Flamenco: Beauty and Passion

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We just spent a week in Madrid for a Pastors’ Bootcamp. Although it sounds intimidating, it was actually a phenomenal time of training, learning, prayer, lots of eating and (a personal favourite) lovely Spanish red wine! I think Judah was delighted with the amount of food I consumed, as milk production at the mama-factory was at an all-time high.

The Spanish have quite different rhythms of life, as lunch is only eaten at 2pm, usually consists of four courses and lasts for two hours, and supper is only at about 9pm or later. We heard life outside our hotel windows well past midnight, and everything is dead until at least 10 or so in the morning. And I felt like I was on holiday, because there was no cooking, no cleaning, and no laundry! (although now I am still trying to clear the backlog)

The Spanish people are wonderful – warm, passionate, strong and gritty, yet sensitive. I got the feeling one would not like to get in a fight with a Spanish person, but if one did, it would be quite possible to kiss each other soundly on the cheek afterwards and end up at a Tapas bar somewhere drinking copious amounts of wine and slapping the table together.

Probably the highlight of the trip for me was a visit to see a Flamenco dance on our last night. It was a special treat organised for us by the church in Madrid. After a short walk through bustling streets, we were ushered into a dimly lit, large upper room of a restaurant. It seemed impossibly old with exquisite wood carvings and mosaics all around the walls and ceilings. There was a great sense of history and majesty, rather like walking into an old church, except here there was a busy hum of conversation and a crackle of something electric in the air.

Then there was a hush as a small group filed onto a high stage in the middle of the room. A guitarist, a singer and three dancers. We all fell quiet, sipping our drinks, as the guitarist began to play and the singer leaned into the microphone. He sang, a wonderful husky, haunting sound, the notes tumbling and falling over each other and mingling with the plaintive, sweet melody of the acoustic guitar, racing up and down the scales like water. Then a dancer appeared at the edge of the stage.

Poised like a lioness, she moved slowly and deliberately, her hands fluttering and fluid, and her face contorted with pain and deep emotion. Then with a flash of hands and a violent stamp of her feet the guitar broke into an agitated strumming, and the pace accelerated. The other dancers clapped and stamped their heavy shoes, as she flew and twirled and twisted and stamped. The power in her feet was incredible – their staccato on the floor sounded like thunder, and every time she twirled to crash them down, it felt like the air was vibrating with explosions. Faster and faster she went, the musicians sweating to keep up and the other dancers clapping and shouting their pleasure.

When she finished, with one final crash of her shoes to the wooden floor, her immaculate headdress was quivering with exertion, and her face was covered in a glowing sheen. The audience applauded and shouted rapturously. Then the next dancer got up, and the next. I was blown away by the strength and power these men and women showed. Tightly controlled and sensuous, with the hands fluttering and rippling around their bodies like birds trying to break free, it was as though something deep was working its way to the surface and releasing itself in the power of those crashes of the feet to the floor.

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Tanya, a missionary in Madrid, was sitting next to me, and she leaned across to show me some writing on her phone about the Flamenco. Apparently it was a peasant dance originating from the Andalusian mountains, a personal expression of poor people groups and oppressed ethnic minorities. It has a wide range of influences from all over the world.

It struck me, as I watched these impassioned dancers, living and breathing this wild Flamenco, that the deep emotion they were expressing was part of the dance’s beauty. The fact that centuries of history and human experience could be so caught up in a dance was mesmerising.

It spoke to me of how much beauty can be borne out of pain, and how, channelled in the right direction, even the most negative experience can result in great depth and richness of expression. Much like many of the African-American spiritual songs sung by the slaves on cotton farms in America, there was something about the Flamenco that spoke deeply to my soul.

I thought about how the pain of having children (not only literally, as in childbirth, but figuratively, as I sacrifice many of my pleasures daily) has wrought so much character and spiritual formation in me, and also how much joy and pleasure our children bring us day to day. It also reminded me to channel my frustrations, and to find a positive expression for the deep things that lurk beneath the (sometimes) superficiality of my busy life.

I love Spain, the people, its culture and its dance. I hope to go back there someday…. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll have the courage to buy some shoes and learn the Flamenco.

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Poop Goes the Weasel

The 5 rules of potty training are:

  1. Be patient.
  2. Be patient.
  3. Be patient.
  4. Be patient.
  5. Invest in a good set of marigolds! (refer to previous post Pimp Out Your Marigolds)

Welcome to the Bardone house of fun. It’s day number 7 of potty training, and while it is going considerably better than the last time (with Isaac it was like trying to teach an amoeba to write) it is still by far the hardest part of parenting for me.

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I thought about heading this post something like “Tough Girls Do Cry” or “Crying is OK if You Can Stop After Ten Minutes”, but then realised that perhaps nobody would want to read it. Yes, there have been tears, and yes, the marigolds have been put to good use. But, although it is intense, it has meant a whole lot of undivided attention for Miss Evie-pie, and I have to say we have grown closer over the last week.

Reading books on the potty, doing stickers and tattoos on the potty, waiting, waiting….Talking about going on the potty, eating sweeties on the potty, running in circles around the potty, potty books, potty sticker charts, potty wins, potty misses. Lots of cheers and clapping and jubilation for the wins. Lots of deep breaths and “ah, poor dear, don’t worry, next time” for the misses. Yes, it takes a lot of patience.

One has to let a lot go (everything that is not essential really), because, for a two-and-a-half-year-old, learning to go on the potty is a really big deal. Personally I can’t remember it (thank heaven!) but I can only imagine that suddenly losing that sense of a comfortable safety net is a bit unnerving. And, I have to keep reminding myself that this is not about me, it’s about her.

For example, 45 minutes spent waiting for a poo to come with her lying over my lap on the floor could be seen as a colossal waste of time, OR…a great excuse to have a little cuddle and stroke her hair, reassuring her that it’s all going to be OK. Or after sitting on the potty five times without success, one heads out the door, only to get around the corner and hear a forlorn little, “Sorry, Mommy!” One just can’t get too frustrated.

Not only is Evie being potty-trained, but teddy and dolly are giving it a go as well, often with impressive sound effects. And their little mama seems to be keeping things under control pretty well. So I figure, having a good cry once they’re all in bed, or calling a good friend from the other room to have a vent is permitted. As long as to my Evie-pie, when she sees me, she thinks I think she’s doing a great job.

Potty-training is not for the faint-hearted. But, like many hard and unpleasant things in life, it has to be done. And finally getting it mastered is extremely rewarding (not to mention easier on the wallet – think how much money we’ll save with no nappies!).

So, till then, the carpet remains rolled up under the coffee table, the washing machine keeps humming, and I try to keep it all together with silly songs and cups of tea. Hopefully we won’t still be here next week. (Just keep swimming, just keep swimming….)

Rediscovering Tchaikovsky

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I love music, I always have. But for some reason in the last couple of years I haven’t really been listening to much of it. Perhaps it is because life gets so busy and noisy at times that when the house is quiet I can’t bear to contaminate the silence. Or perhaps it is because my poor old laptop a) didn’t have a CD drive and b) used to take so long to buffer music from any website that most pieces sounded like Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” or as though the conductor ran out of steam every 15 seconds. Anyway, a magical thing happened recently – my mom came out to visit us with the arrival of Baby Judah, and got so frustrated trying to contact folks back home with my old laptop (which incidentally didn’t have a working keyboard either) that they bestowed a new laptop on us as a present before she left. Pretty spectacular, huh?! Well, long story short, I can now listen to as much music as I like.

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So I swan around the kitchen to the sounds of Mendelssohn and Chopin, Tim Hughes, Bach and The Beach Boys…oh, and Tchaikovsky.

I discovered (via my husband, Simon) a website called Grooveshark that lets you listen to music for free online, which is tolerable if you ignore the annoying advertisements that stream across it. And it was in my search for a particular piece of music that I stumbled upon Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto. The famous one.

Somehow I had never put that wonderful theme, which I had heard before, together with Tchaikovsky. I am hopelessly ignorant when it comes to anything beyond the classical basics, or things that I used to play at school or university. So it has been absolutely amazing to discover that so many of the beautiful pieces of music that I like are by Tchaikovsky. And Grooveshark is kind enough to list hundreds and hundreds of his compositions! I feel like a child again, discovering a whole world of something fantastic, something magical.

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I can remember dancing around the lounge as a little girl to some of these tunes, and listening to them again now while I have Evie-pie dancing around my legs brings some of the happiest feelings I’ve known. Rediscovering Tchaikovsky has reminded me of the beauty of surrounding yourself with things that you truly love, the joy of learning, and the magic of discovering whole new worlds of creative experience.

As a special treat, here’s a link to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1.  http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Piano+Concerto+No+1+Tchaikovsky/3sfd04?src=5                I hope you enjoy it!