Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place


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Banging my Zills

I wrote this about 17 years ago. I may have posted it on another blog but I can’t remember. When I saw this morning’s DP prompt,Jiggle, I immediately thought of this piece and pulled it out of my files. Enjoy.

Banging My Zills: An Adventure in Belly Dance  (Sometime in 1999)

“So what’s so funny about learning to belly dance?” I told a friend who laughed out loud when I told her about my plans. It was the eve of a significant birthday and I wanted to do something to make me feel young. I have always loved to watch people dance, but I was always too self-conscious to get out on the floor and dance myself, especially now that I am middle-aged and have packed on some extra “baggage in the rear.” Reactions from friends and family to the announcement of this endeavor varied from person to person, but most fell into the category of “you’ve got to be kidding!” In spite of the nay-sayers, the desire to explore the creative act of dance was too much for me to ignore, and after some research, I located an inexpensive belly dance class at a local adult night school.

On the first night of the class, I arrived before anyone else. I had struggled over what to wear. What does one wear to a belly dance class? I had already made up my mind that I was NOT under any circumstances showing my navel! I finally decided on wearing a dance leotard and sweat pants for the first class.

As I waited in the dance studio, other students began arriving. The first to enter was a petite blonde in a tight T-shirt. She strutted into the studio with considerable jiggle. A mild pang of apprehension caught me in the stomach. A few minutes later, a second student arrived, a young brunette in shorts so taut you could ricochet a coin off her butt. Great, I thought, I’m going to be surrounded by a bunch of skinny teenagers. Next, a well-groomed woman and an adolescent who I assumed was her daughter entered the room in matching designer exercise suits. At this point, I think I groaned aloud. I felt so out of place in my grungy sweat pants, and I wondered how bulgy I looked in my leotard. What was I thinking!

As panic began to work its way through my mind, I looked for a discrete way to make a speedy departure. Before I could act, a laughing, boisterous group of women entered the room. The group was comprised of several middle-aged women, a few of them women of ample endowment. I relaxed a little.

In a few minutes, the studio had filled with seventeen women of various ethnicities, sizes, ages, and attire. A woman about my age sat on the floor next to me. She had on a flowing dance skirt and several brass and silver bangles on each wrist. As we waited, I tried to imagine what the instructor would be like. I envisioned a sultry, middle-eastern woman, gracefully gliding into the room. That image evaporated when a small, muscular woman with a blond ponytail enthusiastically bounced into the studio and introduced herself as Leela, our instructor. She looked more like a Nebraskan cheerleader than a belly dancer. At first, I was a little disappointed with her bicycle shorts and tank top, but after she took care of some registration details with the class, she reached into a plastic grocery bag and pulled out a silk scarf with a leopard-skin pattern covered with hundreds of small gold beads and coins. The coins loudly jingled as she tied the scarf around her hips. Immediately, the cheerleader was gone and woman of elegance and gracefulness stood before us.

She quickly called the class to order, punched a button on her cassette player, and began a series of slow belly dance moves designed to warm us up. We did some head slides and snake arms (ala I Dream of Jeannie), rib circles and belly rolls (neither of these having anything to do with barbecues or bakeries), and some hip bumps and shimmies, all to the slow, rhythmic beat of a middle-eastern drum.

As a result of my having studied and practiced tai chi chuan for many years, I was very adept at imitating the instructor’s movements. In spite of this, I felt uncomfortable watching my moving image in the mirror. I found myself comparing my movements to those of my classmates.

Then I noticed something. Most of the younger, more athletic women had pained grimaces on their faces as they struggled to follow the instructor’s movements. One of them stopped the movements altogether and muttered “I can’t do this!” Then I looked over at the older, more ample women. A few obviously had experience with the movements but the rest struggled as the others did, trying to complete the movements with ease and precision. Yet all of them had smiles on their faces, laughing and joking with each other when they fell out of time with the music or when their bodies completed a movement in some outlandish manner. They didn’t seem bothered by the fact that they were not doing the movements “perfectly.” They seemed in tune with their bodies. They were having fun.

After the warm-ups Leela went over the plan for the class and announced that next week we could purchase our zills and have them fitted. “You don’t want to go losing a zill when you bang them in front of an audience, ” she quipped. Zills? Whatever they are, I’m sure not going to bang MINE in front of anybody! The woman with the bangles seated next to me, noting my quizzical look, leaned over and whispered: “Zills– finger cymbals. It’s great when we all practice then together. What a racket we make!”

The instructor continued. “I’ll be taking orders next week for hip scarves for anyone who wants to buy one. In the meantime I have a few here that you can borrow for today.” I hesitated for a moment, but then walked over to the plastic bag with a few of my classmates. There were a variety of scarves: purple silks with gold coins, green with iridescent bugle beads, turquoise triangles with sequins. I selected a simple black silk scarf with hundreds of silver beads and coins. I watched how the others tied theirs on and followed suit. Then I looked in the mirror and smiled. I did a brief hip shimmy. The silver coins made a pleasant jingle. The brunette in the tight shorts said, “That looks great on you.” She turned to the instructor. “I’d like to place an order for one like hers.” I did another shimmy and couple of hip bumps. The bangled woman chirped: “Honey, you oughta have those hips registered as lethal weapons!”

Leela reconvened the group to teach us some basic moves for a routine that we would be learning during the rest of the course. After teaching us a basic walk, she demonstrated a simple spin and urged us to follow along: “Keep your hands open! Drop your shoulders! Keep your eyes fixed on a point in the room so you don’t get dizzy.” I slowly began turning in place. I reached out my arms and unclenched by fists. As I picked up speed, I felt like I was flying through the air. My whole body relaxed and I melted into the music.

Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my chest and I almost lost balance.

“I am SO sorry!” exclaimed the woman next to me. She had hit me in the chest with one of her outstretched, bangle-encrusted arms. “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” I replied, rubbing the spot where she had clobbered me.

“You’re going to have a bruise, though. This sort of thing happens sometimes. You have to develop a sense of humor about it. Your spin was really great, though. I’m sorry I messed it up.”

“Thanks, it’s okay.”

The instructor walked us through a few cool down exercises and then dismissed class. As I gathered my things, the bangled woman said: “Oh, by the way, my name is Rosie. Will you be in class next week?”

“Hi, Rosie. My name is Lori,” and to my surprise I responded enthusiastically, “Yes, I’ll be in class next week.”

“Great, Lori, see you then,” she called as she walked out the door.

Before I untied my borrowed hip scarf, I looked once more in the mirror , shimmied, and smiled.

ljgloyd (c) 2000, 2006, 2017

Image:  digital manipulation of found images, 2013


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Finally, A Useful Insight: AW Check-In Week 7

imageI admit I was harsh last week — and most of the previous weeks — in my check-in(s).   This week, though,  I must congratulate the author for providing some material that has given me a useful insight.  In fact, I have to admit that she may have changed the course of my creative endeavors.

The theme of chapter 7 is “recovering a sense of connection,”  with the goal of “excavating areas of genuine creative interest as you connect with your personal dreams.”   The way  one connects with the inner creative self is doing the morning pages and going on artist’s dates.  This gets one past the obstacles that so treacherously cause one to trip.

I do find that writing the morning pages the first thing after waking helps me to tap into some sources of unconscious inspiration.  One of the tasks in this chapter was to create an “autobiographical collage”.  I did a collage of found images early in the week shortly after reading the chapter.  It depicts a hand rising from a cave reaching towards the sky.   This illustrates my unconscious material coming to light.

The author also discusses two obstacles in connecting to inspiration and making subsequent creative output:  perfectionism and jealousy.   Although I feel compelled to apply my best efforts to any undertaking, there is a freedom in knowing I can never be perfect.  There is no perfect writing or art piece I can create so I might as well just relax and enjoy the process.  Similarly, trying to outshine another creative is a manifestation of jealousy.   I may strive to create in a particular genre or medium I don’t really enjoy or excel because I want to be like some other writer or artist.

So what is the useful insight for me?  I don’t really enjoy the novel writing process; I’m just jealous of the celebrity, great or small, that being a novelist may garner for fifteen minutes.  I would much rather continue doing what I’ve always done: blogging, writing poems, essays and the occasional short story, and maybe arting about things that interest me.  Coming into this awareness, I am released from the tyranny of perfecting a genre I don’t enjoy.  But who knows?  Maybe that release will end up allowing me to create something truly spectacular.

In other words, I am learning to enjoy the ride towards an unknown destination.

ljg 2017

 

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On a Date with a Bunch of Poets

About twenty years ago, Bill Moyers had a series on PBS called Language of Life.  The series showcased poets from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds.  When I first viewed this series so many years ago, I discovered that poetry was meant to be heard — and even watched– not merely read.   I was able to find this series recently on DVD.  My artist’s date this week was to binge-watch this series again while home recovering from a bad cold.  Unfortunately, there are not many clips on YouTube from this series.  Fortunately, though, one clip I did find is of the late poet Sekou Sundiata performing his lyrical and powerful poem “Blink Your Eyes”.    I want to share this poem with you.  Hopefully you can hear what I hear and enjoy it:


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I’ve Got Rhythm. No, Seriously!

Today’s prompt is Rhythmic. The lightbulb just came on: now I know why I like both drumming and poetry. They’ve got rhythm and so do I.

The Poetry of Drums

Doum teka teka doum tek ka
Doum teka teka doum tek ka
Not gonna worry ’bout that rhyme
Doum teka teka doum tek ka
Doum teka teka doum tek ka
It’s the rhythm, it’s the rhythm
I’m gonna take as mine.
Doum teka teka doum tek ka
Doum teka teka doum.

 

Ljgloyd (c)


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The Cosmic Santa Claus: AW Check-In, Week 6

For me, to live abundantly has more to do with enjoying the non-tangibles that provide a quality of life than it does money or things. Not so for the author. In chapter 6 she devotes several pages on how to enjoy luxurious living and acquiring money. She even draws God into the equation. Just ask the universe for whatever you want and you will get it. Want that all-expense paid trip to Europe? Done. Want to blow off the day job so you can go and pursue your art form? God’s got you covered.

Here is what I believe about abundant living: yes, God cares. He provides all my needs. He even delights in giving me my desires. But he will not give me anything that is not ultimately for my good, or conflict with what I truly need. God is not some sort of cosmic Santa Claus. He is more interested in providing me with peace, love, and wisdom than things. The day job IS his means of providing for my needs. Abundant living is being content in whatever state I find myself and being thankful for it — not whether I should buy myself fresh raspberries in the winter just because I deserve the self-pampering.

For me this chapter was a waste of time. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next six if they all are like this one.