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Day 480 – They Walked Like Women (Dance Camp)

August 24, 2017


I’m on a train. Back to my life after living a dream for the past five days. So many thoughts… Can I tell you about the past five days? I feel a little lucky. A lot lucky actually. I checked out from the world. Not on purpose, but I’m glad it ended up that way because it allowed me to immerse myself into another world completely. And this other world was a cultural dance camp tucked away in the middle of lush nature in Northern California. I had no internet or phone reception there.

At first, I was reluctant to go this camp for several reasons: firstly, I didn’t have a lot of disposable cash. Secondly, I had a lot of writing to do. Thirdly, the thought of going to a camp when there’s a lot of work to do just seemed frivolous. And fourthly, I had just found out that I had advanced to the final round of a very prestigious writing contest and I had some more work to do for the final round. But my spirit wanted some joy. Kind of needed it. It had been a tough summer, full of family issues, man issues, not so much nature, not so much good food, not so much authentic connecting or community or kindness or anything that feeds my soul, and I was beginning to feel depleted.

So I went to this camp. And I’m so glad I did. I arrived in the city nearest camp on an Amtrak train, watching the sunrise on my ride out there. The camp shuttle van came and picked me up and the driver loaded up my tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, two suitcases and backpack into the van. He delivered my things to the front door of women’s cabin number two.

In the cabin, I was greeted by an older woman from Northern California, and in the coming days, the cabin was populated by a three other women in my age group and a woman about my mom’s age. We were all single, crazy, free-spirited magical kind of women who were at crossroads in our lives.

The camp provided three healthy meals a day, and several drum and dance classes throughout the day, which you could elect to go to or not. It also had two lakes, and one of them you could swim in or paddle boat in. On every night, they had a different activity, such as a club night, a night of a special performance, a campfire/storytelling night, and a talent show night.

The whole summer long, I haven’t gotten as much writing done as I did at this camp. I would wake up before seven, do my stretches and meditation. Go eat at the dining hall and talk and mingle with people. Most of the people were so awesome. There were people from all over the world – China, Japan, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Africa, all over the US – all coming to this camp to be taught by some of the best cultural teachers in the world. And I must say, they were some of the best artists I’ve ever met. So talented. So disciplined. Amazing, amazing people – cool, funny, smart, bold, sweet, loving. A met a little girl who told me her name was butterfly, and she was just full of kisses and cuddling for me. And there were a few people I knew there. A guy I used to hang out with, and his two kids were there.

After mingling with the cool camp people, I would go hide out in this spot where nobody goes, and sit out in nature and write for three to four hours. Yes, three to four hours. Sometimes in LA, that’s my weekly writing total. It was so cool writing out in nature, sitting near enough to the classes to hear the musicians playing beautiful live music for every class.

After writing, I would each lunch and mingle a bit, then take two dance classes and nap in between them, then go to dinner, then attend the evening activity, then lay in my tent and look at the stars as I meditated before I went to sleep.

I met women. Such beautiful women. Oh, the dance teachers there! Some of them were women- elders- and they walked with such grace and danced so fiercely. It was so nice to see them. Just powerful and loving and breathing. And I made friends. Me and my cabin mates would stay up talking about everything. Everyone was talented and people played drums and flutes and guitars and sang and danced. And some people were successful artists and others weren’t so much, but they were open. And we shared about our lives and our weirdness and our heartaches and our triumphs. And the men – they treated me like brothers (except for the guy I already knew, who kept trying to talk to and flirt with me). But other than him, the men were so respectful and fun and sweet. It was such a nice balance. It was such a good time.

Day before yesterday, they announced that they would be having a talent show. I didn’t have anything in mind, but that night, a poem came to me. It was about women. It’s called “They Walked Like Women”. I was just so inspired by the brilliance and the grace and the power and the balance of some of the women there, and I was so in love with the communal way of the place, that I wrote a poem about it. And I decided that I was gonna be me. Laydie. I was gonna write something and I was gonna share it. And I didn’t want to do it alone. So I got all brave and I invited my cabin mates to accompany me as I read the poem. One would dance, one would play flute, and one would drum. And they agreed.

THEN. It gets better. I’m not making any of this up. The morning of the talent show, this beautiful woman who I had been admiring but whom I hadn’t spoken to yet, approached me and asked me if I wanted to be in her singing group for the show. Now. I’m not a singer. But I Love to sing. She is a woman like me. Magical. And she stands out wherever she goes. Not that she’s the most pretty in the room, but there is something about her that just makes you want to know her. I told her I can’t sing that good, and she told me that she grew up in the church, and that sometimes the person selected to sing the song in the church is not the person who sings the best, but the person who has something in their heart that they need to share. She thought that I had something that needed to be shared, so she asked me to sing a solo verse in a song she, I and another women were to sing together.

So now, I was going to do two performances. Read my spoken word poem and sing in a trio of beautiful women. I’ve never sung at anything in front of people. I haven’t gotten up and read a poem in front of people in years. At least seven years since I’ve stood up in front of anyone, and shared my creative anything. Long story short, I did it. It was amazing. It was so wonderful to do these performances with these incredibly loving, talented women. And everyone loved us. So many people came up to me and told me how inspired and touched and empowered they were by my poem. They thanked me for speaking about what it is to be a woman. They told me they loved my singing voice. Me! The woman who loves to sing, but who everyone had always told that I couldn’t sing. They loved my singing voice!

I Loved giving my heart to them. I loved giving my best to them. I gave them my all and they received it. It was the best feeling ever – to be received and appreciated for what I had to offer.

After the talent show, a few people, including me, didn’t want to go to sleep. We sat out on one of the plazas while a couple of people played songs with their guitars. I swayed and danced. We shared blankets.

I was myself. It was everything I wanted for my life. It was beautiful…

And now I am on a train back to LA. And LA is no dance camp. I am greeted by messages from people I hadn’t thought about for days. Everything looks the same as I left it. Some things are probably worse and maybe some things are better. I will find out soon.

Can my life be like dance camp, God? It was so beautiful. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by gratitude for the beautiful things I’ve experienced. It’s like a whole other secret world exists. There are so many ways to experience this world.

I got to be a leader this past week. I got to empower others, but not in a pretentious way. We were all equals, but different. Just different types of people with different things to do, giving their gifts. Today at lunch, this lady came and asked to clean my plate up for me. I told her I’d do it, and she said that queens should be served.

I was a queen at camp, but it was different than what I envisioned a queen to be. It was better. Because I was not separate from everyone, standing on my high horse. I was together with people, listening to them, talking with them. They had things to offer, and I accepted their offerings genuinely. And they accepted my offerings and trusted me to do a good thing.

I don’t know where I’m going with this blog. I guess it’s time to stop writing. I just wanted to share what a beautiful time I had. Thank you for this nourishment, Allah. I needed it so much. I needed to see how beautiful life can be. I needed to see what community could be like, and how it could feel to be around people that are so gifted and amazing. I needed to be in your nature. I needed to feel wanted and valued and appreciated. I needed to be received as I am, and not hated on. I needed some people to champion me. Women. I needed good experiences with women. Cool women standing in their power…

I want to give my heart, Allah. That’s what I want to do with my life. What I did at dance camp? That’s what I want to do with my life. I want to give my heart. I want to connect so deeply and be together with people in this world. I want to be received and accepted and appreciated for who I am. I want to be surrounded by people who keep me safe and see me and want the best for me and don’t try and manipulate and use me. I want to be that support for others. And You showed me – You had me experience that. Those things were only dreams in my head before. But I experienced it, and now it’s real. Now it’s a possibility for my life.

So I ride back to LA empowered. Empowered in a way I’ve never been before. Empowered with Love. Power is not mean and forceful. Power is giving and loving. And power also includes honoring your own self. This is woman stuff. This is grown up stuff. This is more than I ever imagined for my little ol’ life. And I thank you so much, Allah. I am so grateful. I am so grateful… Ameen.

Day 480
They Walked Like Women (Dance Camp)

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