Indigenize!

Rekindle Your Wild Joy and sense of deep Belonging through spiritual ecopsychology and the arts, incl. bioregional awareness, animistic perspectives, strategies for simple living, & low/no-tech DIY fun.

Leading a Contra Dance Role-Swapping Workshop June 22, 2017

Filed under: Arts,Dance — BrujaHa @ 10:25 am
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I dance both roles buttons

 

Contra dancers, if you’ve ever been curious about dancing the other gender role, I have published a new article with co-author Erik Erhardt about how to optimally pull it off.

We of course offer tips for smooth swapping points and the like, yet our main point is the “prime directive” of keeping neighbors, shadows, and other dancers in the line comfortable with this kind of play so that acceptance will grow among participants and non-participants alike, thereby ensuring ongoing fun for all. Here’s the beginning:

Leading a Contra Dance Role-Swapping Workshop.
CDSS NEWS (Summer 2017, pp.10-11 with fuller text online)

Introduction

This article offers concrete “hows” for experiencing even more joys in contra dance. A workshop that encourages dancers to play in both dance roles is a fun opportunity that also helps evolve the skill of
your dancers. While swapping roles initially seems like an advanced skill, it is often learned quickly and improves a person’s ability to dance well in either role.

We first provide swapping principles. In the online version of this article, we provide a selection of swap
points in three scenarios, then we offer a workshop outline that you can use, based on the “Gender Shenanigans” workshop we gave at Stellar Days and Nights dance camp held in the mountains of Colorado in February 2015.

While this type of workshop works well as part of a weekend dance camp with most dancers in “traditional” dance roles, small doses have proven to be popular at local dances, too.

Swapping principles

It can be very fun to cultivate the ability to be “ambidancetrous”; that is, to be able to dance either role and even to switch roles multiple times during a given dance.

When considering role swapping, the first thought that arises might be the simple puzzle of body mechanics in the various moves. But first and foremost in community dancing is actually the need for consideration for good dance etiquette. Etiquette is the art of making someone else feel comfortable, and this includes not only obtaining consent from your partner, but also being aware of the expectations of the entire dance line.

Always dance with respect for your neighbors. It is our observation that the essence of truly excellent dancing isn’t making fancy moves, but matching the needs and energy of each person met. Just as the elderly or disabled may need shorter, gentler swings, attention and courtesy must be given to each person encountered when swapping. Be in the right place on time for the next move, and confidently project to approaching dancers, particularly beginners, which role you’re dancing. This can be done by making eye contact, clearly offering the appropriate hand, and additionally saying “I’m the gent/lady” if helpful. If you’re swapping, you shoulder extra responsibility for dance excellence. If we follow this “prime directive” of respecting the line, role swapping will continue to grow in acceptance and popularity, even among those with little desire to do it themselves. …

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Link to the full article, including a list of swappalicious moves and a three-part workshop you can try out with your own local dancers:  Leading a Contra Dance Role-Swapping Workshop

Enjoy! Please let us know your thoughts by posting in the Comments below. Also, if you try the workshop, let us know how it works out for you. It’s through many voices that a community is made.

(NOTE: The very useful “What’s Your Preference? I Dance Both Roles” buttons illustrated at the top of this page are made by Mark Galipeau for the San Francisco Bay Queer Contra Dance (now “Circle Left”), one nexus of the gender-free dance movement. For minimal cost, you can order the buttons for distribution. I’m one of many who has handed out dozens of them to all who want one.)

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Square Dance in the Rural West: An Oral History July 26, 2016

Don & Fay promenade

Check out my new article in the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) online journal. It’s based on interviews with my elders, who can really tell a story, and contains small photos of those faboo 1950s dance outfits.

Best of all is getting to witness how community dance like square dance or contra dance forges community.

*

“Square dancing hit its heyday in the far west during the 1950s, and many elder members of my family were heavily involved in it. Hank Fields, my dad, was a popular square dance caller long before I was born. I follow lightly in his footsteps as a contra dance caller today; thus my interest in what the dance scene had been like for him. What are the similarities and differences with dance today? And what got so many people so passionately interested in square dancing back then?

“At a Fields/Glascock “inlaws & outlaws” family reunion held on my cousin’s ranch in rural Idaho during the summer of 2003, I spoke with a number of older folks who had been active in the square dance scene back in the 1950s, asking about their experiences.”

*

 To read the whole thing, go to:

CD+S Online, vol.1

Or get directly to my article itself

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 I hope you like it! Please leave comments here.

 

Anthropology of Consciousness July 5, 2016

“Huge thank you to Tina Fields the 2016 SAC keynote address for her talk, ‘I am He as You are He as You are Me, and We are All Together’ — Fostering Ecopsychological Relationship with Place.  Here is a snippet from an interview at Naropa University in 2012 on culture, consciousness, and conditioned assumptions about reality.”

That was reblogged from the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness (SAC)’s Open Access blog. It was a great honor to serve as their Keynote speaker.

If you are interested in exploring issues of consciousness with a group of very smart, kind interdisciplinary thinkers who look at wild topics with both rigor and open-minded humor, SAC may be the group for you.

The interview they spoke of follows below. I’m posting it here for the first time on my own blog (what a concept!) Perhaps you’ll like it too.

Source: SAC in 2016

 

What my students learned this semester December 6, 2015

Unknown

Start paying attention

The difference between me and you (or anything, for that matter)

is the thought that creates that reality.

 

I need to be radical in my love, my thoughts, my actions, my acceptance and surrender – to get to the root,

the seat of life and growth, which is the seat of quintessence.

That’s where i want to be.

 

[What I’ve learned has been] both extremely helpful and devastating:

How unconscious most humans are, but that it can change!

I uncovered some of my own self-defenses that keep me from action.

The application of psychoanalytical theories to understand the great complexity of our environmental situation.

I developed more clarity and compassion, for myself and others

Context for the madness

A lot less anger

At once, I feel the urgency to act and the need to be patient and not act forcefully

To learn to live with and through the earth, not just on her

Gratitude that I owe to my family

 

Humans’ connection with nature

A sense of oneness

Enmeshment within the natural world

Being an integral part of the macro interdependent-system that feels itself, knows itself, and heals itself

Ecological identity

This has forever changed my life

 

I look at all that is around me a little differently now.

Knowing it is all of the earth, and perhaps more importantly that it will go back to the earth, changes the way I operate in my days.

 

This sense was deepened and became more embodied

An exchange in breath: as the plant was breathing out, I was breathing in

Increase my awareness and widen my perception

Eventually feeling the reciprocal awareness of nature

How incredible these realizations have been for me.

 

Awakening has been the most beautiful process I’ve ever endured.

Thank you Earth!

Healing source

Never ending story

 

These are the truths that have become my mantras from being absorbed in ecopsychological concepts.

These are incredible supports that I rely on when feeling distressed, confused, and at times, hopeless.

 

I will continue to live mindfully in respect to nature.

Being conscious about what I purchase, what I waste, how and what I eat etc.

“No matter how big you get, don’t forget to take out your own trash.”

 

So grateful to walk this path with you

and share what I can with whoever will listen.

A challenging(!), engaging, deepening, fulfilling and respectful round of studies

I’m so grateful to be receiving wisdom

Like candy for my soul.

 

I bow out to a transformative journey

I and the moon bow in thanks

Your wisdom and beautiful hearts

 

Just bloom.

 

*********************************************

These words are from first-year students’ final self-reflections on their learning in my Ecopsychology class, part of Naropa University’s M.A. program in Ecopsychology, early December 2015

collated into a poem by professor Tina Fields

I composed this as a gift back to them, a lens on what happens in this program, and a reflection for teachers to turn to when times at work get rough. To help us remember that what we do matters.

Students whose words are in here: Katie Poinier, Thompson Bishop, Melanie Gajewski, Colleen Kirkpatrick,  Karen Delahunty, Lauren Mangion, Anne Gordon, Sierra Robinson, Erika Dearen, Bekah Turner, Tessa Stuart and Jakob Ledbetter.

I am extraordinarily fortunate as a teacher, so often getting to feel awe at the depth of my students’ thoughtful engagement with their learning, their passionate desire to care for the planet, and most of all, their souls.

-*-

 

 

 

Fall Has Sprung! contradance May 3, 2013

Filed under: Arts,Dance — BrujaHa @ 7:34 am
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I had a blast calling at the “Fall Has Sprung” contra dance fest in Grass Valley, California.  Held every year in early November, this dance runs 12 hours long, from noon till midnight!

There’s potluck food and comfy bleacher chairs available the entire time, so participants can dance some, have a snack or meal, rest, dance more, go outside and schmooze a bit, do a community chore like taking out some garbage, drink some water, then dance a whole lot more.  Dance, rinse, repeat.

It is a super fun event that I’ve enjoyed going to several times as a dancer, and it was an honor and a delight to be invited to call for it this year.

What a luscious combo: calling 1/3 of the day with amazing bands, and getting to dance the other 2/3 to other amazing bands and great callers, for and with a hall full of zesty dancers.

This year, the bands were Hot Cider, KGB, and Raz de Marée, a.k.a. Tidal Wave, and the callers were Joyce Miller, Frannie Marr, and me.  Many thanks to the Foothills Country Dance Society and their stellar organizers, Eric Engels and Lisa Frankel.

This particular dance you’ll see in the video is “Square Affair” by Becky Hill. It is driven by music played by KGB, a  fabulous Seattle band consisting of Julie King, Claude Ginsburg and Dave Bartley. I found them to be not only breathtakingly good musicians, but also super easy to work with.

Video by dancer John Seto.   Music by KGB.   Calling by Tina Fields.

 

Perpetual e-Motion contras January 3, 2013

Filed under: Announcements,Arts,Dance — BrujaHa @ 11:17 am
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If you love wild contra dancing, the Front Range of Colorado is the place to be this weekend. Perpetual eMotion will play Fri, Sat and Sunday. They are two guys who sound like many more, fusing old traditional tunes with electronic techno looping. Their music makes for dancing that is both rocking and super trance inducing.

I’m calling with them on Friday eve at Boulder’s fabulous Avalon Ballroom – and per the dance organizer’s request, I’ll have my disco ball in tow.

The dance runs 8-11 pm, with a beginner’s lesson/semi-beginners’ refresher course at 7. (If you’ve not contradanced much or at all, do come: you can learn the basic moves in that time and have a great evening. But please make sure to attend the lesson. It’s tough for everyone if you just try to jump in without it. Thanks!)

Two of my favorite callers in the area will call the other dances: Ed Hall in Fort Collins on Saturday, and Rick Smith in Denver on Sunday – and that one will also have ice cream. How good does it get? Hope to see you rollicking out at one or more!

Image

 

Learning from Our Elders: Teacher Trees December 2, 2012

american-linden-pic by pubs intl,ltd

American Linden tree.
(Img: Pubs Int’l, ltd.)

 

“A beautiful essay on deep listening…to trees.”  ~ Jamie K. Reaser, Courting the Wild series co-editor (with whom, by the way, it was a pleasure to work). She has made the essay available for free now via a link on the publisher’s website.

‘…The maple advised, “Be like the linden tree. It bends and bends in every wind, yet its roots go down deep, deep, deep.”…’ ~ Tina Fields

That line, which Jamie chose to highlight, is the core of the story. That is the advice a maple tree gave me when I was nine years old, and I’ve never forgotten it.


Click here to read Learning From Our Elders at Hiraeth Press,

or just read it on this page, immediately below.

I hope you enjoy it.

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LEARNING FROM OUR ELDERS: 

TEACHER TREES

by Tina Fields

Featured in Courting the Wild: Love Affairs with the Land, ed. Jamie K. Reaser, Hiraeth Press.

*

I was con­sid­ered a weird kid. When I was nine, my frizzy, dark auburn hair was far from the stylish straight-and-​​blonde. I didn’t care what my clothes looked like or whether they even matched, let alone what label adorned them. I was far from ath­letic. I wore glasses. I used big words, and under­stood their mean­ings. While other kids gos­siped and invented small tor­tures for fun, I read, drew, and day­dreamed. As an only child, I was poorly versed in mind games, and usu­ally lost out long before I even real­ized the teasing had begun. When I grew up, I wanted to be a philoso­pher and a witch.

All of this added up to the bleak reality that I didn’t have many friends. Most of the time that was actu­ally fine, as I enjoyed the freedom that came with soli­tude. Fortunately, I found myself to be pretty good com­pany. But there were also chal­lenges. Like many only chil­dren, I didn’t need to seek accep­tance through pack con­for­mity. (I knew it was a lost cause.) However, childrens’ cruelty toward the introverted social outcast can be brutal, and there were times when even my closest friends would turn on me in an attempt to keep their ten­uous places in the school­yard pecking order. When pro­voked, I wouldn’t fight with them; instead, this taunting made me turn even more soli­tary. The people-cen­tered life felt hard, and I often turned to the more-​​than human world for com­pan­ion­ship.

In the park across the street from my child­hood home, a pine and a maple wel­comed my dogs and me with open, low branches. The pine tree was enor­mous. I’d climb the rungs of its ladder self, rising as high as I could go, and cling to its wide but flex­ible trunk as the wind swayed us back and forth. It felt ecstatic to ride the wind like that, espe­cially in a high storm. Upon my descent, I’d be cov­ered with pitch and pitch-​​glued pine nee­dles. My poor mother tried to freeze the hard­ened gluey gunk out of my hair and clothes with ice, only to give up in dis­gust time and time again, and hack it out of my lion’s mane with scis­sors. I endured all this with equa­nimity, as my tree time made me feel com­pletely wild and at peace. The maple was smaller than the pine and oozed no pitch, so it was my most fre­quent tree-​​of-​​choice. However, it was also harder to scale, so I’d only go as high as its second branch. This was a com­fort­able branch; just the right shape for me. I could sit upon it for hours, and I would, too, espe­cially when life seemed par­tic­u­larly hard.

Being aloft held its own sur­rep­ti­tious plea­sures: People would walk by down below, and never know I was perched above them, over­hearing every­thing. Giddy, I learned that most people rarely think to look up. By staying silent and observing other people’s behavior, I began to awaken to the dark holes in my own aware­ness, and decided to try to notice every­thing.

After par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult days at school, I’d enter the maple in the way some church goers step into con­fes­sional boxes. Climbing up, I’d wrap my arms around it, lay my cheek against its rough-​​barked trunk, and tell it my woes and dreams. Sometimes I’d cry. Day after day, week after week, for a couple of years, I wept my sor­rows into that tree.

SAC 2006 tree t-shirt design, by Tina Fields

Arborial consciousness t-shirt design by Tina Fields

And then one day, the tree spoke back.

This might sound crazy or like a make-​​believe story, but it really hap­pened. I was so sur­prised that I nearly fell off the limb. I didn’t hear its voice with my ears. Rather, the mes­sage came in a word and pic­ture com­bi­na­tion that man­i­fested in my mind, yet was not my own. The mes­sage didn’t feel like it orig­i­nated from within me; the words didn’t sound like mine. In my gut, I knew they came from this tree. It was a full-​​blown cou­plet of image and speech, bearing a mes­sage I remember and live by to this very day.

The maple advised, “Be like the linden tree. It bends and bends in every wind, yet its roots go down deep, deep, deep.”

I had never even heard of a linden tree before, much less had any idea what one looked like or how it behaved. It would not be until twenty years later, while living in Europe, that I would meet my first linden tree and feel as though I’d been reunited with a long-​​lost, much beloved rel­a­tive.

The ancient Greeks and the Slavs believed the god­dess of love abided in the linden tree. Other Europeans, espe­cially the Poles, regarded linden trees as sym­bols of divine power, family, faith, and valour. When Christianity arrived in the region, the linden became the tree of the Blessed Mother. In many a folk­tale, the Blessed Mother hid among the tree’s branches, waiting patiently to reveal her­self to chil­dren.

The linden’s white blooms are fra­grant, making them a favorite of bees and bee­keepers. Bees pro­duce wax for can­dles, honey for mead. Laws often pro­tected the pre­cious trees. To cut down a linden meant bad luck, per­haps even bringing tit-​​for-​​tat death to self or a family member. Such was the rev­er­ence for lin­dens.

The maple’s mes­sage to emu­late this unknown cousin rever­ber­ated in me from that moment for­ward. The world was sud­denly full of far greater pos­si­bility than I’d ever before imag­ined. A tree can speak? It’s con­scious? What else is hap­pening that I haven’t noticed or par­tic­i­pated in? I set out – and within — on a mis­sion of curiosity and deeper explo­ration.

Before that day, my par­ents had taken me camping many times. Every time, they had exhorted me to “look at the beau­tiful scenery!” but I ignored them, pre­fer­ring to read a comic book. No more. Suddenly the world was so much more than mere stuff. I went from being sur­rounded by dead matter to being part of a com­mu­nity of aware beings with desires, thoughts, and voli­tion. Life, motion, spirit abounded every­where. I began to realize how how utterly accom­pa­nied I was in the world and how much I was missing because I had not been looking with truly aware, open-​​minded eyes. I began to closely observe other ani­mals, plants, rocks, clouds, and to con­sider how best to serve our col­lec­tive well-​​being. I became inter­ested in mys­ti­cism and spir­i­tu­ality, and began to explore com­par­a­tive reli­gions, looking for human wisdom about relating to the numi­nous in every­thing.

Whatever hap­pened in the purely human realm took on far less import. Personality glitches or opin­ions of me, whether coming from other kids or my own self-doubt, seemed fleeting and insignif­i­cant. I was deter­mined to be kind, but to also put human inter­ac­tions into a much larger con­text. Like a tree, I stood in a forest of mys­tery and hope. And amusingly, as soon as I stopped caring what any­body thought of me, I attracted good friends and even became pop­ular.

Trees, each in their own way, have been my great teachers. They cra­dled me, brought me into con­tact with ele­mental excite­ment, and woke me up to the living world in all of its intense spir­i­tual mys­tery and innu­mer­able dimensions. They ini­ti­ated me as a par­tic­i­pant in life instead of a reluc­tant observer.

The influ­ence of trees has made me a better, wiser, and more aware animal who lives fully in an expanded world sprouting with pos­si­bility, fun, and friend­ship. I will honor these elders of other species as long as I live. I hope that they will con­tinue to teach us all, and that we young­sters along the evo­lu­tionary scale will keep actively seeking out ways to listen.

**********

When searching for a photo of a linden tree to include here, I came upon a fun site about word etymology. Its logo is a musical pun in medieval illumination style. Who can resist that?

Bill Casselmans etymology logoBill Casselman’s entry about linden trees has a component that blew my mind. It turns out that the root of its name means the very quality that was touted to me by my maple tree!

“Linden, like aspen and like ‘the old, oaken bucket’ was originally an adjectival form of Old English lind ‘lime tree.’ Many Indo-European languages have this root *len whose prime meaning is ‘flexible’ in reference, to flexible fibres of the inner bark, much like the basswood-linden-tilia labels. Compare Old Norse lind, modern German gelinde ‘gentle’ but first meaning ‘supple, flexible, soft,’ Latin lentus ‘slow’ but first ‘supple, soft, lazy.’ Other English words containing the same root are lithe, and perhaps linen and line, as Eric Partridge suggests, from an ultimate Indo-European root *li ‘flax.’ This would make *len an extension of the flax root meaning ‘flexible as threads made of flax,’ then of rope or cord made of other materials, like the inner bark of the linden.” (emph. mine.)

Another tidbit that I find here of personal import is the linden’s genus, Tilia. My mother’s name was Tilla. And what do the best mothers give their children but the combo of deep, secure roots and supple, flying freedom?

*

I love it when synchronicities like this show up. The first one affords the mind-blowing confirmation that the tree was right.

On the one hand, duh! So when do trees lie?  Yet on the other, how amazing is that to realize that this was not “mere” internal imagination, but actual communication. It’s so easy to default to lowest-common-denominator cultural normative thinking, and no matter how many times such things happen to me and how many times I’m shown that ‘there’s more in heaven and earth, Horatio,’ etc., I’m still always amazed.

Some might consider this focus on synchronicity to be overly magical thinking but to me, such occurrences signify that I’m in sync with the Tao; the flow of mystery in this planet and beyond, of which each of us is one small musical phrase. And since it makes the world more fun and encourages me to be even more engaged in life, why not think that way?

Go forth and listen to a tree now, and see if it changes you like it did me.

*

Linden tree leaves (img: billcasselman.com)

(My essay is linked & presented here with permission of Jamie K. Reaser, co-editor. This version printed here has a few changes from the one published by Hiraeth Press.  Artistic license, y’know.)