Outrageous Woman Meets Sassafras Man

There once was an outrageous woman, who had no patience with the mating ritual. She wanted to get down to the nitty gritty, see what a man was made of, before she wasted any time on him. She threw her whole heart into the fray, falling in love again and again, breaking it and picking up the pieces and dancing the grief into a shimmering garment of glamor, drawing another man into her spell, trying again.

She knew there was a way to do it right, she was determined to find or invent it. The culture was a mess about sex and love, but she would follow her passion and her intuition, she would explore the territory beyond social acceptability, she would use this energy as it was meant to be used, for transcendence, for ecstasy, for exploding the limits of reality.

She survived a lot of disasters, she got lost in the melodrama, she wandered confused in the swamps of other people’s definitions of love and romance and relationship. Will-o-the wisps enchanted her, led her with lovely sweet longings then let her fall into the slough.

But she was bold. She held to her heart’s conviction, stubbornly determined to find the right way, to live the right way. To enter and abide in the ultimate bliss of sex beyond sex. She flouted convention, she teased men and she seduced them. They loved it and they feared it, her outrageous pursuit of them.

Once in a while, one would respond from his own outrageousness. Not his arrogance, which was all too common. Not from puppydog enthusiasm, that was cute for a while but it didn’t go far enough, didn’t grasp the whole gestalt, didn’t truly respond to what she offered. Rather dancing from that source that sings us all together, that makes flocks of birds wheel in the sky in one move, that keeps the beat of the music in all the band together, that takes the weight of one dancer in the body of the partner.

What is it about the experience of moving your body from deep play, and responding to the other dancing that too, that is so sexual? Not hard to figure, just hard to find the occasion. She was determined to find every occasion. Not genital, beyond genital.

This is the story of one. “A Weekend of Biodynamic Dance Improvisation,” the ad offered; “Reach new levels of order, self-healing and wholeness.” Participants danced out their dreams, picked a partner “who could shame you.” But she heard “chain you.” Puzzled, she checked; and when she learned what the leaders had said, didn’t understand. She had no need for shame. “It’s the same thing,” decided the leaders.

Outrageous Woman and her partner unzipped their sleeping bags, spread his on the bottom and lay hers on top of them. They tried zipping them together but the zippers didn’t match, so drafts came in if they lifted the top one. That was hard to avoid, because they were tumbling over each other like puppies, nuzzling and licking and sniffing and kneading: exploring this new body to play with, giggling and growling with fun.

Then they played with the noise too: moaning and singing, whooping and shrieking, babbling and hissing… til finally words started coming, strung together for the fun of it, “lollipops, red blimey balloons; lalligag, loverly,” then it turned into “Once upon a time there was a man who tasted like sassafras.”

“How did he get that way?”

…When a witch decided she wanted that taste in her bed, and even after he escaped from her he didn’t get rid of it.

But he didn’t mind, in fact he liked it. The captivity hadn’t been all bad, she was kind to him, coddled him even. She made cookies all the time, flavored with sassafras or wintergreen or elderberries. She would give almost anything he wanted. Except, of course, his freedom — and his sense of time. Why did she not want him to understand how the days passed? Was living with her like fairyland, where a day was years in the human world? Did that mean she would eventually turn him loose, and didn’t want him to imagine what would happen then? Was she actually, behind her beautiful exterior, some old crone, and if he knew how long he’d been with her he’d have an inkling of her age?

But when he asked her she laughed in a way he liked, and just said she thought he’d be happier that way. Funny thing was, he reflected afterwards, she’d been right. Turned out he hadn’t been gone so long, but he missed that timelessness. The sex had been glorious, more satisfying than any before or since, but what he missed more was the feeling of just being, just happening. It hadn’t been a shutting-down in any way, rather it felt quite natural and authentic, and his awareness of the world was keen. Just always in an ever-present now.

Why had she sent him back? He knew, she got tired of his pushing against the limits. Like having a two-year-old around. So here he was now wishing to be back there. Well, wishing to have what he had there, but to be here, to be his own person. Longing for transcendence and timelessness, for eternity beyond time….

Studying ways to be fully present, he took up hang-gliding. He loved it! That feeling of flying, a whole new dimension of freedom…. But he was terrified most of the time, too. He sat zazen … and ended up sympathetic with Shinran, the monk who gave up meditation in despair over his unruly mind. Zen flower-arranging worked better for him, but the other students of his roshi thought he was “too weird.” He joined a choir; the music reverberated in him, he felt the whole universe as vibration. But he had poor pitch; they didn’t want him either.

Then he took a class in improvisational dance. The teacher said “stand in front of your partner and one of you make a small, simple movement: a gesture; then be still again. The other partner, respond to that movement with a simple gesture of your own. Go back and forth, have a conversation. Don’t think about what to do, pay attention to your body and feel the impulse to move come from your muscles themselves.”

Wise muscles! how they know everything; they sense the energy flowing through the bodymind — and beyond that, through the bodymind of the universe. You don’t have to think, you can feel it moving, you can get out of the way and it dances you.

“So then what happened?” The Outrageous Woman asked the Sassafras Man. It didn’t seem like the end of the story, it needed something, some excitement, some challenge, some problem to solve.

He started trying to dance his way through every moment, to stay in that awareness where the impulse to move, to act, came through him, not from him. It was much harder when he needed to speak. Talking Mind did not get out of the way very well. He decided to go back to the witch, somehow get her to help him. He did not know very clearly what he was going to ask, and he did not have much hope she would help, but something in him was moving that way.

The familiar forest was more frightening this time, and he couldn’t concentrate on the path, which was faint at best; he kept stumbling over tree roots and getting whipped in the face by branches. Wolves howling, crows screeching: every noise made him start. He worried what the witch would do when he didn’t stay banished.

As it turned out, when she opened the door and saw him, she laughed uproariously. “Come back to Mama? Gonna be a good boy?” she singsonged at him, mocking.

“I don’t think I can,” he said, hanging his head. “I’ll always want to be free.” But you gave me a different freedom even while you took the first one away. And now I know about the one you gave, I hunger for it too. ”

The witch laughed in a way he didn’t like; he complained “What am I supposed to do? How could you do this to me? You have no compassion!”

“Ah, compassion is it now. What do you know about compassion? Was it not compassion to give you the freedom of timelessness?”

“But I still need it now when I live in time, and I find only moments, snatches that leave me longing. I never had that need before.”

“So, you want to go back to being ignorant? That’s easy, I can take away your memory of timelessness. But I can’t give you more. Only you can do that. Choose: either numbness, or the challenge.”

Of course he chose to remember.

As he turned with a sigh to retrace his steps, the witch put her hand on his shoulder. “There’s one thing I can give you. Remember the taste of the cookies I used to make for you? Always now, your body will have that taste, that scent. You will get used to it, you won’t notice it yourself. But other people will remark on it to you. Perhaps it will bring to mind the taste of freedom.”

“But she was right,” he mused. “She couldn’t really give me what I wanted. That scent, that taste, turned out to be not so useful as what I’d already learned, the wisdom of Dancing Mind.” The sassafras just adds a little spice occasionally.”

Outrageous Woman snorted, and began to lick and chew and suck on him.

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