Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Flamenco and me

I was in the midst of writing about my 'attachments' for this blog when I got the horrible news from Veronica, my flamenco dance teacher:
"Words can't express what I am about to say. We have lost our beloved Harry, my husband ... my soulmate ... my partner ... father of our son Gareth. Harry will always be remembered for his kindness, compassion, his sincerity, his humour ......He was the life of everyone's party. He will be sadly missed. The school will be closed next week September 20th to 25th to mourn his sudden death."
Those of you, who know me well, know that I spend a fair bit of my time learning flamenco dancing. Okay, at 6 times per week maybe it's more like an obsession. It requires focus, physicality, passion, rhythm and pain. I can usually manage one of these, maybe two at one time. Last Friday we all got the dose of pain, in huge measure.
photo credit: Steve Switzer, Quadra Street Designs

You see, Harry was a flamenco contradiction. He had a special relationship with every student at the school. So much so that when another student mentioned this, I was actually, stupidly, surprised. I thought, "oh man, you too? I thought it was just me." We each had our own joke with Harry. The music that came out of his hands was deep, sensual, passionate, and could be quite dark. When he played, it was often with eyes closed, like some kind of somnambulant angel. But as soon as he opened his mouth, there was levity, often giggling with the students to the point of distraction. When I could, I would stand as close to Harry as possible, so that I could hear him over the clomping of our feet, but also just to hear him period. It was a double-edged sword, however. When I would make a mistake (and when you make a mistake in shoes that have a hardwood heel and nails in the heels and toes, it's obvious) I would see him wince, like I'd actually pained him in the midst of his reverie.

I don't feel comfortable describing his relationship with Veronica. It was too intimate. When we were in class, we would watch this... this, thing between them that involved a higher plain and a completely different language. She would say, "Do the dee dee dee dee duh duh one" and he would say, "But the dee dee dee dee duh duh one only works if you go boom buh duh duh duh duh." "Right do that." Jack said that when they were on stage he couldn't tell where Veronica ended and Harry began.

When he played with his son Gareth, again it was too intimate to describe. There were many moments on stage, however, when he wore an expression like any father has when he is so proud that you can hear him thinking the cliche, "That's my boy!"

The school they created, with such remarkable talent and passion, is also remarkably egoless. There isn't the prima-dona crap that can be found in some dance schools. Maybe the instructors know how vulnerable we are when we dance.
In the end, I am so grateful to have known Harry, and to be a part of the flamenco community that he helped to create here in Canada. I am grateful to know their familia flamenca, my instructors and the flamenco chicas, the other dancers, who I see all the time.

In the end, flamenco shows you to yourself. What you are, it comes out in flamenco. It limits you, expands you, and exposes you. It's better than therapy. There are no secrets that you can hide. That's why we make such close attachments. But bare souls are also deeply wounded. Maybe I should be grateful that I have a means to express this great loss.

The other attachments can wait.

photo credit: Steve Switzer, Quadra Street Designs

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mom Comes to Town or Who Needs Reality?

Groovin' on Vancouver Island
After being away last summer, Jack and I had been looking forward to taking advantage of all the summertime fun that southern Vancouver Island has to offer. So far we have: gone to the Vancouver Island Music festival, helped with and attended the Flamenco Juerga party, cycled around Bainbridge Island, had picnic dinners on the beach, sipped wine on patios with friends, kept up with hot yoga & running & dancing etc. It got to the point that I realized that I didn't have a free weekend until September. So I was REALLY looking forward to having my 82 year old mom come for a visit.

There is something wonderful about visiting with an elderly person, because you have to slow down and really be present. And because it was my mom, we had a chance to reminisce and learn more about each other, both knowing that these opportunities are no longer limitless. I enjoy those wonderful "Mom-isms" like: "Oh you've got some grey hair. It's so PRETTY!" (huh?) or "Yes, I'll have some wine" and then stopping my pouring once 1/4 inch is in the glass. "Jack particularly likes being called "kid."

Mom reconfirmed she still doesn't like raw oysters

When she first arrived, we spent the first day doing absolutely nothing other than fixing meals. On day two, we went to a play, "The Importance of Being Earnest", and after 2 1/2 hours of watching other people eat teacakes and cucumber sandwiches, I was famished. So off to a restaurant with a view of the water (Yes, for you non-Victorians, life is so hard here.) Unfortunately that's when Mom's blood pressure dropped, mine rose, Mom's lips turned blue, she started babbling, and I commanded Jack to dial 911.

Sorry no photos of this, I had other things on my mind.

While Mom stayed conscious and aware throughout the ordeal, my picture of reality became distorted. She remembered the names of the ambulance drivers. I did not. I moved into the black-hole of panic. They dispatched the slowest ambulance in history to us (their records showed 7 minutes). Our waitress was unconcerned. I told her, "MY MOM IS NOT WELL, MY HUSBAND HAS CALLED 911!!!" To which she replied, "Okay, I'll get your bill."

Distorted reality

In any case, to make a long story short, she had had what is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke. Her colour started coming back as soon as she was given oxygen, and she was back to normal within minutes, although we still got to hang around for 4 1/2 hours or so in the emergency room.

And no, she wasn't going goth

This is also when I discovered that they take both Visa and MasterCard at Victoria General Hospital. Who knew? Since she's from the United States, we had to plop down $750 before anyone would see her (post-ambulance) and this did not include the urine-analysis, blood-work or ECG. I could see this alone creating some blood-pressure related complications in myself. Fortunately, having 4 - 5 hours to hang around, we had lots of time to calm down, watch other people pad around in slippers and green, backless dresses, talk to the guy with the really cool spider bite that made his whole leg swell up, and generally avoid making eye contact with a lot of people who look like they regularly spend weekend evenings in the emergency room.

Reality is not an option

I have no great revelations other than the obvious. I remember thinking, is this it? Are the last words my Mom hears going to be "Jack, dial 911"? Are her last words going to be, "everything is turning white"?

Let's just say the remainder of her stay, while probably involving too much sugar, was delightfully uneventful. And we both really, REALLY appreciated our time together.

Go to a happy place in your mind

Monday, July 19, 2010

Slow blogging

Too many thoughts

The whole purpose of blogging is to share ideas that others may find interesting, and do it in a timely way. While I was away on our cross Canada trip it was a way to feel like I was still connected to my community while at the same time organizing my thoughts around my experiences. Since I've been home I've fallen into old routines and the blog has, well, bogged.

Ideas I meant to write on while they were happening, but haven't include:
  • The Olympics & my experience in Vancouver during
  • My 20th anniversary of coming to Canada
  • The poor baby whale that washed ashore here
  • The Salmon Are Sacred march - or "How to keep insects from eating my sushi"
  • Las Vegas Blues/Desert light
  • Flamenco - or "Why stomping your feet is better than therapy"
  • Fibromyalgia (ongoing) - when your body divorces you
  • Bike to Work Week - or "why does the vegetarian end up serving a thousand hamburgers"
  • Etc.
Salmon are Sacred

At the Salmon are Sacred march I ran into Bruce Elkin, creativity coach (see:, and thought - "Oh man, Bruce is all about applying discipline to your creativity. I want to talk to him, but I really don't want to talk to him."

Yikes. Maybe my crazy "law of attraction" friends (what I call the "Jiminy Cricket philosophy." You know, "If you wish upon a star..."? Hmm, maybe another topic to add to the above list.) In any case, maybe these crazy people are right. Seeing Bruce was like a little guilty reminder of what I've been meaning to do.

The great thing was, being the soul that he is, he reminded me that creativity springs from a tension of where we are and where we want to be, and that people are inherently contradictory. So here's to using that tension as a spring forward. My thoughts are always contradictory, so this should be easy!

Except that that conversation took place in May.

Anyway, I'm thinking that just as 'slow food' is the healthy and thoughtful reaction to fast food, I'm going to start a 'slow blog': A healthy and thoughtful reaction to Facebook and Twitter. That means that next Christmas you may hear about the Olympics or other long past events.

Think of it like wine. No forget it, I drink wine way too fast. Think of it like the chocolate Easter egg that you find in September: A delightful surprise.

Excellent. I've talked my way into equating procrastination with fine vintages and ripening cheese. Yes!
Badass Flamencas

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Were You A Good Girl This Year?"

"He knows when you are sleeping,
He knows if you're awake,
He knows if you've been bad or good..."
"Do you think Santa's coming tonight?"
"I dunno."
"Why not? Were you a good girl this year?"
"Not really."
"Well I was mean to my Grandma and my dog, and I called my mom an 'idiot' a bunch of times."

This surprising and refreshingly honest confession came to me from my 4-year-old niece this past Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is when young children take stock of their transgressions (as is New Years Day for adults) and they ponder whether a certain fat man will eat their cookies and leave presents. As soon as this question came out of my mouth, however, I felt like I really had no right to ask it, because I don't really think that I've been a very good girl this year either.

Unintended Consequences
A few years ago I saw James Howard Kunstler speak about what he calls, "The Long Emergency." In summary, The Long Emergency is the coming challenges the developed world will face with declining world-wide production of petroleum, as demand for it inexorably increases. This will have ramifications in cost of goods, food production, transportation, manufacturing, home heating, and just about everything else that makes the developed world, well…developed. This, in combination with global climate change, means that relatively rapid changes in our behaviour and attitudes will be required. These are not easy changes either. These are changes like reduced air travel, fewer food choices, more expensive everything. Curmudgeon that I am, I don't think that the majority of the population will go there smilingly.

The unintended consequence of becoming familiar with The Long Emergency is that I am becoming more of a carbon hog than ever. Me, the long-term bike commuter, vegetarian, Carter-freezing-in-the-dark kWh miser, "close the damn refrigerator", and local-foodie. My dream list of things-to-do-before-I-die includes a lot of travel. Places like: Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, Botswana, cross-Canada in a Westfalia (tick this one off) will not be practically affordable in the future. Combined with my health, I'm thinking "Let's go NOW!" Which also translates into "Let's use up as much petroleum as we can before others catch on that we're on the downslide from Peak Oil," or "Let's race to the bottom of the well," or, let's face it, "Let's trash the planet."

Sliding to the bottom

Lori's carbon emissions for 2009:
  • Flight to U.S.A. for Christmas: 0.5 Tonnes (metric tonnes) CO2
  • One half of 4-month cross-Canada Westfalia travel: 3.35 Tonnes CO2
  • Other Westfalia usage: 0.40 Tonnes CO2
  • Honda Civic local usage: 0.13 Tonnes CO2
  • One half of household energy usage (11,400 kWh/2): 0.11 Tonnes CO2
  • Etc (food, purchases etc.): 3.13*
  • Total: 7.62 Tonnes CO2

We are considering retrofitting our home to become energy neutral, but our home energy use pales in comparison to our travel.

Even Gingerbread Houses Aren't Net Zero
While I was in the US I had a meeting with a designer/facilitator/innovator of net-zero energy homes. He flew to Washington DC and China this year to launch a new program for retrofitting existing building stock in the U.S. Jack is constantly flying to various places in Canada to teach people about LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design.) A fellow Bike to Work director just got home from Hawaii.

None of us have been very good this year. So what can I say about my behaviour?
"Santa, I was a pretty good girl, will you bring me a new planet?"

or maybe I just get a $100,000 Tesla


at the end of the day it IS all about her...