After more than two years, things are starting to open up. The children have been back to school for a while but now masks are not required. Plane travel is soaring and there are crowds at the PDX Art Museum, where masks are still required-thank goodness! But while I’ve not been tempted by the few tango opportunities to appear so far, that’s changing too. I’m thinking it’s time to get the teaching dvds out to remind myself of whatever I may have forgotten, especially with respect to leading. Alex’s Wednesday mid-day practica has started but I’m not free until after Easter. Perhaps the Saturday one or the Tuesday evening opportunity. I’m not feeling ready for a full on milonga quite yet, especially since there’s yet another new variant popping numbers up again. I do hope we’re at the tail end of this long, long Tango Fast! Nevertheless, I reenter with caution.
Yesterday t was about trusting the horse on a very narrow ledge on the side of the mountain–I did–we survived–Today it was about trusting the cramp-ons! Ques es esto! They are spokey metal soles yu tie onto your hiking shoes so u can walk on the glacier ice! Wow. The metal spikes dig into the ice to keep u stable – the keep u from slipping off the edge and falling down, down, down into the blue fiord of Patagonian ice. Not a good idea–SO–trust the cramp-ons. Walk flat footed, like marching, digging into the ice. Walking uphill–make ur feet like a duck. Walking downhill, keep your knees bent and feet parallel–but apart–so the crampons don’t touch each other. Crossing a slope of ice-keep feet pointed in opposite directions. Then–trust the crampons–it’s a bit like marching. The reward after getting all the way down to the blue pools–very scary–but our amazing guides encouraged me: You can do it! The reward was getting to stand in a blue glacier ice cave. AMAZING-FANTASTICO!!! WOWZAH!!
And arriving back at the fancy hotel in Charlton, I reward myself with a little sit in a warm jacuzzi and a great massage. I like being retired! Mucho gusto! Muchas gracias, mis querios hijos! Te amo!
It was 2005 and I was serving in a new parish in Beavercreek, OR, outside of Oregon City. My youngest daughter was staying with me at the parsonage following graduation from Pacific University as she waited to leave for her Fulbright Scholar appointment: a year in Argentina. Hope was a dance minor in college, a Spanish major. One day she announced: “Mom, we should go take Argentine Tango lessons.” Always up for any kind of dance, I said, “OK! If you find a place to go, I’ll come along!” Our first classes were with Steven Payne and Amy PK. Hope soon left for Argentina, but I stayed with tango, found my forever teacher in Alex Krebs, started visiting Argentina as soon and as often as I could and now can’t wait to return again to visit wonderful friends and teachers who’ll forever remain in my heart. But first, I’m most eager (like hundreds of dancers) for the moment when it’s truly safe to open Portland milonga venues once again.
At a certain point in the journey one wonders what the denouement will look like, feel like . . . and whether that will make any difference at all in the end. How will this particular life, my life, resolve? How will all the threads and chapters and diversions play out or come together? Or will they? Is it possible to choose one’s own denouement after all? I start with this question of choice. Of course, there is always choice. This fundamental and critical reality of human existence -of human life- is my daily reminder to Liam, just arrived at age 6. Never a stronger willed child challenged his grandmother at nearly every turn. It’s almost like a daily fencing match where I only make points when I manage to catch him off guard and make him laugh. As when he screws up his face in anger over some frivolity of the moment and I say with a smile, “Hope you don’t freeze that way!” His angry face melts into a smile and a twinkle flashes from his eyes as his meet mine and I smile, “Gotcha!”
So today I fell into a sad several hours of depression. Trying to climb out I tuned into You Tube tango performances by Chicho, Bruno, El Chino Necci and others I enjoy. The effect was mixed with moments of almost joy to moments of deep longing to return to the dance floor after nearly five months away. Some lucky souls live with their favorite dance partner! I want to feel badly towards them but instead I just wish I were them. Oh how I miss the dance! Some get a bit of joy and a sense of the milonga from big virtual milonga events. Not me. It just makes me more lonely. Lonely for tango dancing and for a return to Buenos Aires, the heartland and home of so many dear friends. Mi Buenos Aires querido . . .
May fourth is both my son and grandson’s birthdays. I have one son, Steven and he’s 57 today. Emerson, my daughter Thea’s boy, has reached the auspicious age of 12. It’s May fourth 2020 and I’ve been sheltering in family members’ homes for the last nine weeks. I’m painfully homesick and missing the freedom of independent living I used to take for granted. The news today suggests we are not in these United States any where near the end of danger of this pandemic. In fact, the news suggests things will probably get worse soon with more infections and more suffering and more death upon deaths. So far 65,000 souls living in our country have died from Covid-19 virus. Some say maybe 100,000 will have perished before it’s over and a cure is in hand and available. So today I am grieving the loss of my independent life, the separation from home and familiarity of personal space and objects, friends, grandbabies, driving my own car, driving my daily life without barriers. But I am also pondering Mary Oliver’s question: “What will I do with my one wild and precious life?” I suppose I am also considering what I have already done, in that I am now 77 and classified in this health crisis as in a vulnerable group because of my 77 years. One can do a lot in 77 years. I have born and raised eight children, grandmothered 13 grandchildren, played tennis well though not expertly, earned a BA and MDiv, taught in public schools for five years, served five different churches as pastor and/or teacher, been a leader in liturgical dance, wrote and delivered a lot of sermons, taught a lot of religion and dance classes, acted in many plays, become a very good Argentine Tango dancer, traveled five times to Argentina, experienced Japan, Switzerland, France, Germany, Mexico. Led eight mission trips to Mexican border towns to build 8 small houses for poor families, led one mission trip to minister to orphans in Mexico, cultivated many long friendships, explored creative writing Japanese brush calligraphy, once made a different candle for each member of my family, and lived alone essentially and happily for the last 20 yrs. Should I contract this deadly virus and expire, I will have done okay I guess. But I am not ready to give up this life that I love. In fact I should I get another couple decades to dance on, I’d be so blessed and fortunate indeed. And there is this book . . . .this dance partner…..that pie…..these seeds……that child….that friend……that place…..that challenge…..that role- -so much more . . . .
It’s April 8 and today I read that Dr. Fauci, the country’s lead coronavirus expert, says we should keep washing our hands vigorously and frequently as we return to normal–whenever that happens is unclear. But he also says–we should never go back to shaking hands! This does not bode well for tango dancers, my friends. We not only shake hands but hold them…..for long periods of time. And not only hands but whole bodies, albeit gingerly and gently as our chests connect and our faces too sometimes. The reality of the good doctor’s statement is just sinking in. Will we dance with gloves and masks? Will the tango studios close altogether? Hmmm. Then I remember a special quotation: ” Life is what happens on the dance floor. Everything else is just waiting.” So I breathe deeply as I know all the tango dancers around the world are doing, and resolve to wait . . . for as long as it takes.
Yes, some researchers and medical types may have had advance clues but not the whole picture of what its like now or what it’s becoming. The numbers are rising each day of both those affected and those killed by this Covid19 plague. The projected numbers are chilling as is the reality that we’ve not yet reached the high point of the upward curve. After days and days of non-stop virus news, anxiety levels are up most everywhere and threaten to go off the charts and into the panic zone as close family or friends report being infected. That’s where I am tonight. Personally, I’m feelin fine and sheltering in place but my niece is not. She’s been locked up in her bedroom for over a week. A doctor herself, she reports nearing the point of either getting better or much worse. Her anxiety and that of her husband and two children is intense. She didn’t see this coming either. The TV keeps saying we’re all in this together, and we are; but some are in deeper than others.
Today I am still in Palm Springs, now hold up in a backyard casita, trying to stay safe. Think studio apartment but a very nice one. I’m lucky and grateful to be so blessed. I have access to a lovely backyard with pool here in the desert and just spent an hour sitting outside as the sun lifted higher and higher into the sky and warmed my chilly morning bones. This is my morning prayer time. It now takes a full hour to get through all the prayers I need to lift in these days, double the time I needed three weeks ago. Today all my Argentina people came onto my list. Out of curiosity, I counted17 in all. I miss them, some more than others of course, but I miss them. One at a time over five different trips, they welcomed me, lifted me up, embraced me with their open Argentinian arms and hearts and took me into their lives; took me to backyard family asados, some going on for whole afternoons and half the evening. They took me to visit their families–to their mothers’ and uncles’ homes. There I was greeted, embraced, celebrated and fed very, very well. They pulled out their hidden stash of homemade wines and spirits to go with the roasted fatted lamb and piles of homemade empanadas. They let down their hair and told me stories and laughed freely with me. They made an asado right there on the small apartment floor using a portable barbecue because the rain was pouring outside. They bought ten times the meat we needed because they wanted to treat me like the beloved one they’d made me into. They took me to the countryside on the back of their motorcycle and gave me a holiday with friends and amazing homemade pizza baked on the asado grill. They joined me on my birthday and took me dancing, unlocking a crucial secret about our beloved dance: even the professionals dance their own, unique dance. They kept me out all night and rode me home on the motor through the streets of Buenos Aires as the sun began to come up once more. They confided in me and invited my council. They let me know that riding on their motor was a privilege reserved for precious few. They opened their homes, created space for me, sheltered and fed me, washed my clothes, took me along with them to their classes where they invited me to share and made me a part of the family, a part of their lives, a part of their country, which is now my country. How I miss you, my beloved Argentina.
I’m sheltering in place at my daughter’s home in Palm Springs, unable to get back home. Happily there’s Alexa who, when asked, will shuffle and play songs from a favorite tango band-Otros Ailes. “Alexa, play Otros Aires band,” I say loud and clear. The music fills the air and at once my spirit lifts, then my feet and the dancing begins. No worries that I have no partner here, only two small dogs I’m watching until my daughter returns. I dance anyway, as I have since I was very young. I dance because doing so makes me happy, invites me to be in cinc with the music, invites me to smile and just be. Plus, I’m moving and not just sitting. My daughter Hope has a sign on her kitchen wall: “This Kitchen is for dancing.” Well done, Hope! I raised you right!