the dance


 “I hope you will go out and let stories  happen to you, and that you will work them,  water them with your blood and tears and  you laughter till they bloom, till you yourself  burst into bloom.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This summer, we’ve focused our attention  on the story of “The Red Shoes” as told by  author Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The story follows the protagonist, an impoverished, spritely, instinct-injured girl, through the dervish of her desires to a uncertain end. The story teaches about what happens when we allow the object of our desires to dance us rather than the other way around. This led to many far-reaching discussions concerning what we’ve let lead us throughout our lives and how we’ve found our instincts to lead our own dances again.

In the pieces below, drawn from two different sessions discussing the story, you’ll find a myriad of reflections on the story and what madnesses and sanity we’ve reached in the turns of our own stories.


If I took your hand and asked you to dance
would you follow me through it all?
If the steps to our song just took us along
to the edge of the world and we fall…
Could you pull be in closer and learn to take over?

We’d make it our own, this edge of
destruction and teeter on it back and forth.
One step closer and you know it’s all over
but you’d at least be there on the course.
No one could stop the music that trances
our eyes make the dances.
Every move that we make assures
our fate and takes me straight to your heart.
A metronome beat, a touch more than
sweet electrifies the air around
our dance is our own, we take all
night long to get lost in the steps
that take us to our own exile.



“But at last the child’s feet were calmed.”
“Stay here long enough to make the finish line.”

I always wondered what it would take. Nothing ever seemed enough to still the force within you, nothing was enough to calm your feet. For years, the dance was fierce and exhausting. I couldn’t keep up. I never learned the stops when I should have. I did watch though. They ended being committed to memory a little better than I expected, but we’ll get to that in a minute. You kept rehearsing, kept us all on the edge of our seats. I tried to follow it, there was just so much I couldn’t understand. I didn’t know that this would be the last dance. There would be no crossing of the finish line. You just didn’t stay. You couldn’t stay. It was in my pain and darkness that all of those steps danced right into me and took over. The magic was in the shoes right? Yours wore out, mine were brand new and boy did they fit just right. Unsteady to begin but my gait improved quickly and I needed no help. You left me but I kept dancing. I hate dancing. It wasn’t as fun as it looked and now my feet hurt. You never told me how to calm my feet. You never told me I’d get tired. You never told me that you were letting go. Now I sit here, dancing a dance that means nothing and lead me right into a cage. What kind of stage is this anyway? I don’t want to but I think it’s time to tell you that you were wrong. I blame myself for being too much like you.

I blame myself for following your steps, for wearing the god damned shoes and dancing the dance that should never be. I loved you all along. I love you still. Until I can cross the finish line, I won’t dance again. Except this time the dance will be mine. The dance will be the one that should be.




I had become unconscious of the starvation.
No matter how much I had lost
there I was attempting the same preparations.
My life was all it had cost.
Was it the denial of what I was or who?
They say crazy is doing the same thing over
and over expecting results of new
but my entire life was focused on fixing
the craving.
As a mother, I had been decommissioned.
As a daughter, I had been discarded.
As a girlfriend, replaced for a better edition.
As a person, I didn’t know where my beginning started.
My mind stuck on repeat,
why won’t the ending change?
Once my high hits me the mission is complete
but when I’m sick, I am deranged.
I think the world is in the dark.
No one knows I’m high.
My life flashes and my eyes go dark.
3 tubes of Narcan, did I just die?
Insanity calls, she ruined your buzz.
She should’ve let you go a little more,
to scared of the fuzz…
No, you almost lost your life.
Still, you chase the high.
Her cries haunt your ears.
You’re good,you’ve been doing this for years…

Insanity is…
someone died on the news today again.




I don’t usually keep still. One step
at a time, I get lost in the steps.

Even if I am big and strong,
a beautiful gift, dancing at the edge,

it’s pretty easy, really. Even
my eyes do the dances

while I am asleep, getting
the news from my dreams.

and the electrified air around me.
1,2,3, 1,2,3 1,2,3

in the rain and snow and sunshine,
I leap, legs determined.

I’d hoped one day to find someone
to sweep me off my feet,

to find one person in this world who loved me.
I forgot, it’s me: a woman making moves unrestrictedly.
Everymove we make assures our fate
and takes us straight to the heart.

There are no strings on me.


patching ourselves up

deviant art

“A woman’s passionate and creative nature is at risk if she cannot hold onto her sources of growth and joy.”

“Once there was a poor motherless child who had no shoes. But the child saved cloth scraps wherever she found them and over time sewed herself a pair of red shoes. They were crude but she loved them. They made her feel rich even though her days were spent gathering food in the thorny woods until far past dark.” From “The Red Shoes” as told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run with Wolves

Every summer, we bring a folktale in the group. We run programming halftime so we take the opportunity to delve deeply into a single story, explore its symbolism, and use our writing to find each of the characters in ourselves. This year, we’re focused on “The Red Shoes” – a story about a girl who, after being taken in by a wealthy older woman, losses track of who she is only to try and fail to find herself in a pair of dangerous red shoes. The story explores themes such as the loss of soul, temptation, restriction, and recovery. These themes are familiar to our poetry and our circle. Discussion flowed easily about the traps of other people’s opinions, the soul-losses we’ve suffered, and the desires we harbor that nourish us and those that don’t.

In the pieces below, you’ll see pleas for freedom and loving prayers. The dance they are doing is not easy or without grace.


I find it narrow-minded that, generally speaking, my family, as well as society as a whole, expects me to live my life a certain way.

I pretend that I no longer take part in certain activities – one’s that others consider reckless, dangerous, irresponsible. Yet, I find them exhilarating, entertaining, and fulfilling. I generally work 40-50 hours a week attempting to display that I am mature, dependable, and responsible, when really I desire to be at the lake or on a mountain top with my family with a care in the world.

Spontaneously, acting on my wants is what I hunger for. No rules. No boundaries. No limits. Freedom. Not having my medicine on account of my doctor saying it’s necessary. Paying my phone bill three days later than is dated on my bill. Lighting up another cigarette although the surgeon general advises I don’t. Going home when it gets dark because that is what most people do. I desire to do things my way, on my own time. Because I chose what is best for me, not others.

No rules. No boundaries. No limits. Freedom!



My name is nobody.
I am queen of all fallen angels,
lover of all the forsaken souls.
Silent screams are buried beneath their smiles.
Don’t worry, you no longer have to hide in the shadows.
Come out, come out.
Be your true self.
Don’t be afraid of the monsters under your bed.
They’re really you friends.
Get along with the voices inside your head.
Don’t fight the demon within you.
It’s a part of you.
You no longer have to be alone
because I love you.
You no longer have to bleed alone –
two bodies, one soul.
I will take care of you.

A secret fire began to burn in their hearts
and the truth set them free,
free to be who they are,
who they want to be.


the voice in your pocket

illustration of vasalisa

I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories… water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Last week, we started the story ‘Vasalisa,’ a Russian and global folktale. In the story, Vasalisa loses her mother and receives a doll to keep her pocket. The doll, her mother’s dying gift, is supposed to lead her in her mother’s absence. Through a series of misfortunes, she is alone in the woods in search of fire. She can only seek help from the witch Baba Yaga to rekindle her home hearth. But Baba Yaga is a dangerous character who tests Vasalisa at the constant threat of death. With the help of her doll, whose voice indeed guides her throughout the story, she passes all the tests and returns home with fire, burning up her enemies and lighting her home.

In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes how this little doll is the carrier of the inner voice, the intuition that guides someone when they are positively lost and without a clear path in sight. That’s the situation that Vasalisa is in throughout the story and each of us, I’m sure, can relate to this.

Once, a long time ago, I had a strange and wonderful teacher who gave me a book I could not understand. I spent three hours getting through 16 pages. I went to him and said, “I do not understand this.” And completely unruffled, he replied, “I didn’t intend you to. This was intended to initiate you in the material.” He was planting seeds for a place my mind would someday travel to and cultivate when I was ready.

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