My 2006 NaNoWriMo novel. Woo! Note: since I am posting as I go along, the storyline is backwards. To read this, start from the oldest post and read to the newest.

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Location: Los Angeles, United States

I am an awkward, stubborn, slightly insane woman who would rather talk Plato than Prada, rather watch Frank Capra than Carrie Bradshaw, and rather listen to Norse myths sung in Icelandic than anything currently on the radio. Yeah. Told you I was weird.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Chapter 16

Journal Entry November 21st.

Is this what culture is? A group of college students, making ridiculously large pizzas, and watching movies? There doesn’t seem to be anything redeeming about that.

But then, some of the happiest people I’ve seen here seem to be able to parcipate happily, while I stay outside, observing, but not joining. Erin seemed so at peace with her friends at the dinner table, Angie apparently knows everyone at Our Lady, and James can organize a whole pizza-baking evening that’s become an important traditon for a dozen people. At least two of them have had horrible tragedies, and none of them are stupid.

So why do they fall for it? Do you have to strike a compromise? Blind yourself to the nonsense of it all, just in order to feel warm and fuzzy inside?


Sunday night, I found myself in the parish hall of Our Lady, holding hands with another man, and dancing harder than I’d ever thought I could.

When we’d arrived for the Seder preperartion class, we found out that one of the main staples of Jewish worship and community was dancing. So, as Marie instructed, we kicked off our shoes, and gathered in a loose circle in the center of the room. I tried to hang back towards the edges of the crowd, but Ryan grabbed my shoulder and propelled me into the circle. A group of five people from the local Messianic congregation had formed a ring, and began teaching us the dances. The first one was very simple, involving little more than linking arms and skipping around in a circle. We changed directions once or twice, but that was about it.

The next dance was more complicated, requirung us to cross one foot over another without tripping, and even weave through the circle. It took us a while to get it, but it finally began to feel a little more natural.

That was when I noticed something. I didn’t hate this, dancing with a group of people. It was hard work, and complicated, and most of us stepped on another person’s foot at least once, but it was good. I had one arm slung across Ryan’s shoulders, and another across the shoulders of a middle-aged woman I’d seen in church a few times, all of us trying desperately to keep up with the steps, not even speaking to each other, and yet it felt like one of the deepest conversations I’d ever had.

“Ok, everyone, this was excellent! We hope you all come to all of the next classes. We promise that we won’t make you work so hard in each one!” Marie turned to thank the dancers, and most of the class left. Ryan, myself, and a few other stragglers stayed behind; Ryan obviously wanted to talk to Marie.

“Hello Ryan! You looked like you were really having fun!”

“Yes, that was fantastic. I was wondering, is there a way to do more of the dancing? I mean, this would be an incredible monthly thing.”

“Well..I don’t know as many of the worship dances as Esther does…she was the one leading the group tonight. But I do know some of the modern Israeli dances, which I think you might like, too.”

Most of the others nodded enthusisastically, and Marie’s face lit up. “Actually, if you have a little while tonight—it’s only about 9pm, so it’s not too late—I could teach you my favorite dance. It’s not too hard, and it’s really a lot of fun.”

Everyone said yes, of course they’d love to stay. I tried to convince myself that I was only staying because Ryan was my ride home, but the truth was, I really wanted to keep dancing.

“Ok, let me dance it for you once, so you can get the idea of what it looks like as a whole.” Marie put a cd into the player, and a strong techno beat thumped out of the speakers. A woman’s voice began to sing, though I couldn’t quite make out the words. Marie kicked and skipped across the room, face alight with the sheer joy of movement.

“OK, now, here’s how it goes. Can everybody seem me? Kick, step, back; kick, step, back; sway sway kick, down, turn around. One more time.”

As she lead us through the movements, I began to follow them more closely. The first time she lead us through the entire dance, I stumbled and felt off rythym, but managed to keep up. The second time was a little better.

Finally, on the last time through the dance, a moment came: it seemed as if the steps to thedance were the only ones I’d ever known, and my feet moved effortlessly. I heard the singer’s voice belting out, “Pick me up, put me down, put my feet back on the ground; pick me up, put me down and make me happy.” Kick step back, kick step back. “Put my feet back on the ground.” Kick step back, kick step back. “Make me happy.”

Losing myself in the dance, I felt as though I had become part of a great river, moving along with those beside, those who had lived before me, and even those who would come later, who did not even exist yet. Every part of my soul went into the motions of my feet and hands, and as the last note struck, I landed, balanced on one foot, hands outstretched, and felt a release like being struck by lightning.

For that instant, I felt as if I was a part of something, no longer an autonomous unit, expendable, replaceable. It seemed like myself and all those who moved through the dance with me were precious, and that these exact souls, so unique, would never be replicated, no matter how long the earth endured. For a moment, we were all holy, unique, lumnous beings.

Then it was over, and we were sweaty, tired, overweight people again, though we were all probably smiling more than most people do at that moment.

Marie congratulated us on our dancing, and said she’d try to set up a class if there was really this much interest in it.

The stars were bright over the City as we drove home.


Journal entry November 28th

I should be able to believe that what I felt the other night was just the release of endorphins, not some great spiritual experience. But I can’t quite bring myself to believe it.

Dancing seems so pointless; motions of the body that have no real use for anything productive. Maybe that’s what culture and community are supposed to be like: useless, extraneous motions of the soul, that somehow, in coordination with others, become a thing of beauty.


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