It has always been an interest of mine to consider the nuances involved in my encounters with others, those that are nourishing and even those that are more distasteful for some reason. In recent years, my interest has broadened to include encounters with animals, nature, books, movies and now, online conversations with people who I treasure yet may never meet.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Katie and Dancer: A Fanciful Short Story

   Situated from the ocean by a mere stone’s throw, St. Lucia was surrounded on its other three sides by a range of small hills. It sat in a valley, lush with good soil and pasture, enabling the villagers to maintain a high degree of self-sufficiency.
St. Lucia was a fascinating place, with many stores of handcrafted goods, home-made foodstuffs and a fresh catches-of-the-day market down near the ocean. One aspect, though, made this village more interesting than others.  As one of the most colorfully dressed women in the village, Katie caught the eyes of most visitors. When she was observed while teaching, however, many became quite spellbound; wearing colorful, flowing skirts, her movements around the children conjured up visions of butterflies and birds in flight and, for some, even such woodland folk as faeries at play.
    When she was a child, Katie excelled at every task that was put before her. She completed her classes in language and counting, and even the everyday chores with such ease.  This gave her extra time to do what she really wanted to do: explore the nearby beaches. Katie loved the salty, vibrant smell of the ocean and would spend most of her free time combing the beach. She had quite a collection of shells and interesting artifacts that the tides had left upon the shore.
   One test-taking day, little Katie completed her tests quickly and thus, had almost the whole day to explore. It happened to be a very sunny day; a perfect day for a swim, she thought, hurrying towards the beach. Kicking off her shoes, Katie dove into the surf and came up laughing, the waves tumbling her about. Standing still for a moment, she let the waves slap and knock her about until she caught the ocean’s cadence. Swimming out a bit farther, she turned into an oncoming wave and, instead of tumbling under, Katie flew forward on top of the wave all the way into shore, where it steadily petered out. Shaking out her hair and laughing in unabashed joy, she walked back into the ocean for more. 
  It was while observing the antics of some sea birds that Katie experienced a moment of epiphany. The birds were flying down to the tops of the waves then zipping back up into the sky, over and over. Chortling in glee, she pondered: They seem to be playing with the waves!  Do these birds feel as wonderful as I do when I’m surfing in the waves?  I wonder; who else plays together with such fun?
   Katie looked around then, taking notice of the feel of the ocean’s breezes on her cheeks and how the ends of her hair were lifted up and blown from side to side, in concert with the wind. As she gazed up at the trees that stood near the edge of this beach, she thought, the trees are playing in the wind, too. Katie jumped up, held out her arms and began to move, mirroring the way the tree limbs would dip down, swirl and fly up as the wind caught the leaves from different directions. Then she burst out laughing and twirled around and around, kicking up the sand and moving with the waves, the birds, the trees and the wind. How did I miss seeing this before? I feel so free!
   Some kind of flying creature, she thought; perhaps a tiny fast-moving bird. When the sparkling light began to move closer, however, and then fluttered as if to land upon her raised knee, Katie’s breath caught.  It’s a beautiful woodland faerie; I wondered if they were real!
   Mouth agape, watching the lightly swirling yellows blend as the faerie settled more securely on her knee, Katie heard, as a whisper in her mind, Yes, we are real to those who see. I am here as a guide. Come, will you take a walk with me?
   Without any consideration, Katie stood up and, though on shaky legs, began to follow the faerie on a seemingly haphazard path through the woods that soon began to wind its way up. She had never ventured this far up into the woods before. It’s greener in the woods and a bit cooler, Katie thought as they climbed higher. Just before reaching the top of a ridge, the faerie settled onto a large rock in a clearing that overlooked a small waterfall.
   Katie turned around and around; she was enthralled. I can see everywhere; the beach and my village down below, everyone scurrying around; and the forests all around us. Everywhere is magnificently alive! The faerie sat quietly, recognizing Katie’s need to take in all the wondrous views; to experience her newly recognized innate love and respect for all living things. When sated by her wonder, Katie turned expectantly towards the faerie and sat down upon a rock beside the stream: I didn’t know how marvelous it would feel, to see so far and wide.  
   Fluttering towards the branch of a small bush nearer to Katie, the faerie shared her message: I came because you called to me. ‘Dance’ is the term that forest and beach creatures use to describe their interactions with each other. I am called ‘Dancer’ because the movements of all other creatures call my spirit into dance. Your movements in concert with the dance of the birds with the waves and the trees with the wind called me to you. It is here that you will more fully be able to understand my meaning. Take a moment; see around you.
   Unable to contain her excitement, Katie jumped back up, clapping her hands and twirling around and around. “I’m dancing!” she shouted out loud, and her body responded with no hesitant restraint. She ran to the branches of a nearby tree, running her hands through the wind-tossed leaves, turning around and around. She twirled and danced on towards other trees, running her hands through every bush, whether full-leafed or scraggly.
   While twirling about in a circle, a flicker of light caught her eye and she realized that Dancer was also flitting about, moving in sequence with her. Katie dipped and swirled, touching leaves and branches as she went. Every movement that she made, Dancer did also. “We are dancing together!” Katie shouted in joy.
   After another whirl of dancing around the clearing, Katie dropped down onto the nearest rock to catch her breath and watch the birds, butterflies, the bees, rabbits and squirrels dance amongst the trees and bushes.
   Dancer settled next to her. Here is the reason that I’ve brought you here. You, too, are a dancer. Dance is in your soul and has now been called forth into expression. You will find your way into a Purpose as you move forward in life. From this day forth, every aspect of life will be seen by you as a dance and, by your example, you shall teach this to others.
   Astounded at first, Katie gazed at Dancer before nodding. I know, Dancer. Everything becomes more alive to me when I move in a dance. With that acknowledgement, Dancer began a fluttering kind of exaggerated movement and, hovering before Katie, said: If you call me, I will come. Then, with a final flicker of her wings, Dancer disappeared.
   This is the story that Katie tells to those who are interested enough to listen. Some dismiss her, stating that she is merely an unimportant dance teacher. Some tend to look with disdain at her adult classes, whispering out loud, "This class is simply a waste of good time; there are more important things to be taught."
   When Katie came down out of the forest that day, she began to observe life with new eyes. As everyone went about their daily pursuits, she saw their movements as dance. “We all dance,” she tells her adult and children’s classes as she takes them on outings to observe villagers at their work. “Plowing a field, harvesting a crop, hammering a nail, cooking a meal, washing the clothes, counting out money and even diapering a baby are done with movement. All movement is dance; and it can be freeing to your soul to see your movements as dance instead of mere work. Those who can see this will find that their work becomes more enjoyable.”  
   Katie is never concerned with those who criticize or look at her with disdain. They do not see she reminds herself; and, truthfully, her lack of concern is because she is attuned more to her enjoyment of freedom, the kind that she feels inside her soul. Katie still takes many walks up to the clearing, pausing often to rest by the waterfall and marvel at the many instances of dance that occur in the forest around her. Even those creatures whose purpose is to allow others to eat them for sustenance are engaged in a dance, Katie thought to herself one day, watching a wren swoop down to grab a caterpillar. Life is – just so.
   As her body aged, Katie continued to dance and teach her classes. On one recent hike up into the woods, she sat on a favorite rock and mused: Perhaps I shall continue to dance, even beyond the time that my body is laid down to rest forever. This thought brought Katie back up on her feet, twirling around and bumping her hips up against a nearby tree. “Of course I shall,” she said aloud. “Dance is in my soul.”