Dancing with Poets, Among Reindeer

On Shel Silverstein’s birthday, I happen to reading news of the petroglyphs, and also of the magic mushroom people hunting whales.

brown deer near tree

Yesterday’s post on the potential revival of ice age creatures unearthed from the tundra’s melting permafrost is what made me aware of The Siberian Times, which seemed like an excellent addition to my small collection of regularly visited sites. It was here that I learned of the mushroom people, which happened to be very shortly after I learned it was Shel Silverstein’s birthday, and found myself reminiscing about laughing with my daughter over pages in Where the Sidewalk Ends and other volumes, his brilliant sense of delight in wonder and dark humor, the electric hilarity of morbid details delivered in singsong (“I’m being eaten by a Boa Constrictor/ And I don’t like it one bit…  Oh gee, it’s up to my knee. . . Oh heck, it’s up to my neck . . .”).  So, when I read the article about the mushroom people, it is only natural that I heard it as follows:

The reindeer are crossing the river, and dogs are out chasing a bear.

We drew them above the cold sea, with the wind and the salt in our hair.

Who were these artists, these dreamers up there––

so far away from any known where? 

Bearded men rubbing away at their their faces, 

with bald-faced ones wishing they’d sooner found traces

of places where no beards were looking,

and no one was daring to tread.

We dance in these paintings, large mushrooms on heads. 

The music is gone now, and we are all dead. 

We had stems for our legs, and mushrooms for hair, 

but as for our music, they heard it nowhere. 

And that was our joke, how nobody knew 

anything of us or what we could do. 

When you cross over, the music invites you to dance, 

with winds on the tundra, in leaves of those plants. 

And no one is there, recording a show;

few stories on record, and little to know. 

This is bad for museums, but what was it to them? 

For the living, the point is to dance to the end.

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I am here to wonder out loud. The point is not to get a clear answer, a complete picture, but to remember how incomplete the picture is, to embrace the process once again, of discovery, of questions, to notice the stirrings of wonder. To leave crumbs behind, for the next traveler.

2 thoughts on “Dancing with Poets, Among Reindeer”

  1. This is for you, Stacey Johnson.
    Thank you for the inspiration.

    Dance to the end, but this dance in no race.
    Out here on the tundra we created a space,
    for students of teachers who live in the plants,
    and those who like crawling and grooving with ants.
    For those who like flying and rise like the sun.
    For those who see visions where nothingness runs.
    The reindeer and bison, and mastodons too
    spirits and demons, all can come through.
    With beards on our faces and mushrooms on heads,
    we dance here while living, we dance here while dead.
    We dance with our bodies like leaves in the breeze.
    We dance to keep warm from the oncoming freeze.
    Oh, what a time we had in our day,
    with bear chasing dogs, and dreamers at play.
    We left you these paintings, that we knew you would see.
    We know you’d be puzzled, a big mystery.
    We danced to a rhythm that travels through time
    you just have to listen, with heart not your mind.
    Stop trying so hard, now is your time.
    Our time is over, and you never will know
    why our heads are like mushrooms, why we put on this show.
    You can’t speak our language
    You don’t know our songs.
    Although we may joke, we’ve done nothing wrong.
    We simply made due where the winters are long,
    and danced to keep breathing
    and danced to stay strong.
    and danced to the end when our last breath was gone.
    Our women, our children, our animals too,
    we all made this passage that all humans do.
    Don’t worry about us, your time is now.
    You better start dancing dancing, you better learn how.
    There’s no end to this story, the rhythm goes on
    it lives lives in the place where your heartbeat is strong.
    So join in the chorus and sing a new song.
    A time will soon come when, you too, are gone.

    1. Thomas Gomes, what a beautifully inspired meditation on this dance. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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