The Lion Dancers and the Jeweled Bird
I guess my timing was good, since the Montford Street Festival was happening the very first day I arrived in Asheville, NC, to visit my dear friend Amber. As we strolled along with all the people, I could feel the muscles in my face softening – are we really that tense in NJ? – as I couldn’t help myself from smiling and laughing at all the gentle happiness that surrounded me. Young families with children of all ages were enjoying the steady stream of music – mostly bluegrass- white haired, suprisingly sexy crones spontaneously dancing, and oh! the tie dye!
We mingled, moving with the beat, sampling treats like milk from a freshly macheted cocunut, blueberry kale ice cream (!), and good ole garlicky french fries. Vibrant pottery, jewelry and other hand crafted items were on view. We were about to wander out of the neighborhood when we spotted this scene:I didn’t stop to ask why a pair of Chinese Lion dancers appeared in the midst of a bluegrass festival, but settled back into the crowd to wait for the performance. “My ancestors will love this,” I joked with my friend. The monster jumped and lunge, tickling youngsters with its fuzzy white beard and coyly batting its long fringed lashes. The children squealed and screamed with delight when they were invited to touch the creature’s fantastic coat of many colors – it’s good luck, you know, to pet the Lion. And so I did. The dance ended.Turning away, I suddenly burst into tears. I felt my dad’s presence so acutely in that moment. It was if he had brushed my hand through the fringe of the giant beast’s soft white beard, and made me smile with its playful antics. It seemed to me that my ancestors, with dad right at the head of line, were saying, Welcome to Asheville, you are right where you are meant to be! Relax, enjoy! Was I losing my mind?Grief has been resurfacing in a decidedly visceral manner for me since the anniversary of Mom’s death at Eastertime, and now Father’s day is coming up, and so on and so forth. I have put some supports in place, going back to regular session with a grief counselor, a medical checkup (for the first time in my life taking a low dose antidepressant) and a daily dose of sunshine. It’s all helpful.
Recently someone I know made a comment: No one wants to be around your grief, people don’t want to be exposed to it, they just don’t want to be near it. The words at first hit me like a brisk sucker punch to the gut. Then I thought, heck yeah, you’re damn right about that – no one wants to be around my grief – including ME, thank you very much!
While I will be careful not to mention my losses with the person who made this comment (who, I realize, may have been speaking more about their own grief than mine) I know that when you love someone, one day you will grieve – it’s simply a part of life, like the way the bright and dark elements in a tapestry play off of one another in a gorgeous work of art. Seen as normal, mourning ceases to be tragic or pathetic, it becomes another element of the overall beauty of one’s life experience, and a testimony to love.
Nonetheless, the next morning, waking to the deep green of Asheville and the sound of birds, lots more than I remembered hearing in suburban NJ, I did feel a bit goofy for crying in the middle of the street fair. Enough with the tears! Enjoying a lazy start to the day, I helped myself to a cup of tea and grabbed a book off my hostess’ bookshelf, ready to relish the distraction.
The universe is relentless in its love. Within the first few pages, I read about a young teenager whose mother had died. She was reminiscing about one afternoon not long after her mother’s passing, when, seeking solace, she went out to a field behind her house,just to be alone. A young boy appeared and sat next to her without a word. With only looks and gestures, quietly and peacefully, he kept her company. When he got up to leave, still without uttering a word, the boy reached in his pocket and handed the girl a little jeweled bird, a quaint trinket. Then he walked away. The author writes, in the narrator’s voice:
“I was amazed by his generosity, but I am ashamed to say that I made no move at all to refuse that gift. (The bird) is the main thing my drawer, because it was a miracle and it came without asking. Sometimes when I think of that boy, I think, Wait, was he mute? And sometimes I think – the thought very small and private – was he an angel? And sometimes I think, in a way that makes me feel like bawling, was he my mother? That thought is the smallest and most private of all, and it lives in my heart, and it will never be told to anyone.” *
A little boy with a jeweled bird. A life sized Chinese Lion puppet with its whimsical antics. Both messages of love. Both custom made by the universe. There are more of these in greater abundance than any of us realizes.
* True to Form by Elizabeth Berg, pages 4-5
Images of Mountain Dragon Gong Fu School performing the Chinese Lion Dance, May 18, 2013