When I get lucky and the stars align right, I get to indulge in a latin dance class on Saturday morning. It’s taught by a former Broadway dancer who walks with the grace of a panther and dances as if he were a fluid medium. It’s a joy just to watch him and intimidating to try to mimic. In the class, no matter the mood I enter, I lose myself during the hour. It’s meditation in movement where all else fades away to feelings of being one with the world. I’m no longer a mother or writer or friend or anything. I just am.
What a relief to just be.
I have a friend whose son committed suicide. She was so deep in grief, she couldn’t cry, afraid she wouldn’t be able to stop, that she would drown in grief. She started taking a dance class and the tears began to flow. The body has its own wisdom and ways of knowing - its scars and wrinkle lines. Our ego brains think they are so smart, but it is our bodies that do the feeling, that do the living if we can only just connect.
I made soup tonight
and all my ancestors danced
in the pot, with the barley
the beans, the knuckle and neck bones,
enriching this brew;
Here women joined
love and ancient wisdom, the knowledge
salt and pepper bring; secrets
that are ritual and legacy. ~Elsa Garcia
My grandfather was the soup maker in my house as I was growing up. He loved to make soup using leftovers from the week, bits of chicken, ham bones, vegetables and anything else that struck his fancy. Sometimes delicious, sometimes completely inedible, Grandpa's soups were always an adventure, never tasting the same twice. The rich aromas of stew and bread often filled our house, a promise of nourishment and love. Every time I make soup, as I am adding bits of this and that, trying a new spice or vegetable combination, I remember my grandfather in his kitchen, standing over his old soup pot, stirring, tasting, and nodding. I can still smell the love.
Cleaning out a closet yesterday, I found a lot of papers that must have fallen out of some of the dozens of notebooks and folders I was storing there. Notes from nearly a decade's worth of college and graduate classes just seem like too much knowledge to part with, and so I have never had the heart to get rid of them. When this particular paper fell into my hands, I was grateful for such sentimental hoarding. This was the very first written assignment from my Introduction to New Testament class, nearly ten years ago. What I wrote is not what brought tears to my eyes. It was the comments in red ink, written by my professor, Dr. Goodman. Just a few days ago, those of us who loved him marked the fourth anniversary of his untimely death. Reading his notes on my assignment reminded me of so much that I miss about him -- his humor, his insight, his encouragement and affirmation, his challenges to think more deeply and ask more questions. It is no overstatement to say that Dr. Goodman profoundly changed the way I read scripture, the way I write, the way I understand God, and the way I see myself. In the wake of his death, I was angry with God and questioning everything I believed about God. Eventually anger gave way to gratitude, as I realized what a gift it was just to have known him. As I wrote a few days after his memorial service, "A God who would give such gifts could not be evil or cruel or even indifferent. Such a God would have to be worth getting close to, worth loving." Even after his death, Dr. Goodman was helping me find my way to a functional theology. I think I'll be learning from him for a long time to come.