I ran into my high school English teacher — Mrs. Goldner — the other night at a political event.
The one that threw erasers when someone got the answer wrong.
The one that not only "red penned" all over term papers, but also made a cassette tape of her voice, walking you through all of the grammatical and stylistic mistakes you had made.
(A year after finishing high school, I recorded soothing rain sounds over her voice, to help me fall asleep. I popped the tape into the cassette player one night, climbed into bed, and was drifting off to sleep just as the rain sounds came to an end. Mrs. Goldner’s voice blasted through my bedroom: “Apparently you did not read your Strunk and White thoroughly enough, because yet again, you are using the passive voice!”)
The one that came to my father’s memorial, four years after I graduated from high school. I thanked her for taking the time out of her day to pay respects to my dad.
She responded gruffly:
“That’s not why I came. I saw your dad's memorial listed in the newspaper this morning, and I thought I would stop by between things to get some food."
(My family and I still laugh, heartily, about that. There's a part of me, of us, that loves that kind of blunt honesty).
The one that taught me what the word altruism means.
The one that taught the best class I ever took in high school -- Biblical Literature.
The one who is the only teacher I remember from that time.
Anyway, I ran into Mrs. Goldner this past Tuesday night at a political event.
We sat together and listened to Congresswoman Barbara Lee speak about the days immediately following September 11th, 2001.
Out of the 421 members of congress, Congresswoman Lee was the ONLY ONE to vote against The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), which gives “the President [the authorization] to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” She has consistently criticized the AUMF since it passed in 2001 for giving the government unlimited powers to wage war without debate.
It was a decidedly hopeful moment to be in the presence of that kind of courage, tenacity, and intelligence.
And, it was a decidedly surreal moment to be sitting next to my now very old English Teacher, who kept saying “Didn’t you end up at Vassar? I could swear you went to Vassar. Religious Studies, right?” (I didn’t, and no).
I wanted to tell Mrs. Goldner where I had gone and what I had been up to, but it was loud, and a bajillion phones were being passed over our heads to get a photo with Congresswoman Lee.
So I gave her a hug and said into her ear, “You were a really good teacher.”
She patted my cheek, “I’m so proud of you for getting into Vassar. I knew you could do it.”
What this has to do with dancing, I have no idea. Maybe it was the full on physicality of what took place on Sept 14th, 2001 -- 3 days after 9/11 -- when Congresswoman Lee voted stood up and said NO to AUMF.
That body of action.
That gesture of hope.
Maybe it's that.
Your dance mission is to listen to the world that is inside of your body and the world that is outside of your body, and to go forth from there.