I am blessed to greet you from the most delicious backyard oasis–my gentil hostess here in Montreal, Natacha, and fellow traveler Hoopalicious have left me to enjoy the charms of the little kidney-shaped pool and bricked lounging area this sunny Saturday. My loyal companion, Vincent the pit mix, lolls in the abundant sunlight, reaping his just reward for days of patient waiting in the back of the car. You deserve it, buddy.
I am here for tonight’s Montreal Film Festival screening of Amy Goldstein’s extraordinary documentary about hooping, The Hooping Life. Hoopalicious, myself, and another dear friend on the path, Philo Hagen of Hooping.org, have all come to spice up the on-site promotion for this movie, a profile of a handful of hoopdance pioneers–my own teacher and hoop partner Baxter among them–who made the first giant strides in shaping this new movement form out of almost nothing.
They started with a few rings of PVC tubing. And nothing else. How amazing I still find this fact! Hoopalicious (aka Anah Reichenbach, Common Ancestress of every living hooper) tells of her first years hooping alone in her California backyard, for the first two years never even taking the hoop off her waist. Two YEARS of waist hooping! Imagine! I’m not exercising my Southern muscle for self-deprecation when I say there is *no way* I would have done that. Even if it had occurred to me to do so (which it wouldn’t have). No. Way.
This is one of the things that the movie, which I was lucky enough to see when it was screened a few months ago in Santa Cruz, brought home more powerfully than I ever thought possible—that without these people, I would not be enjoying the very truly magical hoop life I enjoy today (stretching out in the sun as I type–topless, I might add—what?!? This is Montreal!) But really–I thought I had felt the full force of the gratitude it was physically possible for me to feel until I saw this movie. To tell the truth I had a breath-squeezing, there-but-for-the-grace-of-god kind of feeling when I witnessed the events of years ago unfolding on the screen–events that had very directly brought me to be sitting in the very chair I was sitting in at that moment. How very, very possible might it have been that I didn’t take a chance on Baxter that summer of ’06? We were both just out of long relationships, enjoying our singlehood (me possibly a bit less than him) and a few misunderstandings in our early days very well might have inspired us to part ways. But I was hooked and completely. On everything. On him, on the summer, on hooping, on meditating with my whole body, on the long talks we had every day with Kimo, on the strength and clarity that was growing out of our time together. A new life, a hooping life, had begun for me.
When Baxter & I broke up last October, it was clear from the first moment that the end of our relationship did not mean the end of our hoopship, or the end of my hooping life, or the end of the Hoop Path. In fact, in many ways our separation gave me a big dose of perspective on my own individual relationship to the hoop. Was I committed to my own practice? Would I continue to pick up my hoop without Bax to geek out with 24/7? Would I (this was the scariest question) have my own ideas? A singular, indescribable happiness arrived with the realization over the next several weeks and months that yes, I did in fact have my own unique relationship to the hoop and my own vision of what it means to interact with this circle of plastic. This happiness is beautifully described by the poet Donald Hall in his memoir Life Work. In it, he opens up a meditation on what it means to do what you love. I know how lucky I am to count myself among those who know this distinctive joy.
In Amy’s film, one of the most emotional moments for me was seeing, in the greater context of the unfolding narrative (having seen this footage previously, on its own), the first Big Meeting of the Hoopers at the Burning Man festival in 2004. Anah, Christabel (aka Hoopgirl), Malcolm, Wheylan, Brent and Stefan of Groovehoops, Spiral, Philo, Baxter & Sass (many of these being main characters in the film) all met in one place for the first time. It’s tough even to name exactly what is so powerful about it. It’s like a first family reunion. Of people who had never even met.
I leave for Burning Man on Monday, connecting with some of these old friends (awwww yeeaaahhhh) and missing some others. I leave with a specific intention, carrying it deep within me, to be reflected, opened up and revealed more fully by the prism of the burn. My intention is to glimpse-feel-hear, however faintly, some message that might tell me something more about what is still holding me back. As I wrote to my dear friend Ariane earlier today: “I don’t expect a facile answer to this kind-of-cliche…I don’t even expect an answer at all, I just hope for some unacknowledged truth to come forward. Even a baby step. I want to know. I want to interact directly with what is holding me back. I’m not even going to ask it to stop holding me back. I just want to look it in the eye. Perhaps once is enough?”
And perhaps it is.