Invocation – Fionas Pandemic Story. Author Fiona Millward (UK)
Earth Song, by Frank Ticheli and sang by Voces8, first found me a few months ago. I was deeply moved by it and have since shared it many times with others. This is a short story of my experience during February and March 2021, which was personally the lowest point of the past year.
I invited a fellow dance artist to explore it with me as a movement practice, as a record of what we are experiencing during this time, as well as a way of bringing us home to ourselves when things feels too much. We shared a document and recorded our experience whenever the practice happened. What began as a movement practice became so much more, an intimate recording of our journeys through this time, a way of expressing and integrating our experience of isolation during the pandemic, and a support that guided us through the lowest moments.
Below are just my entries so far to preserve my colleagues privacy.
The song can be listened to here:
Expansiveness. As my foreheads opens in response, I sense the wings of my perception unfolding and expanding me across land, rivers, continents. I started from a feeling of crumpled inwards.
Contained, folded into length. On opening I feel imbalance, a pull of tensions through the structure. At the end I feel taller and more gathered around myself, I end right in the centre of the room as if to find balance from the space around me.
I lie down, sensing the way my body is perching on the ground. I stay resolute and quiet in this stillness. Towards the last moments of the song, I begin to feel a distinct and welcome widening and opening of pelvis, my right leg begins to unwind and my pelvis begins to settle and balance. I am so struck by the power of this music, it makes me smile. It is like my cells have vibrated into more harmony and realigned.
I look at the clock and see it’s 11.53pm…I move, lights out, held in the relief of the darkness. Small, fluid, gestures of surrender. The song suddenly overwhelms me with a sense of timelessness and my heart aches with a painful and tender nostalgia. I am in the future, remembering this time with such fondness and sadness for the passing of time. Profound
memories of this room, these days, and such beloved moments with friends. I wonder if this is what you experience on the moment of your passing, recognising finally how precious it all is…
I start self consciously and slightly outside of myself…the edges of trying are nudging in too strongly. I find stillness and refuse to back down from backing down…let the music into the cells.
At the end I sense so clearly the essence of resting in to my listening as the focus, not the moving out into the space necessarily. I sense Petra dancing at my back and have a strong desire to watch…but stay true to the task at hand and delight in turning around to see her framed with the lights of her cabin, capturing that closing moment of resolution.
Today’s practice takes place on the floor as I navigate something new through my pelvis. I begin listening with weariness edged with a tinge of anxiety, but open to the silk of the voices soothing my nervous system. By the end I am calmer, more rested in gravity, and grateful. I press repeat and listen once more to embed the sensation a little deeper into my cells. Such a magical sound...
I lie in bed and press play…a wish to still myself today, to be cocooned within the sound. I am drawn to the various voices that create the whole, dropping underneath the lead parts and into the quieter background harmonies. Such a co-operative, invested, coming together of intentions - I am moved by the care that feels poured into expressing this song with such beauty. The words Hallelujah come through today and my scalp relaxes, the tension leaves my forehead. Such power and possibility in shared aspirations.
I listen seated on a bench overlooking the hill opposite, watching dogs furrowing in the dusting of snow. The sun bleeds into my eyes and the warmth is welcome. I relish the stillness of my body as the sounds vibrate my cells once more and I imagine things healing and changing in response to such beauty. For the first time since listening to the song the final two extended notes of Peace really strike me. A call to peace, an invoking of peace, an invitation for peace, an opportunity from peace. I sit in complete silence for a while, earphones in, watching the silent noise of the world pass by and note that these moments in my “normal” life would never happen. The pandemic has brought such conflicting experiences to the world. I feel lucky and grateful for what I have received from it.
I come back to this practice after 3 days of an unintentional break. I am filled with a gentle excitement as to what might arise today. As soon as the music begins I feel a melting delight as I soften into the gorgeousness of the tones. It is even more beautiful than I remember. The mornings workshop comes to mind and the word liminal is present..I feel that this may be an ‘inbetween’ dance, a not knowing dance, and that elicits more delicious anticipation. It surprises me as my body becomes liquid and the movement feels like I am floating in water, seaweed, interconnected, soft, fluid…the taste of it is so welcome. Such power in this sound…
The movement this song evokes is always that of emotion. If the body joins then so be it, but it isn’t a primary response. I listen twice… The first time brings a feeling of distances. I have an image of a dear friend cocooned and sleeping within their cabin, surrounded by fairy lights, snow, trees, mountains, in the middle of space far away from here. The geographical distance triggers a realisation of my aloneness, that is definitely tinged with loneliness today. I miss being present with others, registering also how many friends I have lost touch with these past years. I wonder when we might next meet. It shifts into time-distance and once again I am nostalgic, the image of a funeral service moves into the front of my mind reminding me of how precious time is. Then images of woods, and walks, and talks, and silence and presence of you, and Mari, and the WM group in Stroud once again. Connection, aliveness, creativity, touch, exchange, sharing…being together in the same space at the same time. The absence of these is what loneliness tastes like. The second time through my body moves almost constantly, as if pouring itself away from loneliness and into presence. As I move I wonder where my life is heading, but continue riding the momentum so the absence of an answer doesn’t feel so raw.
This is a bed dance today. I lie back and feel the music move into me, sensing how it allows me to feel my heart, both physically and emotionally, and it’s slightly painful. There is a melting and an expanding that drops through front to back and I find I am making odd finger gestures, like shadow puppets. The gestures and timings are incongruent with the sound… Nostalgia is once again present, the image of Deborah Hay dancing from the earlier lecture…and I remember her words…that it is not what she dances, or how she dances, but that she dances… that means something. My hands continue the dance…and I stay quiet for the final moments. There is a lack of reality in this time maybe that makes nostalgia so present…real memories, experiences, relationships to recall…we are in a twilight moment that is hurtling towards somewhere we have no idea of, and I’m not sure I’m ready to face what will come… What you pay attention to matters….so pay attention to what you want to matter.
The sun is glorious today and I place myself on the small patio, facing into it, and let the warmth invoke movement alongside the sound. The opening notes flood the ground upwards through me and my arms float into the air. The hands feel that touch and explore the detail of contact. I desire to move out of my habitual slowness, but the music slows me always into being as I am. Two neighbours walk past with averted eyes, embarrassed for me or for themselves I’m not sure...but I carry on...they will understand. I want to spin and swirl but my rubber garden clogs don’t allow it, so instead my joints crease and fold and shift me. An invocation to the sun, to peace, to future, to joy, to this moment.
The song comes on unexpectedly within a playlist and I am so grateful for its arrival. It brings me back to this practice, to what it means to me. I immediately feel my throat soften as my nervous system calms, and my seeing becomes wide and deep…the world comes to me and I rest into my weight. I recognise the sensation that it always brings to me, that of feeling intimately connected to a bigger picture…that I feel both a tiny speck in existence and yet infinite and never-ending. I register the song brings me to what Cai Tomas describes as the listening ear within my heart…and then David Whyte’s poem The Winter of Listening resurfaces and I “understand” the sensation this song always brings and why it feels like an invocation, a prayer…
‘All those years
How easily you can belong To everything
Simply by listening’
This invocation of belonging to everything allows me to rest within the movement of the universe.
"This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein."