Writerly Wednesdays are devoted to all things writerly. I may share a favorite writerly nook or share some new found tool, gadget, widget or app. More commonly, Wednesdays are about my creative process. At least, that is where the aim is targeted. In the archive, you will find a whole lot of nook action.
We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.” ~Japanese proverb
Summertime in Hawaii means Obon Season. Shortly after mango season’s rush to preserve in pickles, jam, chutney or loaves of quick bread, it’s time to get out of the kitchen and out to a local temple and get your community dance on.
Bon Odori season officially kicks in to gear with the Memorial Day Floating of the Lanterns. Check out my post In Memoriam for a refresher.
2012 Bon Festival Schedule helps you fill in your dance card from the end of May through early September. On September 1st, the Okinawan Festival signals the beginning of the end, leaving groups of aficionados like The Dancing Fools Bon Dance Posse dreaming of 2013.
One reason for the extended Bon season in Hawaii is the by-now familiar refrain of this blog: Hawaii is a mixed-plate culture. Our traditions are an amalgam of the various heritages that call Hawaii home. The spirit of Obon is more akin to Memorial Day than of Halloween or Día de los Muertos. The ancestral obake (ghosts) haunt us in a benign sort of way. It is a time to understand that we stand on the shoulders of giants, many of them plantation workers.
Although each area of Japan and each Temple here in Hawaii has its own variation on the theme. A most common dance echoes the workers in a coal mining region of Japan. The dance is a repetition of twelve steps that can be associated with four basic actions.
- Testing the Waters
Place right foot forward one step, lift foot and replace in same spot. Transfer weight onto right foot. Move left foot forward, stepping twice in the same spot…as if testing the waters before committing to something new.
Push off with the left foot back one step. Repeat with right foot to revisit the very spot where you started.
- Push Forward
Push that coal cart full of coal forward. Stride right, then left, then right then left again.
- Re-establish Base
Dump the coal with a step forward and a flourish. Step back, feet together to establish a new base. Rinse and repeat all 12 steps all night long in a circle.
It takes 12-steps to progress 4 strides, never you mind everyone is ultimately chasing their tail in a circle. It would be highly frustrating to think of bon dancing as a mode of efficient transport, but of course, no one conceptualizes it that way.
What does this have to do with writing?
The question is rhetorical, because I know you are a quick study of my moves. My summer hasn’t been successful in terms of linear measure, but it has been wonderfully creative.
I have started out unsure of my steps. I’ve ventured out testing the waters. I’ve been out there digging for coal by mining more established bloggers for content and direction. I had to take a step back and figure out what was ore and what was debris.
Then I would gain the confidence to stride forward with some well focused progress. Then I would celebrate a mini-victory as I started the dance all over again. With each repetition, my footing got surer. I became less anxious and self-conscious about my footwork and hand placement and more conscious of the music.
Eventually, I was aware of how much encouragement and positive energy I was getting from the community. And with that, I am eager to try the next dance. The next writerly challenge.
Three minute video of Obon Hawaiian-Style
Check out more adventures in culture and travel at GRRL Traveler
This summer seems to have been a challenge for many of the writers in my life. Many, many of the blogs I follow went dark for a great portion of the summer. But success is not always linear. Creativity is often fed by the things we mistake for failures. How was your summer? Leave us your thoughts.