Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Tales from the Piney Woods

As I unpack my memories of my week at Pinewoods, I'm trying to organize them thematically so that they yield conclusions for me. I still plan to write a bit about the issue of being a greybeard dancer, and the implications of that. But for now I'm just going to remember a few bits of things that don't cohere into anything more than an anecdotal portrait. Don't expect transitional sentences here. Oh, I know: I'll slapdash this journal entry together with three asterisks between paragraphs, to give an episodic feel.

* * *

For the last 20 minutes of each Morris session, a different member of the class would teach the rest of us a dance from his or her team's tradition. This tended to involve about 15 minutes of talk and then only 5 minutes to dance, but dance we did. We weren't learning dances to perform, so this was totally for the joy of dancing, and after a few hours of various sorts of exercises most of the folks were chomping at the bit just to dance a dance. So this was fun for that reason, but for me this was even more fun because you saw new things about the character and personality of the class members when they jumped in to the role of teacher.

* * *

On Tuesday evening we all went into the town of Plymouth to "tour" -- which means dance out in public. Of course we hadn't actually prepared any specific dances to perform as a group, so what this was going to be (I feared) was pickup dancing in public. And in fact it was pickup dancing in public, but pretty fine dancing nonetheless. It was prime tourist time, and we were very well received by the passersby. There was tremendous historico-politico irony in dancing these traditional British dance forms pretty much in the shadow of the Mayflower.

* * *

As the week went by, I had more opportunity to hang out with some of the older Pinewoods Folk Music folks. There was one delightful woman who organized an impromptu workshop on "songs we heard on the radio in the 50s" -- which, unfortunately, was held during the time when I had a work shift in the dining hall (all campers have a daily work shift). But for the rest of the week I would come up to this woman and sing a song from that time -- Patti Page, Gogi Grant, Debbie Reynolds, we both knew them all. Sometimes others would join us, sometimes they'd just look puzzled. On the last day of camp I made a point of coming up to this woman to tell her how I'd enjoyed spending time with her, and she said, "That's funny, just this morning we were talking about you, and about how we think that every Pinewoods week needs one of you." Awwwww....

* * *

One night Bob and Julie approached me at dinner and asked me if I knew a "humorous recitation". I said that perhaps my Squire Steven poem qualified, and I recited the first verse. Yes, that will do, they said. Then they explained the context: For their "ceilidh" style dance that night, it would be traditional to have a humorous recitation from the floor. They asked me if I would present my poem. I went and corralled some longtime family friends (Carly and Dean, whom I hadn't seen in maybe twenty years) and I made them be my practice audience and I was ready.

When Bob introduced me (and explained the tradition), the dancers sat down around the edge of the dance floor except for the Morris folks, who sat right down on the floor in front of me. It was still early in the week, but already this felt like team support. I explained that this was a Morris poem, but it concerned the universal theme of the eternal struggle between youth and age. From this alone giggles arose from the crowd. I introduced myself as Steven, Squire of my team, and began in with "You are old, Squire Steven" -- which yielded sounds of recognition, as this was a crowd that knew the original poem. The recitation was great fun -- it was like leading a song! I came to the verse that begins "You are old, Squire Steven, so remarkably old, that your every move causes you pain; Yet your splitters are truly a sight to behold -- Pray, how do you handle the strain?" -- at which point Rafe, one of the younger Morris folk, shouted out "Show us!". So as I continued to recite the verse I did a stretching exercise down to the floor, a sort of faux-split. I hadn't planned to do this at all until Rafe's heckling.

And that's how I introduced myself to the assembled campers.

* * *

One night at the singing at the camp house, one of the camp crew who attended parts of the Morris workshop sang the old Gordon Bok song "My Images Come". This is an unusual choice for that sort of singing session, but this guy (Nathaniel Jack) completely carried it off, and managed to convey the complex rhythms that underlie the song with authority. While he was singing, Andy came up to me and pointed out that every Morris dancer in the room (without exception) was moving in some fashion while Nathaniel sang - dancelike moves, head bobs, whatever. Every single one.

Later in the week Nathaniel and I were talking about luscious chord-wallowing songs, and he mentioned something about loving songs with five long wallowing notes in a row. Like Fathom the Bowl (Give me the punch ladle I'll faaathooom theee booowl). But then he corrected himself, saying that's only four notes. Oh no, I said, you're clearly not wallowing enough on "I'll". I've got some friends in Minnesota who would love to play this game: Find songs with five wallow notes in a row. Maybe we'll put out an entire songbook of such songs.

* * *

One night at the camp house, after most of the folk music week people had gone to bed, a woman I don't know sat down at the piano and young Adam took out his fiddle and Nathaniel stood up and called a contra dance. This was wonderful all on its own. At one point he called an English Country dance, and it was the only English Country Dance I've ever danced that I really enjoyed. Because it was about two and a half times as fast as any other English Country Dance I've seen. I noted this with delight, to the folks who pulled me through the dance, that I'd never enjoyed an English Country dance so much. The response? "That's because this is the only one that's fun." Ah, folks after my own dancing heart.

* * *

My lodging for the week was great. I was halfway along the path from the dining hall to the camp house, in a two room cabin fronted by a porch that overlooked the path and the lake beyond. The large spiders in all the ceiling corners left me alone, and I left them alone. Because of the convenience of my location, some of the Morris dancers used my porch to store their dancing shoes and bells and hankies. The best part was that Diane was in the second room. Diane is not a Cotswold dancer -- she danced on a sword team in Washington before moving to Florida, but now she teaches some kids sword and border teams. She was at the workshop to pick up some things she could use in her teaching. It turns out Diane knows my brother in DC, and she knows Michael's brother in DC, and my sister in law. Very late nearly every night Diane and I would sit on the porch and talk over the folks we were meeting. One night Michael overheard us as he was walking back to his cabin, so he came and joined us for a while. It was lovely and sweet and neighborly.

On Friday Diane, hearing me enthuse about something or somebody or another, asked me, "How many times this week did you fall in love?" It was an illuminating comment.

* * *

There's more, of course. That's enough for now.
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