Last night we went to Hogmanay Ball, a Scottish Country Dance event repeated around the world on New Year's Eve. Ours was in a gorgeous old converted church, with live music (bagpipes, fiddle, accordion, piano - and at times, three bagpipes ... in the high-arched hall, it's glorious). Set after set of dancers decked out - women in sparkle and shimmer and satin and velvet, men in their best - kilts and Prince Charlie's and doublets and the odd trews and jackets and cobbled-togethers with individual flair for the college guys who can't afford (or couldn't borrow) a kilt.
I love balls, and Hogmanay is one of the best (okay, they're all best, but this is a favorite for many reasons). There's a balcony there where you can look down and watch the patterns of the dance swirl through, parallel motion down three lines of sets, with the background murmur of the folks standing or sitting out, heads turned toward each other or toward the music. Mmmm. Yeah, that's what hooked me on dancing, seeing this, feeling the unison of enjoyment, being able to see community in motion. Even the small painful dances of intersection between people who used to love each other and are still recovering from their divorces (but both still dance, and it is accepted that most will encounter each other at such events), and the less painful but still intricate dance of those who parted ways years before, moving in close enough to remember the fondness, looping gently away from old hurt... this is my community, in real life.
It isn't my only community. I have a half-dozen others, but this one is my core. Nearly every other community I am in intersects through this one. This is where I have spent my life, from the age of 14. This is where I fell in love most often (though not exclusively), and where my history lives. These are the people who held my hand when I wept, and whose eyes shine when I succeed. They've seen me through layers of growth, and have forgiven me my adolescence, my youthful arrogance, my tendency to fall in love on the dance floor during my college years, and even my lack of active dancing for the last seven years.
I got to dance last night. Rather, WE got to dance last night. For seven years, it has been a challenge - Mr B didn't make dancing easy - it distresses him deeply to have me go out onto the floor and leave him behind. Last night, even at this age, he clung to me and wept and asked me not to leave him when I said I was going to dance. He still let me go, transferring his need to his grandparents, who took him off in search of a bandaid for a hangnail that was bothering him.
And I got to hit the floor with epeepunk, and remember all the reasons I fell for him when I was still a young punk myself. He's a good dancer, and the continuous eye contact that is essentially mandatory in Scottish Dancing reminded me that I can see the red-brown of his eyes even at a distance. We were definitely rusty, and we both grimaced at the unaccustomed demands on muscles and joints - even though we both danced for more than 20 years straight before the recent hiatus, the muscles don't just snap back. Worse, they remember what to do, and try, without the capacity. Ow ow ow. But we still managed, the flow, timing, pattern all deeply ingrained. Together, apart, together, turning, remembering that he's a good height for me, I don't have to duck or let go hands to get into allemande hold (goodness, is that spelled right?). We know the same things, the timing of the turn... and enjoy the same things, the pleasure of aligning with the couple dancing with us, covering so we sweep into place in unison, and the solid and probably very Scottish pleasure of a strathspey six hands round and back with everyone keeping good arms so the circle moves as a circle entire, slows at the same pace for the reverse direction, eye contact across to the other side and someone who is not your partner... mmm. Yeah, I love that, and love remembering the dancing. Plus, he looks hot in a kilt. Mmm. *cough* er, back to the post.
Overall feeling? Satisfaction.
Rather a lot of it, really.
Satisfaction of looking up to see that Mr G was helping move water to the water table, or refill pitchers, learning the tasks of the tea assistant job without me needing to watch over him.
Satisfaction of seeing that old friends are carrying on.
Satisfaction of listening to the skills of the musicians, one of whom is a cousin (also found in this band), and having a sense of the history and relationships interweaving between them and the dancers.
Satisfaction of seeing all the kids growing up into the community, the kids whose parents' courtships I remember fondly. Seeing those who are growing into their adulthood with remarkable (but at the same time reasonably expected) grace... watching the set of kids dancing with parents, and checking in with the kids jumbled and tumbled onto the balcony floor, playing board games or being silly together. Wincing a bit at the little boys hitching up their kilts in the back as they're careening through the crowd or sliding across the floor in their stockingfeet, little girls racing after (when they were not in the lead themselves).
Satisfaction of interweaving myself into the conversations, passing on my current state, picking up the current state of others after short gaps or long. Reconnecting with family - all from epeepunk's side, but family that is family. There's something particularly nice about seeing relatives at Hogmanay. My side will be today, not last night, and that's okay.
At midnight, singing Auld Lang Syne (the Burns version), and the subsequent pleasure of groaning boards of 'tea' (which in our area means ham and home-baked treats and hummus and savory goodies and cheeses and lox and fruit and chocolate and more home-baked treats and some not-home-baked but equally welcome goodies and some veggies and more chocolate... mmmm this branch knows how to have a tea!). And then more conversations, with the long history allowing touch-downs into deeper territory within a few words, encountering current pain and struggles with compassion expected and given freely. And then more music, and the next dance of packing up and moving the kids out to the car, gathering up the gifts that magically appear from behind backs or were added to our pile of coats when we weren't looking, gathering up the coats, and shoes, and and sleepy grumpy children, pouring them into the car and then sharing our separate conversations and observations on the drive home, and our thoughts and needs for the upcoming year for ourselves.
We have our bad years, in this community, and in our own lives. Hogmanay isn't always full of grace. I'm sure for some people, this year wasn't as easy, it is either moving downward into or just barely moving up out of the depths of their own pattern. There were a lot of friends wanting to leave behind the sorrows of last year, or still in the midst of a struggle of one sort or another, and some not looking forward too much to what is coming this year. For us, this one was a good moment in the pattern, a point where the dancers come together, sweeping in close with that brief touch of hands, a pause of zero bars in the meeting, the music telling us what to do.
And today, it is off to my mom's house, for a more intimate celebration of the new year, with our traditional smoked fish (shellfish included) and caviar and champagne lunch, this year with home-made sheep-cheese pizza for those who aren't into eating 'smelly fish'.
Happy New Year, all.