Both my children slept at other people's houses last night while Nick and I sat around a table with friends, listening to Dan Bern live at the Taproot.
Dan Bern is one of the few folk artists who consistently visits Alaska, gracing us with his voice and songwriting skills, and man, do we appreciate the fact that he keeps coming back to the Last Frontier, even in November, especially in November, when our days runs short and we crave the light of song, along with the warmth of a roomful of people all listening to the same tunes.
Dan led us in a number of sing-a-longs last night and despite my cringe-worthy singing voice, I joined the crowd, caught up in the pulse of us all passing the same poetic words past our lips, as if we all breathed as one.
During these war-filled days of heated rhetoric and finger pointing there is something soothing about voices united in song.
And sure, Dan Bern fans tend to lean to the left, but politics is only one of the multi-faceted layers of division that keep us from seeing each other naked born to sing and dance and make art on this wild planet of ours.
Before Dan Bern, before my Saturday afternoon soccer game, Olive, age five, performed on stage for the first time as part of a one-day dance camp. Our dear friend, Reni, now 15, worked as one of the instructors.
"What if I'm too scared?" Olive asked before I dropped her off at East High.
"Its ok, to be scared. Most people feel scared when they try something new."
"But Mom, I might be too shy to dance on the stage."
"That's ok, most people feel shy about getting up on a stage, especially at first. When Reni was your age she was real shy in all new situations."
Olive climbed out of the car, her face serious, and walked through the doors of the big high school, her right hand holding mine as her left clutched her well-loved fairy.
Once in the studio, Olive stood on the outside of the circle and watched the other kids, ranging in age from kindergarten to eighth grade, play a dancing game to warm up. Whoever stood in the middle chose a dance move while others copied. As I glanced around the room, you could see on the kids faces who desperately wanted to leap in the middle, who might or might not, and who hoped to remain as the outline.
Olive shook her head no when Reni asked if she wanted to join the circle, so this beautiful teenage girl I've known since her first awkward steps scooped my daughter up into her strong arms and nodded at me. I got her, she seemed to say, and every fiber of mine trusted she did.
Some folks are that good.
When Nick and I returned at 2:00 for the show, Olive moved from the front where she was first placed to the back of the stage to hide behind the taller kids for their hip hop song. But when the music started, she danced, on a stage, her little arms copying the movements of the older children, her hips wiggling, feet moving, tentative, but focused, in her purple and white striped dress.
And later, as I played soccer, Nick caught her practicing her moves in the play room, she'd stop when he walked in the room and say, "Dad!"-- just like she was 13, and he caught her naked.
On Sunday night as I tucked Olive in for the third time, after she already convinced me to read an extra book and bring her a piece of cheese, she said, "Mom, will you tell me a pretend story?"
I could have so easily said: Olive its bedtime-- in that tone of voice I pull out when I'm done being a Mom and just want to heat up some leftover soup to feed my tired body after a dinner-time hockey game.
I was tired and sore and it was almost nine, but I lay my head down next to hers, closed my eyes and began:
"Once upon a time there was a brave young girl who went on a journey. She walked into the woods and met a group of fairies who asked her to dance. She felt scared and shy but one of them reached out and took her hand and said: Don't worry, I'll stay with you.
So she stept into the clearing and watched their arms reach up into the sky and their hips shake and their feet step and she listened to the music and before long she too was swept into the dance.
And she thought to herself, as she held hands and dance with the fairies: If my journey ends today, it will be ok. "
I opened my eyes, only to see Olive's eyes closed.
And you know what I thought, as I sat there at the Taproot, with good friends, singing along with Dan Bern, along with a roomfull of people who may not actually belive he's the Messiah, but who get the humor and the wisdom and the sorrow of his words, as we lifted our voices in unison, in song, in a spirit of one, well, if the world really is on its last demise, then I want to go out singing and dancing and bringing art to this place.