Dwelling In Caves And Skins
We are enduring darkness and cold in the North for what feels like the biggest part of the year, while the memory of warmth and light of the Summer grows smaller with every grey and rain-full day. Latest in the middle of November, the days of July, when we walked barefoot along the beach with sunscreen on our glistening skin, seem to have shrunken to the 2-dimensionality of a bleached out postcard from 1978. We are wishing and sometimes even desperately longing for the warm days to return, but as they approach we often seem so surprised and unprepared that we barely know how to deal with them. And when the heat hits us, we hastily buy barbecue equipment and a swimming basin for the kids and fill our days with outside activities with friends and family. The most privileged forget everything else. Routines and rhythms are thrown over board as the sun widens her circles over our part of the world and time has come to celebrate, go on festivals and to soak up as much light as possible, make new acquaintances, get tanned and get married . It’s a joy. For the most part.
My summer was filled with music, dance, celebration and community with beautiful people and it was the first time that I spent the whole summer in Denmark. It was also the start of great collaborations with artist Sophus Ejler Jepsen, dancer Jon Hoff, writer Søren Østerlund and musician Carolyn Goodwin, who are partners in designing soundwalks in the Wadden Sea area (read more here). The only thing that was hard to get by during the summer was time for contemplation. All my caves, nooks and corners of thoughts, where up to the end of May I could curl up in silence whenever I needed time for introspection, were more and more flashed with light and fascination, so that eventually there was no space for retreat any more. I have stopped writing and spending time by myself and I was completely swooped up by excitement. That can be great for some time, but by the end of August I was desperate to find my old safe caves - my inner world. I guess in one way it was part of the old game, where you always want what you can’t have at the time and in another way I felt as I have forgotten how to stand still and claim calmness for the mind. I mean it’s always there. It’s a decision. But hey, it’s also a very evasive skill, like catching an eel in the currents of a river.
Finally when the light started to fade again I could stop running, plant my feet in the cool waters. and start watching and listening again. I found my old nooks and corners all tidied up and ready for me to move back in. There I write now and hear the air widening my chest. That’s luxury too.
This morning happened the first official soundwalk event from my Wadden Sea project with a fourth grade at the primary school on Fanø. We did listening exercises inspired by R. Murray Schafer with sheets of paper and pockets of silence and attention for one another. So far it’s always been a pleasure to work with children of that age group. They are still very intuitive and curious, love playing games and are not afraid of silliness. So we usually get a lot of good talks about how they listen to everyday life and what certain sounds mean to them. They love tuning into the fading chime of the sound bowl and silence can be a mesmerising game for them.
What I appreciate most about the workshops with kids is introducing body awareness and listening non-verbally. When the kids come into the class room, I smile and nod but don’t say a word, so they don’t hear my voice. After the teacher has introduced me I motion them to get on their feet with me and I start a series of gestures which they readily imitate. I move from greeting movements, to exploring the minimal sounds of skin, to breathing exercises and sometimes to rhythms and voice expression. It is important for me to be clear in my instructions without using words, so that I am easy to follow. If everything works well, the kids can bypass all kinds of insecurity connected to the use of their body and voice, because they don’t think about it intellectually, but imitate me intuitively. I was amazed the first time I made a point out of not saying anything and I got a group of pre-occupied and awkward teenagers sounding like a whole meadow orchestra with swooshing, clicking and quacking.
The readiness for attention is so much greater and I think there is so much potential in non-verbal communication. It’s not only the talking with our bodies, but also the listening with our bodies - our skin, our many skins. From the eardrum to the foot sole we can perceive vibrations, touch, temperature, pressure and pain. What an amazing organ. When talking to groups I like to refer to the skin as our extended ear. My anatomical and biological knowledge about skin is very limited, but through the experience as an outwardly listening body it is fascinating, since there is so much information collected through touch that we most of the time are completely unaware or “only” intuitively aware of. I am really looking forward to learning more about that from and together with my partners from the dance world.