Friday, August 20, 2021

To Seize The Joy Lying, Waiting, At Your Feet

I've written here about our neighborhood "The Fremont Troll" sculpture, the hulking, but not entirely forbidding monster who lurks under the Highway 99 bridge. According to my highly unscientific and subjective assessment, he is the most beloved piece of pubic art in the city, but a close second might be "Dance Steps on Broadway."

Created by artist Jack Mackie, the installation of bronze footprints, embedded in the concrete sidewalks along 12 blocks of Broadway, are a collection of numbered diagrams of classic dances like the tango, the waltz, and the cha-cha. There is even one for a dance called the "bus stop" that Mackie invented to represent the footwork of someone waiting for the bus. I doubt many Seattleites, even long timers, would think to include this on their list of favorite public art, but I rarely walk that stretch of the city without coming across someone, usually a couple, trying them out, often badly, always laughing.

To say that we need more things in our lives to make us laugh isn't particularly insightful commentary, but I sure appreciate it.

As I watched a young couple gamely and clumsily attempt the rumba yesterday, I imagined I saw them as children through the veil of their adult self-consciousness. There is a temptation to view art as a luxury, but what can be more necessary than dancing in the streets? Certainly, there is at least as much value in this use of the sidewalk as there is in all those people trudging along between appointments -- probably more. 

I had imagined that by now, we would all be fully and joyfully engaged in our celebration of the end of the pandemic. Instead, as of Monday, our state is going back to an indoor mask mandate, not because we are vaccine hesitant (over 80 percent of King Country residents are vaccinated), but to protect our children who are soon returning to school. (I'm not interested in a debate over vaccines or masks here, mainly because I've got enough going without adding death threats.) I'm simply pointing out how incredibly and universally depressing it is to discover that the light we thought we saw at the end of the tunnel is much farther away than we had hoped.

Art, and public art in particular, has never been more necessary. "Dance Steps on Broadway" was installed in 1979. I originally moved here in 1984, so I've never known this city without them. Those bronze footprints have seen a lot of unhappy feet pass them by over the decades, but some of us, some of the time, have let them convert us, if only for a few minutes. Even on the worst of days, they are joy waiting to happen, silliness, clumsiness, awkward, falling over ourselves goofiness. As that couple strived, and failed, and strived again through their giggles, the dark clouds cleared away, not just for them, but for me as well. For a shining moment, all was good with the world and the feeling has stayed with me.  

Many of the people who read here are already back in school. In normal times, the excitement of a new school year is enough, but these are not normal times. It's not just okay, but necessary for each of us to find ways to escape, to be delighted, to throw our heads back and dance while laughing ourselves silly. I urge you to find that moment today, this minute, to seize the joy lying, waiting, at your feet.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Few people are better qualified to support people working in the field of early childhood education than Teacher Tom. This is a book you will want to keep close to your soul." ~Daniel Hodgins, author of Boys: Changing the Classroom, Not the Child, and Get Over It! Relearning Guidance Practices

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