Geboor (Book 2 of Dadirri Series): Poustinia

Part 2—Sacred Spaces (Autumn)
Poustinik Dancer

Something about the dance studio this morning reminded Maliyan of a poustinia. Its lack of people, furniture, and electricity. Its striking emptiness. Poustinia is a Russian word for a sparsely furnished cabin where one goes to pray and fast. Its most fundamental element is its aloneness. Alone, except for God. In Russia, poustiniks often live on the edges of towns. They are available to their community for spiritual help and sometimes practical help. Although Maliyan had plenty of self-starting drive to dance in her poustinia, there was no doubt that another body, another being, another type of energy gave dance a different and wonderful dimension.

I don’t mind being a poustinik dancer, she thought, but I danced so much better when Rex danced with me.

The energy of a healthy, fully-functioning male is so different to feminine energy. It pushed her and activated her as a female dancer. His dancing body turned on a switch in her body marked—Move (preferably in time with the music).

We need our men to dance, thought Maliyan. If we want them to dance, we have to seduce them. But with what? 

A young visiting teacher once told her, “Be sexier. A woman’s assets are her hair, boobs, and butt.” Maliyan laughed because she thought he was joking. Surely, it was a joke. It wasn’t. She looked in the mirror at her hair (no longer than a boy’s) and her boobs and butt, which were…ordinary as far as she could tell. She turned towards the teacher and then to his dance partner, who was practising in the far corner of the studio. She was definitely all hair, boobs, and butt—big and luscious. However, she was neither big nor luscious when it came to depth and heart. Although Maliyan understood his focus, she knew that even with ten more years, hair, boobs, and butt would no longer cut it as inspiration. By age thirty, experienced male dancers have seen enough hair, boobs, and butt to last a lifetime. Besides, a significant proportion of male dancers are gay. Female hair, boobs, and butt don’t pull much weight. 

If we want our men to dance, thought Maliyan, we have to inspire them. Not with blatant sexuality. That is too common, too little. But with something more, something bigger, something that will give them a reason to want to dance.

The greatest joy of partner dancing is difference. You feed off each other and make the other better and more than we can be on our own. We need difference to help us grow and blossom. It is what happens in life-enhancing relationships. Imagine living with a clone of yourself. How utterly boring. How uninspiring. How intolerable. We need difference to make life worth living. We are drawn to people who change us. Not change us into less of ourselves but into something we cannot be in our own solitary poustinias.

Saint Francis

A man about Maliyan’s age stopped outside the studio and wrestled with his shopping bags and the coffee he had bought from Luna Tiks. He was tall and slim with enough grey hair to be proud of. Something about his eyes looked very familiar. They were soft and kind, introspective and pious.

“Francis?” asked Maliyan as she quickly went outside to greet him. “Saint Francis? Is that you?”

Hearing his nickname from three decades ago, he knew the woman could only be one person, his at-one-stage girlfriend.

He laughed, hugged her, and said, “That’s a name no one has called me in a long time.”

Francis first visited Nanima when he was not long out of school. He belonged to a charismatic community of lay people called, The Spirit of Joy in the city’s inner suburbs. At that time, Francis was seriously considering becoming a brother or monk. To get direction, he decided to spend a month in the newly established poustinia outside of Nanima on the property of one of the community’s families. After a week in the poustinia, he met Maliyan, also fresh out of school. Every day, they kept meeting to talk about the community and the poustinia, which they both found fascinating. 

Not only did he not take Catholic order vows, but he decided to take a girlfriend instead. With his help, Maliyan moved to the city into one of the community houses, which was ever so much fun and full of laughter. After a year, Maliyan ended the relationship by starting another relationship with someone else. That may seem mean (and Francis certainly thought it was), but he quickly found a lovely girl, married her, and proceeded to have half a dozen children to add to the Catholic population. It wasn’t that Maliyan wasn’t “lovely”, but the one he married was more “lovely” for him. Maliyan had too much fire for Francis. Fire, for some people, just burns them. It doesn’t ignite them. You want to be switched on, not incinerated.

“We’re empty nesters now,” explained Francis. “Frankly, I’m tired.”

“You’ve been flat out for the last thirty years,” said Maliyan. 

She didn’t say (but Francis knew she meant), And for a person like you, who has such a high propensity for contemplation, being in the world has taken its toll.

“I remembered the poustinia,” said Francis, “and asked if it was still operating. The family said no one had been in it for many years, but they would dearly love for someone to go there and use it for what it was intended. I’m not sure what state it will be in.”

He laughed in his good-natured, somewhat serious way and said, “It’ll probably be in about the same state as I feel. So, we will meet each other on equal terms.”

Maliyan thought that the poustinia was never so loved by anyone as it was by Francis and that, really, it was his poustinia all along.

Looking guiltily at his coffee, Francis confessed, “I’m supposed to be fasting.” 

Maliyan shrugged and asked, “How long have you got?”

“As long as I need,” said Francis. “I have long service leave, and my beautiful wife is giving me the gift of time.”

“Do you want to be left alone?” asked Maliyan.

“You can come,” said Francis. 

“Don’t worry,” laughed Maliyan. “I promise I won’t come every day like last time. When you are ready, let me know, and I’ll come out and visit my Saint Francis of Poustinia.”

More of the Dadirri Series

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