I felt my heart coming home to itself the other night.
I was listening to Keith Jarrett. The Bremen Concert. 1975
And memory flooded my senses.
Music does that. Open doorways and gateways to memory, stirring those places where my heart beats wildly, my senses awaken, my soul moves.
It is 1978.
I am living west of Edmonton in a tiny enclave of houses tucked within rolling hills, surrounded by trees.
I am not fond of living in Edmonton, which is why I have chosen to live 45 minutes west of the city. Every morning the sun pulls me eastward into the downtown core and every evening I feel the warmth of the sun on my face drawing me closer to home.
My neighbours across the dirt road from my house are an eccentric couple from Montreal. Claire and Alan. They would eventually leave Alberta to journey to Nelson where they would change their names and become immersed in an Ashram near Nelson. I heard that they divorced. That Claire returned to Montreal to be near her daughter and Alan stayed on at the Ashram.
For now, they are my neighbours and friends.
Most Fridays, after I returned from work, I would traipse the pebbled pathway between our houses to spend the evening with Claire and friends, sipping wine, talking, listening to jazz. Sometimes we’d meditate. Sometimes, we’d chant. Always, we connected and shared our stories and Claire would counsel me on how to ‘loosen up’. Live less tightly. “You gotta let yourself go, Louise,” she’d tell me. And she’d put a record on the player and start to dance and call out to me to join her.
It’s where I first met Keith Jarrett.
Not physically of course. But mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually.
His music would fill the room, soar out through open windows and pierce my heart like a thousand tiny raindrops falling on hot cement and I would feel my body move to his sometimes soft, sometimes wild notes and I would feel free.
Claire and I had a special friendship. She was twenty years older than me. Worldly. Dramatic. Wild and free. Alan was her third husband. He was 15 years younger than her and they were madly in love.
Sometimes, when the night was dark and the moon high, we would leave the house and go out into the forest that surrounded their home. There we would howl at the moon. Dance in the moonlight. Chant and meditate.
Sometimes, when the rain fell and the road between our houses was muddy, Claire would call me and tell me to meet her outside on the road. We would take off our shoes and socks and dance barefoot in the rain.
“Feel the earth, Louise,” she would exhort me. “Feel its richness squishing between your toes. Its juicy essence running over your feet, claiming you as its divine child. Feel it. Be it.”
And then we’d dance.
Claire danced like no one was watching.
Even in the woods, I was conscious of what others might think, or say, if they saw me.
It has taken me decades to rid myself of that sense of being watched. Of being ‘on show’. That everything I did mattered to others. That to step outside their expectations of what is acceptable or normal would cast me off into the netherlands of some other realm where I would be alone, and lonely, cut off from all connection because I was ‘different’ just for being me.
Over the years I have forgotten those days. Forgotten that friendship. But never Keith Jarrett. His music makes me come alive. Feel.
Over the years, have tried at times to forget that young woman who was me, dancing self-consciously in the rain because she was afraid someone might be watching.
I dance in the rain and the sun and the wind and the snow now. I dance with abandon and let the music carry me away. It is my way of letting that young woman who was me, and Claire where ever she is, know that I no longer feel the pressure of having to look good for others. I’m okay being me.
I dance in the rain now and sing out loud because within me, the memory of Claire is calling out as she always did, “It’s okay,” she calls. “Dance. Dance like your heart is on fire. Dance like no one is watching. Dance because that is what you want to do, right now, right here. Dance because your soul is calling you to be free.”
And I dance.