Spirit is not something attained by going to a church service or to the right workshop, or by posting the most liked rant.
Not for me, anyhow.
Rather, it's found as I lie in bed at night fearlessly asking myself difficult questions. Not the questions about the future, or the questions about the past, but the questions about the present. These are the hardest ones to answer with presence and honesty.
It is knowing that I still have a long way to go before I eliminate war from my own body, let alone the wider world. (But not shrinking back from the unrest in my body.)
It is acknowledging that in every new encounter, I must listen more closely to the Self and to the understood Self of the other.
How far down does my Self look? Can I cope with resting with the unknown in others so that I can call out into my own Self? Can I silence the shallow ego long enough to see, to know, to graciously accept that which I see in the other - any other - standing before me?
The closer I get to myself, the less acutely lonely I become. Still, I am Body. I find my Self on the dance floor. My truth arises from ego-less bodies moving, surrendering to rhythm (preferably complex with stellar hip-hop engrossed beats). It is here - dancing - that I embody what I find as I lie in bed: celebration, life energy, moving past the past.
Here: I can't see into the future, but I can see into my Self. That is the place from which I move.
I'm spending 6 weeks working at Christchurch Cathedral in honour of giving voice to questions over Lent. This is not a coincidence. Throughout my time in my original home in Virginia, I found myself face to face with the most difficult parts of my psyche. The questions were coming too quickly and, as I have made a pact with myself to pay attention to the difficult moments in my life, I have spoken with things that I have until now not understood or wanted to address about myself.
Here are the words we use as a starting point for our questions at the Giving Voice workshop coming up on Saturday:
What questions do you need to ask?
This moment will be a time of call and response; part of the call will be external, though part will also come from within you. An internal call is an act of faith - creating space and resonance in your body to allow the question somewhere to grow.
What are the questions you cannot ask? Are there questions you can verbalise, or things that can only be sent out by your body to the Universe or to the deepest self and universe inside of you?
What are the questions you can ask? Give space to those.
Let's search for the elusive questions, knowing that the season of Lent gives us a time to reflect with full knowledge that hope is in the pipeline. Until then, we must come to rest with the difficult things that must be asked.
upon my cool, southern bed
on my humid, cool southern bed:
cicadas, & crickets intoning:
i miss you.
i must forgive amidst the dampness,
and so too amidst the brittle, sunblinding dryness.
i watch where my gut goes,
maybe never to settle.
to always break, as in a heart, or a wave,
or a levvy in a flood:
i hold back the guilt of dreamseeking
as one who knows the value of:
an open heart,
warm like salted butter and cinammon;
invasions & interventions of realities.
it begins to slip though, as i learn to
make some room for love --
and for letting go.
bones releasing, muscles lax
i feel a fleeting pain that's real
and it feels better than phantom pain that
haunts the edges of my outsides.
i love you, thieron.
i see your rich, child's heart,
a pulse that cools over phone lines
& digital zero-ones.
sydney, your horse face, so set,
so fiery and determined:
let's bug out / lets bugs out.
scarlett: intervene & call me;
tell me the news.
let's be near.
on hope, trauma, election
Divide and conquer. Divide and conquer. Don't give in!
Looking behind voter demographics, it was those who *didn't* turn out to vote that made the difference. Whether you voted T-Rump or not, it's okay to voice your concern over individual areas of policy - that's what the joy of living in a democracy supplies us: seeing past Hollywood polarities of good and evil and choosing to see the subtleties of life.
It will take a lot of humility - a character trait not generally treasured amongst the US populace - to welcome each other into those spaces. I hope we can take apart those barriers.
It also appears that white men turned out in droves, a hint at who feels the right to take hold of the country - though thankfully we have a diverse society, whether it was represented in this election or not. I've read and heard news that blames white women and Latinx voters for not turning out. [Question why we're not seeing headlines that blame the dominant voice called to account; fear?.] It's difficult filtering info from media outlets (including "liberal" media), but rest assured their aim is to divide us that they may have the capital on information.
From my short experience in exposing an abusive ex-lover who was hung up on control, the more you point the finger and say "It's your fault!" the more power you give to that other group, the more they take the energy you can sink into positive change. Anger and voicing critical dissent is called for & energising for those interested in resisting - but channelling it is the difficult but necessary thing and we need our awareness pointed into seeing what's happening in the moment.
I know a lot of people - like me - are triggered by this election, much like Tea Party folks were stirred up by the last one. But I am hoping for safe spaces in which to sit across the table from the Other and commune. And I am putting my energy into my art and work. In this way, we can defeat the system clearly meant to suppress all areas of society, y'all.
Has consumerism been broken yet??
I'm on a self-pointed residency in South Belfast. In the mornings, I feel a rising sense of impatience in my chest. I pop up off my floor level bed, grab a cup of tea, and think for a moment. Inevitably, I've been listening to a lot of music first thing, refreshing myself through the absorption texture, sound, beat, blend.
This week, I've been listening to a lot of Fresh Prince, Grimes, and Ikue Mori for inspiration. I find the only thing that can energise me, break me out of my mindset and keep flying forward is to hear sounds that are nothing like what I do. Break break break. I'm hungry for tasty new music. Send me sounds!
I'm playing new songs and art sounds at Accidental Theatre in Belfast on November 4th. Come on out, y'all! I'm intrinsically excited to share my new stuff with you.
I'm most inspired by music that comes from a tradition very different from my own. There was a time I was playing Flamenco jazz with a Flamenco guitarist from Northern Ireland; I was singing in a Latin American covers band with a couple of guys from Chile; I was doing Sun Ra stuff. How do you learn from these traditions - from which I find freshness, new approaches to honesty in creativity, words that keep me from sinking into a kind of white-centred approach - without totally ripping them off...? I find with my work, there's little risk of appropriation, but I don't really listen to much music by people of my mixed up heritage that inspires me (except Grimes, d'accord). I want to peel back the veil that we've put up to separate ourselves and look behind it and step in where invited. Is music in the digital age nothing if not an invitation to enter into experience? I'm not sure.
I'm still here, still on the move. Well, literally just in Belfast moving about from place to place, grateful for my community here more than ever. I'm coming up against a lot of challenges these days, namely because I have also reached The End of My Known Plan for 2016. 2017 holds another pile of good things, but I'm not sure where 2016 will take me next. I have a to-do list that requires a certain number of items that I don't have in one place (including that same internet that prevented me from blogging most of the time I was in Austria!). This is causing me great anxiety.
Somehow, though - through hard work, asking questions, and a bit of luck - I am currently fully able to sustain myself from any place in the world with a few extra borrowed or rented bits of gear.
OK, so I've reached goal 1 - be able to live anywhere and still work. Goal 2: make art whilst doing that. There's the clencher: I'm so focussed on the logistics of where I'm going to put my body and my stuff (South Belfast? East Oakland? Central Virginia? Southeast Austria?), that I am not spending time doing what I love except in small, wedged-in moments here and there. Still, my songwriting has morphed along with me and I'm surprised at the twangs that are coming off my guitar and the words that it plucks out of me.
I had the immense pleasure of playing at the beautiful Bronte Homeland Church at a gig hosted by the inimitably positive Lucie Corcoran. She is a pioneer in Northern Ireland with a passion for site-specific gigs in unusual places. You should check out her JAM Nights on Facebook if you're in Northern Ireland. She knows what she's doing.
So goal 3 is to apply to more places, goal 4 play more shows, whilst goal 5 is working in the background with goal 2: record a new album for release.
Life is difficult; of course, it presents challenges and setbacks for everyone, whether you live in one house, are single, have a kid, have a full-fledged family and full-time job. It's difficult when people idealise about my life; don't worry, I fantasise about your fixed abode and sense of community. It's difficult knowing that people I care about can't see the day to day reality of my life, the chaos of moving gear around, of dragging my stuff everywhere. BUT would I change it?
Yes, I would have a base, but I would keep exploring and writing in new spaces. And for now, I realise I am in a position where I can imagine where I want to be and, with some time and patience, go. It is not easy and I'm not financially well-off, but I'm floating.
If you're reading this - and I know you are - drop me a line. I'm looking for shows and tours in your neck of the woods.
I'm really amazed at the number of you who have messaged me about my blog. It means a lot. When you're travelling with no community, it's touching to know that folks care enough to click on the link and read.
The Call of the Forest
I've gone from the beautifully stimulating hustle and bustle of Berlin to the quiet birdsong in the foothills of the Austrian alps. I waken with the sun and go sit on the terrace, listening to the doves sing a duet only to be interrupted by a magpie's jealous growling-kaw. I'm learning a lot from birdsong.
I'm also learning a lot from Roberta, the automatic lawnmower who is currently my closest compatriot in the village. She seems to speak English. Sometimes when I'm sunning myself on the middle terrace, she thoughtfully roves past me, inspecting the length of the grass. In a few minutes time, she may trundle past on a completely different path, blades running. She doesn't attempt to interrupt my daily appointment with the morning sun. Roberta may sometime need to rescue me from wandering off into the forest on the hill opposite my back garden. I hear this mysterious and muffled moaning voice coming echoing out of the forest across the hillsides. I know this sound to be the beginning of a very bad fairy tale, wherein the travelling, lonesome female is carried off on some promise of ravishing love or foodstuff (for those who know me best, you know it's more likely to be food).
Most days, I walk up the hill to dance with Monika, who has the most playful spirit you can imagine for a dancer graced with years of dignity. She can be in one moment commanding, and in another toying and capricious. She has been teaching me how to engage my core in exercises that I had never conceived of that are kicking my ass. I love it! I have to talk her down sometimes though from doing too much; yesterday, she almost bought me some new shoes that we saw and I liked immediately in the village post office/fashion shop/cigarette stall. 'I can come back for them if I like them,' says I. 'Anyway, you're teaching me ballet and making me pizza!'
I am incredibly grateful for this place. I'm reading, writing even more, recording... and remembering the Rachel that slows down and turns inside. And I am even more grateful to you, dear friends and readers.
I leave you with this link to a fairy tale upon which I've been ruminating. This Skeleton Woman... she is me. But that's for another blog... x
Rachel, I've never seen you dance. Are you a real dancer?
Yes, although I don't point my toe quite enough. I've trained in various Modern dance techniques but, unfortunately, my training is mostly in improvisation, alignment-based techniques and Japanese performance art informed forms.
What's the difference between Butoh and booty dance?
Not much, except that Butoh is a bit scarier, more nobbly and often moves more slowly than booty-shake informed arts.
Do you have to train to improvise?
Technically, of course not! BUT[T], like any improvisation - music, theatre, legal, social, grammatical - the more you practice, the more skills you have to draw upon.
Erm... none of this sounds pretty. Dance is about beauty, no?
Well, yes, of course, dance is essentially a celebration of female grace and the straighter the leg, the better. Hence this kind of thing cannot compare in dancitude to this kind of thing, which is pure beauty and imagination. But no, I can't disparage that dancer's excellent control and lifelong commitment to training. Still, you apply your own score to the first example.
What was that first thing you posted?
That "thing," as you so disrespectfully put it, is one of the more vigourously perceptive and committed performers I've met and - to answer your next question - she's a butoh dancer and yes, I'm training with her this week in Berlin.
So this is the kind of thing that's just done like in Berlin, right?
Right. It's not meant for 'the real world', nor is it meant to challenge anyone else's sense or understanding of self-reflection except those who have access to a Berlin travel pass.
- - -
- - - -- -- -- - - -
Fine, I'll cut to the chase. Basically, Butoh engages with both internal and external processes of the dancer mind, just as many other post-Modern forms do. Except, really, this extreme level of embodiment allows the dancer to see their body as both what it is and what it isn't, therefore exploring a kind of anthropomorphism or semblance of another existence. I guess you could say a lot of performance focuses on how to inhabit character or just how to communicate one's internal workings on a social level. But it's not just Butoh - you have many disciplines, performers, dancers, choreographers who do this. What I love about dance is finding the milky lip, the tender borders that divide all that is inhabited within the skin and intention of our bodies // mind, thought, sickness, evolution, joy // and sending it directly to the body of collaborator, viewer, etc. What stirs in me may shake in you. I don't know. But if your eyes are open, we may find out. Best way to do it is to let me come to your house and perform for you.
Uhhh, that's a bizarre offer.
Well... I would. I would genuinely love to do that.
What about your songwriting - where has that gone?
It's still there. I mean, of course it is, although writing words that seem to cut out much of the mystery of the interior is less interesting to me now BUT I think there's a simplicity of saying with mouths that can be more easily digestible. I love writing songs and love listening to them. It's just that dance makes me want to live.
You win the interview battle.
I’m vowing to write again everyday for the next several weeks, much as I unsuccessfully vowed on the initial stages of my travels.
As I was looking out at the world from home in Oakland, I wondered - I’ve always wondered - how does one operate as a travelling artist. Who does that? What is it like? Now, I’m in a funny ol’ position - having multiple homes, multiple stops full of embrace, laughs, sarcasm, and spite - but I can say for certain that I packed too much, brought some of the wrong things, and needed to swap out my luggage for prettier, more functional pieces. I can’t always cling to the things I need in one place; they’re irrelevant elsewhere, but I can leave them in safe places.
What happened in Belfast, though? I did, I nearly got knocked off kilter a bit; I certainly had to face pastness and honesties. Yes, I was very different when I lived in Belfast from what I am now and, at many corners and in the looks on many faces, I had to face Rachel Pasada. But I’m intensely grateful for wisdom smuggled in through the cracks/the craic: when the student is ready, the internal teacher will arise. And, oh dear, she is here, and I’m full of ideas and executions, looking ahead with great wonder/curiosity/fear. “And now I don’t know where I’m going//All I know is I’ll hit the ground running,” to quote Bill Callahan.
And yeah, somehow, I’m breaking past shit I never thought I could and being with myself, being compassionate selfward.
Meanwhile, one of my ongoing hobbies, creating bogus wifi identities, such as the one below:
**** Also, if you’re reading this and were referred here from Facebook, please hit like because, you see, my mum worries that she is the only one reading my blog and actually many of you have verbally mentioned my blogs to me. But my mom isn’t standing there when you do that. And what is Facebook, except another working-out of that Momlationship.
I've been landed in Belfast for over a month, this home of my new bones, this place that does provide a rest, if one that feels separate from the troubled world. I'm nervously moving about the place, afraid of suction-cup-for-feet but fearful of this wandering upon which I have set my sights. Facing the sun of opportunity is a means of navigating this transition from part-time to full-time art maker.
As most transitions, it is a sensitive time and I feel the regrowth of old limbage. I move ahead in faith, grateful that at this specific instant I am taken care of; I hope next month is the same. I've been housesitting my way through the month, which means living with the ever-present memory of absent dear ones.
I never seem to bring a heavy enough jacket for my days out in Belfast.
The California drought burned the memory of cold weather out of my body's mind.