each other is no different, and as sharp passion softened into slow comfort we have grown distant, mourning the loss of "the good old days." But life changes and it is the adapting and supporting, that ease and warmth that make it worth staying. The reward for that is a trust that only comes with enduring intimacy and with that trust comes new adventures that were never possible before. I think now that you create the good old days every day; they are the present, not the past. We looked to this dance as a chance to reweave that bond, but what we found is that it was never broken.

.......In one of the traditions I learned from, Community is its own deity and to pray to Community for guidance is a powerful thing. When I arrived at the Earth Day celebration Community grabbed my hand and guided me back even further than my history with the clan I came to rebuild that day. I was guided back along the shimmering threads of my life to the very beginning of my communal experience. Almost immediately I ran into one of the women who helped my mother give birth to me. She hugged me and offered us to visit her farm sometime so that Kevin and I could relax and make love while she played with Corinne. She is a strand I travel all too seldom, though she always appears to midwife me through another opening in my life. Later I bumped into a friend I met when we were three. We grew up together, got in trouble together. We showed our fragile selves to each other long before it was okay for awkward teenagers to have a self. She was my sister. Our daughters, the same ages we were when we met, played together and through them I reached back twenty-two years to touch my first best friend again. I cried with joy as the end of that circle came round to the beginning.
.......And what I wanted most, what I traveled 125 miles to feel came to be: the fractious pieces of my old tribe came together and touched magic again as we took turns watching each other's children and running off to play together. This healing of community was why I came to dance yet it all happened before the first drumbeat sounded.
.......I find myself back at the river. I have let go of the branch, but only to get out of the water. I stare at the cool liquid and complain of being hot and dry, but I do not move to quench myself. I cannot float if there is nothing to support me. I must find my way to the center again and look ahead because while it is the water behind me that pushes me forward it is the water in front of me that opens its arms.


.......I think time must be like the spiral dance, weaving through itself and overlapping in places, meeting eyes across the threads. Our desire echoes a desire that reverberates through to the beginning: the need to see the one in each other in order to see ourselves as a part of it. That unity does not belong to any one group, it belongs to all of us and I see it everywhere. I see that wild glint of tribe in the eyes of protesters, builders and poets. Whenever people gather together out of a passionate need to create something the spiral lifts, time and differences vanish and we are suspended there, eye to eye, perfect children of the goddess. I'll see you there.++

Maya Dexter lives in St. Louis. Her earlier Genexhibitionist essays are on the contents page.

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