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Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

 
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Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

I don't regret the Cowles Mountain hike- where I first tweaked my knee (on a beautiful June 28th)- or my mid-life novice adventure to hip-hop class (on July 8th)- where I caused further tweakage- or my hike to Upper Sardine Lake in the Sierra Nevadas (on August 7th)- where more havoc was wrought on dear old Knob Knee.

 

On the latter hike I loped along with Roy, Leo, John and Ulli, Buddy and Diego in the pristine pine-filled air. I heard the rushing cold water coursing through Young American mine and I felt again like that young American. I lay on the rocks and watched the clouds gather dark and pregnant with storm and the water chop onto the shoreline of Upper Sardine, with the memory of sprawling in a rowboat 20 years ago there, in the black of night with the milky way at arms' reach, the stars so bright and close I could feel their white hot breath.

 

These memories were worth every moment and the swelling that came afterwards. But I don't want to permanently injure my knee. I want to dance again. I am not so Zen that I have completely detached from those desires.

 

Amazingly, though, and oh so reluctantly, I have learned to enjoy these days of restricted movement, something I was not sure I was capable of. I've become grateful for this opportunity to slow down and see things from a slower pace.


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

 

I injured my knee two months ago. This whole experience has been a rigorous exercise in Zen. It's been a process of letting go of my attachment to my preferred form of physical exertion- dance. Loosening my attachment to flashdancelocity (the feeling of my spirit soaring when I dance) was at its most painful emotionally when I had not yet accepted that I couldn't get my dance fix every day.  

If I'm able to dance and hike again my lens of "Well, of course I dance and hike- this is just what I do" will have evolved to "Wow, I'm dancing and hiking again... Each time I do this could be my last so I'm soaking it in, every wisp of wind against my face and each flex of muscle-in-glory." 

So this chapter has been about re-imagining who I can be if I can't move around as freely as I used to. I'm still a writer; my hands are fine. In fact my introspection has deepened, my antennae fine-tuned by this event.

And I am still a dancer in my mind... I continue to twirl and chasse in my mind at every opportunity. My leaps are grander than they ever could be in real life.

Now howl, "We are poetry in motion!" That's who I am inside, and you are, too.


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

At a recent gathering of women writers of a certain age, we were discussing and listening to music that moves us. One woman said, “When this song comes on I leap and twirl like a crazy woman. You wouldn’t believe it.”

But do we have to be crazy to dance for the sheer joy of it once we reach middle age? I admired my aquaintance’s acknowledgement that she gives in to a wave of exuberance, lifted up by the pulling charms of the music, no other eyes to ply her with a veil of restraint. She, in her glory of freedom, alone but together with her music. I relished goosebumps of solidarity.

I, too, am a solitary dancer. When I have the house to myself, dancing is both celebration and balm in centering myself in a moment in time. We are given this life, this temporary state of being. The sorrows and tragedies of the world, and of our own lives, will continue to play out whether we seize moments of joyful being or not. Not that all dancing is joyful. Sometimes the most satisfying dance is sad and aching, which on occasion transforms to joy or at least contentment. Or not.

Dance is a fluid moment, fluid emotion. Whatever we have within can flow through dance. All the chores on our list will patiently or impatiently await our attention. Why not allow ourselves to carve out time for the physical expression of beauty, love, longing, bliss, heartache, all the poetry that music is? Dance embodies music- we become the music- we become poetry in motion.


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

 

Today I performed at a hula demonstration at the Del Mar Fair. It was the first time I’d performed in over 20 years. As my dear old friend Desiree used to say, "Nur Mut!" (German for "Only Courage!") Yes, it did take courage for me to get on that stage. Performing is not in my comfort zone. I had to command Shyness to step aside and allow Werewolverina, my wild inner dancer, to take over. And I did it!

I was in awe of my beautiful, gifted teacher, Lori, and all her lovely, hard-working students as we made the magic happen on this sultry July day at noon. The hula spirit could not have emerged, though, without the soulful Polynesian music- drums and ukulele, played by the Pride of Polynesia musicians.

I had goosebumps from the joyful rush of it; I’m so glad I took part. And to see John, Roy and Leo in the audience… my heart was in full hula.

We performed to He U`i by Danny Kua`ana ( Translation source: Garza-Maguire Collection). 

He u`i nô `oe ke `ike mai
He pua ho`oheno i ka lâ
`O `oe nô ka`u i aloha
He pua i milimili ai

`O `oe he pua i `ako `ia
He mea ho`opili i ka `ili
Nou ê ko`u mana`o
Ua `ohu i ka lei hînano

Mai none mai none mai `oe
Ku`u lei ê ho`okahi nô
Kou maka `eu`eu
He aha a`e nei kâu hana

Ha`ina mai ka puana
Ha`ina he u`i i ka lâ
`O `oe nô ka`u i aloha
He pua i milimili ai

 

You are beautiful to behold
In the sunlight you are like a lovely flower
You are mine to love
A flower to caress

You are a flower that has been plucked
Someone to hold close
Constantly do I think of you
Adorned with the hala blossom lei

Don't, oh don't tease me
My dearly beloved
Don't wink your naughty eyes
Can't you see what you are doing to me

Thus ends my song
My lovely flower in the sun
Dearly, do I love you
A flower to caress


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

My muscles are howling from my latest hula session. Oof. The most challenging workout ever. It’s a lovely dichotomy, though, my blazing quadriceps and the flowing, mellow music.

My teacher, Lori, is a firm but encouraging taskmaster with a wry sense of hula humor. "Get the rough out- your hands are supposed to look like waves. Now you’re picking a flower- just think about that while you sway your hips." Yeah right. And rub your tummy while you’re patting your head.

But somehow, over the weeks, the motions are starting to sync. My inner hula goddess is beginning to peek out from within my 40-year-old self. The music starts and I feel my spine fall into alignment, allowing my hips to move from my core, my abdominal muscles, through sheer force of will, keeping my parts from clanking to the floor.

Not that parts don’t clank. Young Lori says, "It looks like you’re moving you’re left hip further out than your right one."

And I say, "Yes, that’s as far as my 40-year-old hip will take me."

"Oh," she says, looking sheepish. "Sorry."

And so our teacher-student relationship goes. I think it’s just hard for her to relate to the fact that my body, as much as I was willing it to do all that it was being asked to do, is rather stubborn at this late date.

My right hip clicks with every Ami until I warm up, and then again when I’m fatigued. And my knees snicker at me every time I even think about doing a deep knee bend. But my 40-year-old body shows me as I show up for each lesson that I can strengthen and bend and flow like a wave.