Richard van Duyvendyk
Reflections from the Swamp

Dear Readers,

Several of you let me know that you liked Our Dance with Winter, which I wrote two weeks ago, thanks for your comments. Others confided that they would rather be on a beach in Mexico. I know what you mean. This story suggests another way to enjoy winter by dancing with your snow shovel. It may seem like a bit of a stretch, but give it a chance. Sometimes it’s good to look at a wider picture. Until they open up the dancehalls, grab your partner, or your snow shovel, and dance. We’re all in this pandemic together. Let me know how it goes.

Gloria will also be interested in your response.

I wandered out into the blizzard with a shovel feeling the flakes pound against my face. The snow, covering fleeting memories, buried in drifts, waiting to come back in dreams or blown away forever. The snow is falling in my mind, healing some recollections, solidifying and freezing others. Crystallizing my reminiscences and turning them into diamonds on the snow. All the while, there was no hint that my sleek red shovel friend, whom we will name Gloria, would become my dance partner.

I remember that painful dance in a high school gym, where I first experienced the WW1 atmosphere, with girls on one side and boys on the other, and a giant no man’s land between us. After waiting in the trenches for the last dance, glued to the wall looking as cool as possible in the darkness, I bravely crossed no man’s land four times to the other side. Each time I was fatally shot down by the goddess Venus and her platoon of comrades. Ladies in waiting, stabbing through the heart with bayonets tipped with cruel laughter and malice. I was so wounded that I could dance no more, not then, not ever. Buried in a trench and left for dead, like the groundhog, I emerged from my hole and saw nothing but darkness and winter, and retreated into my burrow.

Much later, there came the other dancers with the cold winds of winter. Other dancers moved in perfect harmony; their supple bare limbs were the willow branches dancing with the wind. Their faint songs carried in the breeze were so playful, joyful, and loving. They swayed, holding out their naked bronze arms towards me, inviting me to dance.

The rows of willows beside the driveway sway their beautiful limbs with the beat of the wind. I hear the chorus of their singing in the blustery breeze as they dance. I listen to them whispering to each other, “He can’t dance; his dancing spirit was crushed by Venus. Let’s show off our wildest dances and merriments and invite him to dance. Come, take your gorgeous red shovel, and dance with us. We know you have bionic knees, but we too are rooted to one place, and yet we dance.”  Their laughter in the wind was contagious. I laughed too, accepting their invitation. Holding my shovel, Gloria, in an intimate pose, I thanked them and replied, “We can dance as all of humanity can dance with the wind. Yes, let’s dance together.  Feigning a foxtrot with Gloria, trying a few ballet moves, and swaying my arms with theirs, we danced as the snow, which was still descending like the holy dove, surrounded us. The willows didn’t walk away; they danced with me, laughed with Gloria and me, and moved with us to the music of the wind.

Mozart and Beethoven wrote new sonatas. Willows moved not in simple rhythms but in symphonic harmonies. This was no synchronized swimming event: each limb moved uniquely and perfectly with each change in the gusts of wind, each nuance of movement in the music. They danced with me on the dance floor of freshly fallen snow. We were one in the elements, Earth, Wind, Snow, and the fire of dance, all moving in harmony. All of Creation danced with us in the celebration of life, turning snow into wine and wind into music. I drank it all in as Creation poured more wine into the chalice.

I returned home, Gloria in hand, with only the disappearing footsteps and frozen memories to remind us that this beautiful day even happened. Someday the willows will again be covered in their green dresses, the crickets will sing when the winds are silent, and the geese will add their trumpets to the chorus from the marsh. Every day is a symphony calling us to dance. When Creation asks you to dance, never say no; just hold her body close to your heart, and dance.