A lovely friend of mine brought this to my attention through Facebook today.
I've led worship in the past where children and young folks have danced like this with flags or even long strips of silky material to express their joy and praise and love of God in a different way. Expressing that thankfulness in a way that's filled with playfulness, colour, motion, texture and pattern. It needs no formal words. It takes no learning. The dancer just listens to their heart, moves and gives their whole self to God in the moment.
I was pleased to see people are still having fun, a laugh, a ball, expressing themselves in this simple way across all cultures, like whirling Dervishes, caught up in the moment, scribbling and painting in air with their own bodies, extended through the flags.
It also made me remember with a twinge of longing something I've not done since I was a little child.
When I was little, I used to love what my parents' used to call my "flag waving". I didn't learn it. It came from nowhere but my fertile imagination, love of storytelling, making up songs and worlds of my own. An only child, low maintenance as many Ennea 9-type introverts often are, I'd disappear into the fields that ran from our back garden to the railway line where my dad worked as a shunter. Every summer evening I'd be there, or up in my bedroom when the nights drew in again in autumn. Flag-waving.
It wasn't anything I could really describe to anybody else. It came as naturally to me as the synaesthesia that made burning leaves "taste" like caramel to my senses, or petrol "taste" like apricot when neither had been anywhere near my lips! I was an "imaginative" child, back in those days when we made our own entertainment (and I confess I preferred it that way most of the time!). Happy in my own company. Never bored.
This 'flag-waving' went on for years, before adulthood made it seem a bit embarrassing and best left in the nursery. I'd choose and strip the lower leaves from a slim stalk of rose-bay willow herb (known as fireweed, or, on railway properties like my home in a little valley in South Yorkshire, "railway weed") leaving only a few waggly leaves at the top to nod and twirl.
Then I would watch it, shaking and twirling it in front of me while I told stories, or made up elaborate narratives with imaginary places, people, animals all with wonderful names that tripped off my tongue. I'd make up songs and rhymes and nonsense that made my heart soar with wonder as I felt completely at one with the earth and my Maker. In that state of peace and exhilaration, you could really notice things.
The "flag" didn't have to be willow herb. It could be anything that shook and flowed and painted patterns and shapes at the end of a stalk or stick. It could become a dragon's tail, a flowing head of hair on the characters in my story, a horse's tail - anything! I had an old silk head scarf given as a present one Christmas. I fed the thin end of this scarf through a slot in a toy golf stick with the mallet end removed, painted black, from some childhood game. Then I could hold the wand of the stick and make the scarf wave as I wove my wonders in words that became my passion as I grew older and could fashion them onto paper in some form. I kept that flag till the scarf part was worn and tattered.
Over the course of my childhood, I used stems of common wild plants, fallen twigs, old chiffon remnants, grasses, sparklers - you name it. I loved every minute. Some of my best ideas and plots were dreamed up that way with a "flag" in my hand in some private space where nobody would laugh or watch!
My "flags" were nowhere near as huge as these ones used in the video. Or in any pictures of "flag dancing" I can find on the net! I wasn't copying anybody else I'd ever seen. My movements weren't as expansive. My "flags" were often nothing more than switches of greenery or diaphanous swatches of scrap fabrics. The flag stayed in front of me, and my eyes never left it as I whispered the stories and words the sight inspired me to create. Every moment was joy, all stress relieved.
I miss the "flag-waving" hours of my youth! I've always been a private dancer. At the moment my health makes it so much harder to stand rapt for ages or dance even with nobody watching. But in my heart I thank God for making us each unique, for His lack of concern with formality and ritual. The freedom He inspires to whirl us up into private heavens, bringing joy to His heart, I pray, as He surely brings joy into mine!
|Rose Bay Willow Herb or "Railway Weed" - my number one "flag" of choice as a child!|