Strange ramblings and inquisitive whimsy

Month: November, 2011

Dare to Be Ridiculous

When I first met Marcy, I was at a point in my life where I was fairly open to trying new things.  Having recently escaped the clutches of adolescent reluctance to do anything that might contribute to being deemed ‘uncool’ by my friends, I found myself in more than a few situations which would later yield entertaining, if not slightly self-deprecating dinner-table stories.  It was out of this willingness to try most anything – along with the childish desire to impress my new ladyfriend – that I stumbled into a more-intimate-than-I-expected Paneurhythmy dance circle.

For those out of ‘the know’ – which I’m assuming is most people – paneurhythmy (pronounced pan-eur-ith-mee) is “a science of the harmonious, conscious movements, based upon the laws of the Living Nature.” (thanks for that one, Wikipedia)  Basically, one or more people dressed in white dresses (yep, guys too) dance around in a circle to bulgarian violin music by employing a series of movements that have been practiced in that specific order for some respect-garnering number of years.  Needless to say it must have been quite the sight to see; watching me, in all my foolishness and bumbling good intention attempt to 1, remember the steps, 2, correctly perform said steps and 3, successfully remain upright while walking around in circles for hours on end – something which clearly proved to be quite a dizzying accomplishment.

The way I came to not only experience but participate in this rather preposterous display of song and dance was less by way of Marcy and more by way of her fun-loving and free-spirited mother, Sandra.  We’ve all been in that situation where you realize that a really great way to win a lady’s admiration is to also win the admiration of her mother – assuming they still like each other.  So in my attempt to appeal to Sandra’s new-age sensibilities, I happily – and maybe a bit too hastily –  consented when asked if I would be interested in joining her for some crack-of-dawn dance shenanigans.  She may have put it more eloquently…  then again, maybe not – she was a bit loony.

When I arrived home that night, eager to somehow come by several hours of sleep before heading back at first light for what I would later come to recognize as one of the more ridiculous things I’ve ever done, I had the fantastic idea to look up some information on the dance.  In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done that.  As I scrolled through webpages of pictures, videos and information about the dance and the people who do it, I came to realize that I had agreed to something far beyond silly, bordering on absurd.

The visual stimuli flashing before my eyes on my 13″ laptop screen seemed to physically widen my eyeballs and increase the pull of gravity thereby drawing my jaw closer and closer to the ground.  As I watched and read about the people dressed in all white, dancing in some ridiculous formation on the top of a mountain, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d willingly agreed to join some perpetually-twirling cult of Jesus-loving smilers.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.  Stunned and strangely a bit nerve-wracked I crawled in to bed and semi-successfully attempted to to pacify my anxiety and fall into restful slumber.

At 5:45 am my alarm clock went off in it’s typical rage-inducing tone and I shuffled out of bed into the shower.  By 6:02 I was out the door, dressed in all white (unfortunately no dress for me) and headed over to what I was certain would be the end of my non-cult-affiliated life.  At this point in Marcy and my relationship – if you could even call it that – I still had only known her mother for a month or two, and though she didn’t seem particularly culty, I was beginning to question her sanity – not to mention mine for agreeing to this.

As I stepped out of the car, Marcy came bouncing down the driveway to greet me, smiling from ear to ear.  She was a morning person – or could be when she wanted to – and seemed perpetually happy, almost unbelievably so.  Together we strolled to the house where her mother was waiting, just as goofy and excited as ever.  Still relative acquaintances, Sandra and I made small talk for a moment or two before she uttered the ever-common, “Alright, are you guys ready to do this?”  And though I answered with a confident and grinning, “Sure!  As ready as I’ll ever be!” my brain was shaking in nervous anticipation.

As we perambulated to the back of the house, I half expected to see a dozen people in white and red robes ready to dunk me in a bucket and dub me “One of Them.”  Though that would have made a great story, I was relieved to find that no such sights were to be had that morning; only a non-threatening, foot-worn, circular dirt path.  As Sandra broke out a glorious 90’s Sears boom box, I grabbed a sip of water in preparation for my impending dance-off with spirituality.

For the next hour and a half or so, we twisted, turned and twirled our way through the hundreds of steps required to properly honor and come into communion with the spirits and natural powers-that-be and, much to my surprise, I actually had a lot of fun!  Augmented, I’m sure, by the fact that Marcy joined in for moral support, I found I honestly enjoyed myself!

Throughout the rest of my time spent with Marcy I engaged in a handful of other silly experiences – laughter yoga included – all of which proved more entertaining and enjoyable than I first expected.  And that first objective – to win the admiration of her mother – didn’t fare too poorly either: Sandra loved me by the end of all this.  But in addition to falling into good favor with her maternal figure, I also learned something else – or rather secured a notion I had previously disregarded with hesitant, ego-induced ignorance:  Life is so much more exciting when you do things in which you know you’ll look like a fool.  Letting go of what’s socially common, normal, you-name-it, can be such an exhilarating rush!  To fail to do something absurd on at least a daily basis may be the reason for your misery and discontentedness with life.

Things between Marcy and I ended poorly about a year later in an unfortunate turn of events involving careless manipulation and disregard for anything remotely relating to human emotions, and to my genuine disappointment, the things said between us have since left a bitter taste in my mouth.  But the lessons her mother taught me by way of example – laugh, smile, experiment and explore – have stuck with me ever since.  If you don’t believe me, find your local paneurhythmy dealer and get your dance on.  You won’t regret it.


The Call of the Wilderness

These last three days I’ve had the rare – unfortunately rare, in fact – opportunity to take a few days removed from the confines of society; utterly unreachable by anyone not in my immediate vicinity; free of the so-called responsibilities demanded in order to remain a ‘contributing member of the community.’  This escape, though not difficult, is a feat accomplished less often than I’m proud of and can be found so simply by transporting the crucial pieces of ones life to the wilderness – food, water, shelter.

It’s a strange and beautiful thing how removal from the ‘daily grind’ can so quickly manifest within the soul a yearning to remain outside of the modern world we’ve so carelessly deemed as ‘better’ than the days of old.  After mere hours of extra-societal existence I found myself drawn to start walking and not stop until I was presented with a reason.  And not any reason, but a reason good enough to halt me in my tracks – to jerk me out of my childish wanderings and pull me back into something meaningful and in one foul swoop, pacify my eagerness to roam.

I’ve been half-heartedly exploring the possibility of a cross-country bike trip followed by months of trekking down one of America’s trails – whether it be the Pacific Coast Trail, the Appalachian Trail or even the small-in-comparison Colorado Trail.  I’m certain at least a modicum of my faith in the ‘journey’ comes from Hollywood’s glorification of the life-changing adventure, but I’m not so sure that it’s complete mumbojumbo.  Being a Buddhist, a massive percentage of my search in life relates to a better understanding of my true self and a search for the compassion necessary to change the world.  Maybe it’s the thought that the search throughout the world for the glory and the wonder it has to offer will help trigger something – get the ball rolling, so to speak.

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone has been a well-accepted method of self-discovery and growth and what better way to do that than leave the only life you’ve ever known to seek an alternate life full of unforeseen circumstances and mystery?  Any marginally practiced buddhist will tell you that life itself is more than enough to lead you to enlightenment – that no search is necessary, only openness to what life brings you – but they will also tell you that you should follow your heart’s path, no matter what.

In the years that have seen the distance between the ‘outdoors’ and ‘society’ grow to previously untouched proportions, so has the debate between natural existence and manufactured quality of life gained potency.  Both sides of the argument offer strong claims, of course.  Naturalists and wilderness enthusiasts will point to the clarity of the skies – skies devoid of airwaves transporting our many facets of technological communication (not to mention audible noise) – as a major contributor to the freedom brought only by the mountains, deserts and oceans.  Conversely, our businesspeople and other city-dwellers will rattle off a list of the many creature comforts that undeniably enable a more leisurely lifestyle (though any true outdoors(wo)man will valiantly defend the position that time spent outside is nothing short of leisure at its finest and that a life lived purely outside – ‘off the land’ as it were – would be altogether leisurely thanks to a greatly-reduced percentage of our daily stresses induced by ‘modern’ living.)

Untouched by either side’s relevancies, the battle between natural life and city life will rage until one of them ceases to exist, but one point will forever stand true regardless of what any flamingly passionate activist spits out:  A lot could be gained if each person dedicated as much effort to catching the sunset each evening as they did to checking their email before hitting the sack.

And this isn’t  just some dreamy notion thought up by a cooky outdoorsman.  In an article from the November 2010 issue of the Mountain Gazette, contributing writer, M. Michael Brady offered the sentiment (based on a 2005 study initiated by Nordic countries to measure the benefits of the outdoors,) “even in small amounts, natural environments are beneficial. Post-operative patients recover quicker if they can see a bit of green nature through the windows of their hospital rooms. Even short walks in natural surrounds have measurable psychological effects. In urban environments, ready access to green spaces helps improve health, lower mortality and reduce social problems.”  You get the point.

As we hiked out of the canyon on our last day of climbing, heading towards camp to break down and drive back into civilization, we all stopped as we stepped from the riverbed underbrush and into the subsequent meadow.  The sun was setting far beyond the mountain ranges to our west casting each range in different shades of blues and purples.  Perfectly complimenting these illustrious hues, the orange-green of the sky cast long and meticulous shadows over the dry, red earth sprawling for miles before us.   The moment required no words, no explanations, no thought.

I believe that’s the bliss found in nature from which countless millions of people have derived their solace:  a simple existence reducing the complexities of humanity to the primal and natural essence of life – just life.  The tools and technologies we’ve developed address the immediate difficulties of our day-to-day lives, but they fail to satisfy or even acknowledge the deep, underlying quest for meaning.  Even the largest of projects taken on for the sake of ‘leaving something behind’ cast a shadow of ever-so-subtle malcontent upon completion.  I don’t wish to imply that the only way to live a fulfilling life is to sacrifice our society’s conveniences for the rough-around-the-edges subsistence offered by our natural surroundings, but rather to urge a more serious investigation on the part of each individual into the benefits of a wilderness-friendly existence.

Mama Lenny and The Remedy Live at the Byllynsgate Ball – Concert Review

As the sun set on a beautiful autumn day in downtown Fort Collins, CO, a relatively new band set up shop on the patio of the now-iconic Lyric Cinema Café.  On any given day the Lyric is simply a thriving independent movie theater augmented by couches in the café and theaters, an impressive selection of local beers and a fun-loving staff catering to film lovers of all shapes and sizes.  On this particular night however, the venue played host to a soon-to-be-monthly celebration of local arts.

The Byllynsgate Ball, the brainchild of owner, Ben Mozer was started to bring together the many facets of Fort Collins’ flourishing artistic community.  The idea is simple: once a month, crowds gather to watch live music, live muraling of the café walls and an independent film (or several shorts) – all locally grown, of course.

The musical guest for this month’s Ball were none other than the fresh, local Mama Lenny and The Remedy.  Comprised of a self-described, “[…] group of musicians who wanted to play some nice music together […]” this 8-piece stunned and ignited the audience with an engaging and admirable take on generations-worth of what the band calls, “Rock, Rhythm, Blues and a whole lotta Soul.”

As patrons and passers-by began to gather around the makeshift stage on the theater’s patio near the corner of Walnut and Mountain, lead vocalist, Laniece Schleicher let out a low and raspy growl that instantaneously grabbed the attention of all within range of the speakers.  With that, the band launched into their set making it immediately apparent to all in attendance that they were a band worth listening to.  With Jeff Blayney’s tasteful and precise drumming setting an infectious backbeat and the band knocked off song after song, pulling the audience deeper and deeper into their sonic playground

Off to the right stands former 12 Cents for Marvin Trumpeter, Greta Cornett adding the occasional brass stab and solo, perfectly complimenting Ken Monk’s exacting and understated guitar work.  Their interplay is at once unpredictable and precise and truly speaks to their individual talent as musicians.  Equally talented and admirably reserved, keyboardist, Thalia Stevensen dances effortlessly on both sides of the line of audible presence; laying back when her additions provide more as subconscious aural warmth and pushing to the front when the right moment comes.

Co-fronting the band alongside Schleicher are two background vocalists, Kelly Keeler and Amanda Ernst.  Projecting diverse yet cohesive vocal style and emphasis, the three voices blended without a trace of miscalculation or false commitment and together, the vocal presence of the group provides possibly one of their most favorable traits.  Adding to the unique sound and accurate reproduction of the music of generations passed is Ben Prytherch’s bass style.  His tone, relaxed yet poignant attack and melodic patterns carried undeniable likeness to bassists of the 60’s, especially those of British Rock fame including The Rolling Stones’ own, Bill Wyman and added a subtly nostalgic air to the overall groove.

Together the band ushered a wave of emotion and excitement over the growing crowd and successfully pulled an entire group of relative strangers into an unforgettable musical coma that left all in attendance hooting and hollering for more long after their last notes died out.  Comprised of a monster lineup, enough musical creativity to power a modern-day magical mystery tour and a refined yet enthusiastic delivery, Mama Lenny and the Remedy gave an awe-inspiring performance that left no doubt whatsoever that Fort Collins can and will stand on the cutting edge of phenomenal musical talent and originality.  Expect to see big things from this group and keep an eye out for future performances and releases.  If you miss it, you’ll kick yourself both now AND later.