A Visceral Nature- reflections on creating to Britten’s A Boy is Born
Christianity has moved through my life in various forms and frequencies. What captures my attention and continues to return me to the wonder and possibility of the Gospel story is the mysterious love, beauty and hope that “the face of the earth is renewed”; As it is fair to say that most often what confronts and baffles me is the overwhelming amount of destruction, disease and suffering on this earth.
My husband, three daughters and I planted a small Beni Kawa Japanese Maple red-branched tree amidst the tangle of our yard in our first home. One dark, cold January day as I was feeling the weight of life I experienced an extraordinary moment of transcendent beauty that momentarily transported me away from the dark heaviness into a vast lightness and feeling of peace. I was witnessing the soft covering of snow, dappling the hard, cold winter ground, covering all that seeks to entangle and choke, illuminating the beauty of this small tree: Branches red and alive! Immediately my imagination took over and I was making connections between this tree and the Christ, this god-man story who births forth with life during the darkest barren season; illuminated by the magic- The Magi/King/Wise men- of light and air, these magical, wind-blown, star led snowflakes, connecting East with West; our relationship to nature revealed as heaven on earth now, the elements of earth, air, water, fire essentially our nature.
Was it serendipity or divine intervention when the opportunity came about to work with Britten’s A Boy Was Born? This dance is not a literal telling of a special boy that was born, but a personal journey of what this boy might possibly mean. The dance begins with Jesu; As Thou Art Our Savior and is inspired by the element of earth and the ideas found in the poetry of St Hildegard of Bingen. She was ahead of her time with a creation-centered theology as a poet-mystic and a sort of environmentalist who wrote about the life giving and greening-glory of ‘viriditas’: The Love that brings “Life to all life…root of all things”. Led by light and movement of air, the Three Kings, journey through a triangular labyrinth toward center, bringing together the fullness of the space. In The Bleak Mid-Winter, transformation, the element of water, and the ‘Mother’ who brings forth life and bears our destructive pain gives us a moment of reflective gravity. Noel!, a complicated and inspiring final movement, opens with the swirl of winter-blustery snowy air and the introduction of fire as ‘Our King’ comes forth; not a literal Christ figure, but the possibility of that great burning love and Kingly-Queenly magnificence in us all. The mother returns again making way for the preparation of celebration, but before this final glorious communal dance of life, a moment is given again to illuminate the possibility of divine life-giving love.