I want to tell you about one of the great loves of my life.
Her name is Val and it happens to be her birthday.
I don’t know the cosmic mechanics involved in uniting two souls from different countries, born 15 years apart, when they don’t speak the same language, but I am eternally grateful to the universe for the reunion offered.
Indeed, all Val and I needed was that reunion.
We needed to find ourselves in the same place at the same time.
We had the rest covered.
When the resonance of connection is tuned to eternity, you simply have to get close enough to feel the frequency of the other and courageous enough to let that frequency unfold you.
That’s how it was with Val and it cracked my heart open.
It happened like this:
Up a set of broken concrete stairs, where butterflies flirted with fragrant orchids and old men sat on benches sipping coffee from small cups, I taught dance classes to children and their mothers in a tiny room with smudged mirrors and checkered floors. It was here I first met Val - five feet tall, with strong legs, crimped black hair and a diamond stud below her lip.
I was 22 and I'd been in Rio de Janeiro barely a month.
My Portuguese consisted of greetings and numbers. I wore chacos everywhere I went. I stood out as an untested gringa the way a really tall dad stands out with their toddler at a petting zoo.
Val always danced in the back of the class, letting small whoops of joy bounce through the room when she liked a song or was enjoying a particularly satisfying sequence of movement.
Her shoulders and hips seemed to speak to each other in a fast paced dialogue I couldn’t mimic, though I tried desperately.
I wanted to say to her, “I know you from a time outside of time, do you remember me?”
But my linguistic options were more along the lines of,
“You dance so good. Would you like to meet?”
She was unphased by my stumbling attempt to express that feeling of resonance.
She was unphased because she felt that resonance too and because that’s how Val operates.
Val unfailingly welcomes the vulnerability and tenderness in every being she encounters.
Somehow we managed to make plans to go out dancing, using pantomime and simple words. From that moment on I can’t recall having any difficulty understanding each other, though it took me a solid year to feel fluent in Portuguese.
I chalk it up to the resonance. We shared access to the same frequency and it communicated for us, weaving between our missing words.
As an aside, and a wonderful example of Val’s life approach, she is a mother of four, but none of her children were in my class. She happened to be passing by one day, heard the music floating out the window and decided to join the party.
I’ve returned to Brazil numerous times over the past 14 years.
Now I’m almost the age Val was when I met her.
I lived with Val when her fifth grandson was born. I curved my body into dreaming shapes beside her family countless nights. I breathe more deeply when she is close.
Val has championed all of my growth. She steadfastly supported me during every stage of the development of my feature length documentary, which was the biggest creative baby I’ve yet to carry. Val tended to me during the delirium of dengue fever. She’s cradled my broken hearts and I’ve cradled hers. She’s always been honest with me and she’s always met me with the power of limitless love.
I’ve watched Val dance with the challenges of her life circumstances, which include - the marginalization and violence that can accompany life in a favela, as well as the uncertainty of a highly limited and sometimes absent income.
A year after I met her, she was introduced to her first sewing machine and began to express her innate artistry through sewing and designing jewelry and apparel that represents the diaspora of afro-brazilian culture.
Her work has grown tenfold since then and now Varal Da Val, (Val’s clothesline), is beginning to play an influential cultural role in recycled empowerment fashion amongst different communities in Rio.
It has, yet, however to provide an abundant income for her, though it sustains her very basic needs. What I’d love to see for Val, is the opportunity to grow her art, so it can continue to enrich community. I’d like to see Val actualize the next level of her capacity and meet her foundational needs with ease, so she can breathe more deeply and forge ahead.
That’s my ask this giving season, friends! :-)
I am collecting donations for Varal da Val, because I believe in my sister’s meaningful offerings and I believe in the importance of raising up each other’s gifts.
If you are interested in contributing or want to learn more, please contact me at email@example.com.
When Val is struggling with something she says, “I feel life moving through me and I feel power in that.”
In every moment of your humanness, may you feel life moving through you and may you feel power in that.
May you remember that we are all in this together, dancing.