Friday, April 30, 2010

The Indian Princess, Unveiled

Conclusion of this story series.

A Performance of “Riverdance.”
Wednesday night.
Norton Center for the Arts.
Danville, Kentucky.

She dances.

My breath, caught in my throat, struggles to expel through my lungs, but I am holding it fast … while she dances.

She stands atop a staircase, against a backdrop of tall flames, her crimson dress matching the image of consuming fire.

She dances.

She raises her arms over her head, mimicking the arc of ire, moving, bending … writhing.

She dances.

Is she symbolic fire?

Is the fire symbolic of her?

Is the flame … within her?

I cannot tell which. Perhaps it is one, perhaps all three, but there’s no mistaking that as I watch muy bonita, she most definitely personifies one thing for me: My Indian Princess of long ago.

She whirls down the stairway, her skirt flaring as she whips her hips and stomps dainty dancing shoes. The drum rhythm, repetitive and primitive, accelerates. She and the beat are one, passionate, painful, unrelenting, unstoppable.

I see her dancing on the hot coals, my Indian Princess, unveiled, exposed, burning, hurting. She is all that I am, all that I feel, all that I have experienced. She is the anguish churning in my heart. Salt touches my lips, and I realize that tears have traveled down my cheeks. I am transfixed, just as I was on that long ago summer night around the campfire at age 10, listening to the teen-age camp counselor weave the tale of the princess in search of love.


She is surrounded by other dancers. They move with her, angling with the direction of her body, bringing their arms around her waist and behind her back.

And they lift her.

High above their heads, she is held. They dance in her place. I see in my mind’s eye the suitor who grabbed the princess, rescued her from the coals and danced in her place.

It all makes sense, this journey, one that began with a child’s imaginings, continued in a symbolic lifelong habit of walking on hot sand and pavement and culminated here, on this night, watching this skilled dancer unknowingly play out the tale.

No longer does it matter what I am experiencing – the harshness of life, the unfairness of circumstances, the heartache of my soul.

I do not have to dance on the hot coals alone.

I can be – and I am being – carried. Others are lifting me up, dancing in my place, bringing my concerns before my Father. They’ve always been there for me, too, these princes and princesses, stomping their feet, fervently praying, taking my place when I am too weak to stand alone and utter the words, “Help me. Dance for me.”

They are the Christian safe house.

They are the Indian suitor, rescuers, who love and who sustain.

They … are you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Indian Princess Dances

After that summer camp story of the Indian Princess dancing on the hot coals, for whatever reason, my childhood mind aspired to do the same.

So everywhere I went in summer months, I went barefoot.

On scorching pavement and concrete, I went barefoot.

On blistering beach sand, I went barefoot.
On patios, sidewalks, on walking trails that meandered through public parks and on the melting Macadam of driveways in front of my houses … I went barefoot.

By the time I was a teen-ager, the desire to be an Indian Princess had recessed into the imagination of childhood … and I’d forgotten the reason I went barefoot everywhere.

I just did.

I continued to go barefoot, to traipse the heat of the world’s surface, because … well, it was just a habit.

My teens merged into my 20s. My 20s became my 30s.

And I was still going barefoot, hither and yon. Whenever the opportunity arose to shed my shoes, I did so with glee, not quite remembering the reason, just knowing that I loved to be free to walk … barefoot.

Then I got married.

My husband noticed that my feet were hard and calloused. He complained that they weren’t soft and supple, like other women he’d been with.

I started wearing shoes again.

I became embarrassed about the state of my soles.

And before I knew it, my body itself was protesting the long years of my barefoot existence. My feet grew painful corns, tough ridges of skin on the edges of my heels. I could feel the real skin underneath the protective layers – but the layers themselves were actually painful.

I tried to rid myself of the problem I’d created.

I used all manner of cutting devices, even a grating device, to recreate the feet I had before the summer of the tale of the Indian Princess – the feet of a child. I had infections in my feet, cuts, sores, blisters. I covered them in antibiotic ointments, always trying to self-correct them, then always trying to self-heal them.

All lotions, creams, pedicure instruments, advice from a doctor even – nothing would rid me of what I now saw as ugly, repulsive, disgusting, painful … and worst of all … ridiculous.

I would think to myself, “All of this started because of that stupid story about the Indian princess and the hot coals.” And I would berate myself and chide myself and even hate myself for it.

What I didn’t realize, though, was that the matter was much more than about calloused feet.

It had everything to do … with a Christian safehouse.

Tune in tomorrow for the next part of the story …