Nov 10, 2012


Sandhill Crane: Waltzing, Drunk and Alone
There was some talk here last time about music and dancing. I’ve never trusted men who could dance. If I were about to hand over my fortune to a Wall Street type, I’d sooner trust men who succeed at the bar scene or church socials than men who are good dancers.

Back in the day I developed a restrained, classic, quasi-inert, sway-and-shuffle style of slow dancing, but that was go along to get along. Even then I found the whole activity absurd.

If dancing is foreplay for women—and several women have affirmed that it is . . . .  Actually they said, "What did you think it was, Dumb Ass?"  Interpretation: the male is required to forego his Randolph Scott dignity and fall into a foolish boogie-seizure while waiting for the female to get in touch with her animal self.
Downy Woodpecker: The Female Idly Snacks

Downy Woodpecker, Red-Head Male Fuels Himself

Am I the only one who’s stood in astonishment as women walk into a room with music and immediately start wiggling and wriggling, clapping hands and snapping fingers?  They lapse into exotic facial expressions, eyelids and brows squeezed into a pleasure-pain grimace, lips curled into an ecstatic-tragic oooohhhh. . . ?   I’d as soon learn French as indulge in such antics.

So. Dancing is foreplay for women—freeing up their bodies, feeling a rhythm, getting in a groove—while my limited, ever-ready gender is doing jumping jacks in a wheat field.

That’s all old news, of course, so we should not be, and maybe we no longer are, surprised that dating, courting, and mating make such a rough ride—rolling down Rt. 66 one minute—top down, wind blowing all friendly-like—and the next minute we’re flossing teeth or picking lint from lapels.

Munching, not breeding
How many hours do Mr. and Mrs. Sandhill Crane spend strolling and nibbling goodies in the grass, compared to the time they spend in outrageous lust? Sandhill Cranes look so lazy it’s a wonder they’re not extinct. I know, I know, their epic migration, oh, the heroic endurance, blah blah.  Some humans are dumb enough to run marathons, and most birds are dumb enough to chase a certain kind of bug for thousands of miles twice a year. Jesus, can't you just change your diet a little? Look at the sparrow. The sparrow will eat any damn thing.
Red-Tail  Chase

So Near, Yet So Far
One day last April Mr. Red-Tailed Hawk was howling for the Missus in a woods where I go to walk. I heard the high-pitched flute of Mister’s voice before I saw the two of them. Then I watched as he chased her for 20 minutes, waltzing on currents up there toward the sun, until, exhausted, they rested side by side on a high branch, transformed by fatigue to Platonism, to brother and sister. After a few minutes of catching their breath, they took off again, in another dance-chase across the sky, away and out of sight.  

That was a spectacular half-hour, but it left me once again wondering what animals are thinking and feeling. Most seem to be all about foreplay—eternal, spectacular rituals, displays and chases, fights with rivals—for a coupling that lasts about two seconds.

Love's Exhaustion
So. Are dancing and sex matters of the mind or the body? Is that one question or two? Or two thousand? Is it even a question? And in  
that transition from mind to body, where’s the tipping point? To understand, where should one begin?



Rune Eide said...

You have just proved (if it should necessary at this point in time) that Charles Darwin was right - we are as much an animal as anyone of the other species. It all comes down to who makes the genes go on to the next generation, and for that to happen foreplay is a must :-)

But sometimes the elegance of the participants could be questioned ...

Anonymous said...

Sexual attraction? I think it's mineral; magnetic. Music, dance, art, poetry can't create attraction, they can only describe it.

But then, how does this explain the aberrations of some priests, coaches, scout masters? Maybe I'm completely wrong, and sexual attraction is actually a story we tell ourselves.

Banjo52 said...

Rune—thanks. I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t think of all this in relation to Darwin, but of course you’re right. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine how the most outrageous of animal courting rituals plays a role in helping the fittest survive. Maybe Darwin should have said, “Survival of the most theatrical,” or “Survival of the best myth-makers, best story tellers” (see AH below). Or maybe we need to wait another century or a few for the meaning of “fittest” to make any sense . . . .

AH—Great thoughts. Thank you. “Mineral, magnetic”—maybe this is the place to throw in the issue of pheromones too? “Oh, baby, I love the stink of you.” Loses some magic, doesn’t it—another score for your point on stories we tell ourselves?

“Can’t create . . . only describe”—that’s mighty interesting and sounds right to me for music, art and poetry, but maybe not dance, which, like actual mating, includes physical movement, touching, etc.

It’s just now hitting that maybe the verb “mimic” has a place in all this.

Also, your points include the mystery, desperation and silliness I’m trying to get at in the piece.

As for the aberrant priests, coaches, et al, surely that’s a matter of defective wiring? I suspect we must focus on the brain’s electricity and plumbing if we can even begin to understand those people and serial killers. Nurture might play a part too, but I cannot believe that it’s even close to being the primary force involved.

“A story we tell ourselves”—That might be my favorite of the big ideas you’re offering today, and now you’ve touched on both the science (magnetism) and the poetry of the matter.

On the brighter side is this Native American proverb I just heard again the other day:

Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth
and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it
will live in my heart forever.
- Native American Proverb

Hannah Stephenson said...

I liked learning about bower they build something to attract a mate (while expressing their creativity, of course!).

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I'm in the Native American camp. Tell me a good story and you'll get me in bed.

Stickup Artist said...

The physical descriptions of dancing women had me in stitches. Since my most recent incarnation as "photographer," I've morphed into observer over participant — human antics never fail to entertain. But now, we have another falling out (in addition to head-banging) — long distance endurance sports! Just point me in the right direction and I'll keep going whether on foot or by bicycle. Suited to the clumsy and non-competitive types...

Wanna run a marathon to a heavy metal show?

Banjo52 said...

PA, I've spread the word. You'll be getting some calls from people who say they know how to tell a story.

And, oh, Stickup, as if your head-banging weren't enough of an affliction . . . I'm so sorry to hear about your endurance-addiction syndrome. You run to the loud show and I'll pick you up in the car, with the radio off. How can anyone take such gorgeous, brooding, or at least meditative pictures and then run off to noise and speed? My heart is heavy.

Kitty said...

You're lucky to have seen those birds on your walk. There are times when we'll spot a red-tailed hawk in the city, hovering above the park, but it's not the same.

I, too, think dancing is a little over-rated!

Banjo52 said...

Kitty, I didn't know girls were allowed to not love dancing . . . Good for you!

I don't like thinking of hawks' preying on small birds, but I root for them when they're hunting rats and mice. Or trying to mate in flight!

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