Dancing, cacti, and invasive species


What a full day!

After an oatmeal breakfast with my Warmshowers hosts (have you ever tried clove powder on your oatmeal? I recommend it!) I biked over to check out the Sunday morning ecstatic dance in a nearby park. Many years ago, in Portland, I attended Sacred Circle ecstatic dance religiously. Like, almost once a week, for probably about five years. I loved the practice, and it felt wonderful to be a part of the community that formed around the dance. In fact, I’m finding that many people I have connected with on this tour—especially here in Arizona—are people I knew from the Portland dance scene. (I think of the phenomenon as the Portland ecstatic dance diaspora, which I find bittersweet.)

My friend Jenny—whom I knew in Portland for some years, many years ago, although we did not meet through dance—lives here in Tucson, and tipped me off to the event.

It felt great to attend! I had been away from ecstatic dance for years. At first I had moved away from it because of scheduling conflicts, and then over the years, I noticed an unfortunate, if inexplicable to me, phenomenon: nearly every time I tried to go back and enjoy it again, I found that my energy somehow was not in the right place, such that it never felt quite right to me; I often left in a worse mood than the one in which I had arrived, which is the exact opposite of what ecstatic dance usually does for participants. But, eventually I accepted that I must have reached a new chapter of my life, where it wasn’t a good fit for me. I held open the possibility that I might return at some point and find it a good fit again.

Today felt kind of like that. It was a very different experience to have the dance outside, in a park. They do it that way for COVID safety, which I appreciated. It also gives a different feel to the practice. I spent a lot of time moving with my eyes mostly closed (though open enough to keep safely distanced from other dancers) and just soaking in the music, the sunshine, and the felt-sense of community. I also got the chance to connect with Jenny and her wife, Karen, which was great since I hadn’t seen them in person in many years.

After dance, I returned to the house to do some communications relating to my upcoming lodging plans. Shortly afterward, my host Sonya and I, and a neighbor of theirs, piled into the car for a volunteer excursion.

Sonya has been passionately involved, for some years, in the active removal of the invasive buffelgrass in the saguaro cactus lands here around Tucson. She leads regular work parties for volunteers who go out into the rocky natural areas and learn to identify buffelgrass (it looks a lot like another plant that is not harmful) and then remove it by hand, with heavy metal picks.

This was all very new to me! Luckily, Sonya loaned me an old pair of jeans; my leggings and thin nylon capris would not have held up well to the task of wading through all the cacti and other prickly plants among the rocky hills.

Our two teams of roughly nine people each spent about three hours sweeping our respective areas, cleaning them of buffelgrass as we found it.

Afterward, we were rewarded by a beautiful sunset—complete with a nearly full moon—back at the parking lot.

I’m really enjoying my time in Tucson so far. Tomorrow I plan to visit the botanical garden—not far from here—and then head to the east edge of town to meet my new Servas host.

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