Portals to Porches

 Seven Oaks Retreat Center (left) and Porches Writing Retreat (right). 

Seven Oaks Retreat Center (left) and Porches Writing Retreat (right). 


In the last week, with less than 24 hours of transition time between, I’ve both attended a 5Rhythms dance retreat called Portals and led a Life in 10 Minutes writing retreat at the Porches.

Though I have identified most of my life as a writer, dance has always been for everyone else. Ideas focused in my mind. Music was about the lyrics. Interactions with people were what you had to say to them and what they said- or didn't say- to you. Words reigned supreme. The body tagged along, something to be gotten around, dragged around, forced to obey- even though of course it never did. Like a hungry child my body has tried to get my attention in a million ways and I've had no idea how to listen.

It’s no secret I’m tone deaf and my rhythm does not follow the same structure or beat as anyone else. Dance was an art form as accessible to me as flying to Mars. A number of years ago I was introduced to Five Rhythms by a writer I adore. I tried his dance only to write about it for a first person column in which I experimented with all kinds of crazy things I wouldn't normally do. I didn’t continue but I never forgot and something led me to find the dance again this spring and now my Sunday morning dance class is the church I've always dreamed might someday exist. 

Portals was an experience I have not yet found words for. The dance was a form of free-writing that requires not just the head, heart and hands but the feet, knees, thighs, belly, breasts, elbows and neck, too. The body becomes the story rather the story controlling the form. Throughout the weekend words exploded in and out of my head until I was emptied of them completely. As a writer this was liberating and terrifying. What if I don't remain who I thought I was? What if I do?

And then, after a lightning flash came Porches, a creative haven that has become an essential party of the rhythm of my life. I danced (naked!) in my room each morning and wrote my heart out with exquisitely talented women all day. I found some of the words I was looking for and others danced far, far away. There are stories my body has yet to tell.

Valley HaggardComment