Wednesday, October 25, 2017
On Monday morning, October 9, I woke up to smoky skies and reports of big fires in Sonoma County. After checking with folks from my Petaluma class, as well as news reports, I decided it was necessary and prudent to cancel that evening’s folk dance class, because of the uncertainty of the situation as well as requests by authorities to leave the roads clear for emergency vehicles. Thus began an intense and unsettling and anxious week as I tried to reach and stay in touch with all of my students as the fires threatened Santa Rosa and Sonoma and elsewhere. I gathered and shared important information (some from the Santa Rosa group, many of whom dance in both venues), made sure everyone knew how to get in touch, and compiled a list with up-to-date information as well as offers of housing. More than half of my class evacuated, some due to the horrible air quality, many others due to mandatory orders.
Uncertainty and smoke were still in the air the following Monday, but I made a decision to have class that night. The sense of relief and comfort was evident on everyone’s faces as they walked in the door. One couple had lost their home; another had just been able to get back and see that their home still stood. Others were still uncertain, some staying elsewhere with relatives out of the smoke. A whole lot of hugging went on, and much sharing of stories.
The following Monday, October 23, we had scheduled a special dance party with live music from Kabile; I was uncertain as to what the turnout would be, given the circumstances, but we had almost 60 people, including numerous folks who had just returned to homes that miraculously were not touched. There was more hugging, and sharing of stories. We sang happy birthday to two dancers. And then the band started playing, and we joined hands in our circle. And so we danced, knowing even more than before how important and powerful this dancing is, how much it is not just about movement and music, how it is fundamentally about friendship and support and love and community and family.