Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Be Still and Know..."


Flamenco doesn't stop because we do.  It goes on and grows and is reborn through generations, both old and young.  Though our lives are dotted with events that we consider distractions, or worse yet, tragedies, flamenco is ever-present, waiting like a loyal friend.  It doesn't demand anything other than what we demand of ourselves, and what you offer it, it gives back (and then some).
  A  mistake I've made is to see flamenco like a fruit which will one day over-ripen.  It may seem as though there is an ideal time to harvest it and take it into our being, and if we wait too long, that time will pass us by.  This goal-oriented thinking however, disregards the more important part of flamenco that truly feeds the soul: the process of being.  Who I am today will surely change with each passing moment, and these moments will inform my flamenco experience as much as flamenco, in turn, informs my life.
  Mele and I have had life-changing moments this past year in droves.  Our baby girl, Gloria, was born in March.  Our dear friend and flamenco guitarist, Ricardo Anglada, suffered a stroke at age 29 and despite an initially bleak diagnosis, has come back to do things he was not supposed to be able to do.  I've had to put off developing flamenco skills to work a 40 hour week and finish my undergrad degree online at night.  These events are packed with lessons and experiences to draw from, and the change in us will cause change in our understanding of flamenco whether or not we are able to be in the studio 8 hours a day.
  Our current state has caused growth for Mele and I in many ways.  Mele has taken over teaching for a few sessions now, and she is settled back into something she had been away from for quite awhile.  It has added a depth to her art and renewed her enthusiasm for the creative process which is a driving force in her journey.  I've experienced a surprisingly rewarding mixture of humility and intellectual stimulation which has taken my focus toward developing a deeper love for flamenco.  We've both looked to Ricardo's hardships and have recognized them as flamenco in of themselves, living, breathing and struggling while speaking truth.  We are inspired by his unshakable climb back into the light, all the while experiencing the very discovery of the light and all it reveals through the eyes of our sweet baby girl.
  There are many things which are obvious characteristics of flamenco such as the energy, the sound, and the humanity.  What we're seeing today however, are those things which are much more subtle than all that, so much so that they're easy to miss.  Flamenco is as much in the hospital room as it is on the stage.  Flamenco is as present in the lonely moments of the work day as it is in a juerga with friends and family.  Flamenco doesn't stop because we do, and it doesn't cease to be a part of our lives because it can't, though we may seek to distance ourselves from it.  Flamenco is the story of the gift of life that God has granted us all.  May our ears be opened so that we may listen and comprehend it.  May we be still and
know.  (see Psalm 46:10)      

Monday, February 11, 2013

Those Steps To Come

By Mele Martinez

I’ve seen a phenomenon of fearlessness in many young people, but I’m pretty sure that I never suffered from that condition.  I was born scared.  Ask anyone who knew me as a kid, and they will confirm it.  I was always scared to jump in the pool, scared to go down the slide, scared to ride my bike down the hill.  What I considered being cautious was actually an unwillingness to “go for it.”  In essence, I was a big baby. 

When it came time for me to stop being the baby and actually have a baby of my own, things got chaotic.  As Jason and I found out that we were going to have our first child, Lola, the fear that had always lived in me played itself out like a drum set.  I had horrible nightmares.  I had daily anxiety.  I was terrified of carrying, bearing, and rearing a kid.  I know I’m not alone in experiencing this phenomenon.  Even for the most adventurous woman, becoming a mom is pretty scary stuff.

Likewise, flamenco can be pretty scary for me too.  Though I’ve never been completely disabled by a fear of dance or being on stage (ironically enough), I face the challenge the art form presents to each and every artist. Sometimes, choosing to do flamenco can feel like you’ve dropped yourself into foreign waters without a life preserver.  And though teaming with the most amazing and beautiful creatures, forces, and experiences, those waters can look pretty dark from shore.

As most of you probably know, Jason and I have drifted from yet another shore.  We are about to have our second child.  The fact that this one comes nearly nine years after our first should be testament alone to the kind of fears I’ve had about being a mom.  But the way in which we came to have this child is not the same nightmare-riddled encounter that we had the first time.  Things are different this time, and I want to tell you why.

I have something now that I didn’t have much of just years ago.  I have something now that makes everything unlike before.  Somehow and somewhere through this past decade I have acquired a glorious thing – faith.  Even though I knew Jason and I weren’t in a financial situation to have another baby, even though I knew I was getting older and there could be complications, and even though I knew it would probably turn our day to day lives upside down, I knew we could have another baby.  I had faith that God would see us through it – from beginning to end.  Jason and I made the decision to go out on this shaky limb – not because we were looking to fall, but because out on a limb is where the fruit is.  Someone was talking to my heart, and wouldn’t let up.  I listened this time, and instead of walking away with my tail between my legs, I accepted the proposal.  In just a few weeks, we get to see that proposal in the flesh – in the form of a baby girl.

As joyous as this whole thing is, I don’t want to begin to sugar coat it.  Though I’m very happy to be expanding our family, I’m not exactly walking on pillowy clouds all day.  In fact, walking has literally become one of my biggest challenges.  Now that I am pregnant, it seems like every single step counts for so much more than it used to.  Each step is either a testament to my strength or an example of my imbalance.  These days, I think twice about every step I take; I pay so much more attention to it than I ever have.  If I could be dancing right now, I know that each of those steps would take such careful consideration, I might not be able to do more than the simplest of movements.  But isn’t that the labor of flamenco for everyone? 

When we step out onto the stage or into the studio, we have already made the decision to go out on that limb.  It took courage just to take that first step.  Then, when we begin to move or play or sing, we have to make split second decisions about how much we will keep under our control, and how much we will risk.  The balance, when found, is such a sweet and savory thing to behold.  I’ve seen dancers do it.  I’ve seen singers and musicians do it.  It is such a miracle in the making that I often weep with adoration for the artist who can take care of each step and still manage to take risks.  It proves their faith, and faith is a wondrous thing to watch in action.

In about a year, when this new daughter of ours starts to take her own, I hope to teach her to carefully choose her steps and to exercise the wisdom of a seasoned chess player with each move she makes.  But I also hope to teach her that sometimes she will need to do more than take steps on solid ground; she will need to realize that fear can literally cripple her, but that afflictions can be relinquished by leaping out boldly in faith.  Her reward, I know, will be sweet. I relish in the promise of those baby steps to come, and the proof that faith is for everyone.