Moving into Green

This is the first post in a series by guest writer Gelen Fourtri. Gel will tell you her own story, but part of her story is just that–a story–which, as you will see, is partly the point. For me, her story begins in the ’80s when Gel was lead singer for Spiderfox. You may or may not remember the band: four great albums and then poof, nothing. Gel explains why and tells what happened next.

We feel so fortunate to get to hear her again, albeit in a different way and with a slightly different message, here on a ledge. Enjoy the ongoing story.–Sarah

People dancingby Gelen Fourtri

I don’t suffer from ’80s nostalgia. I had a good time then and I have one now. But when I take a moment to think about it, I can see how an entire world can change in just a short time. Back then I was singing in a band. We did great, jumpy, lively, deep stuff. We had fun and we told the truth. I had no clue at the time that twenty years later I’d be writing articles on a computer and talking to people in folding chairs about what I’m talking about now.

Then I was singing songs about moving on after breakups, moving toward change, moving into love. The people I was singing to weren’t sitting. They were moving. From the stage, they looked like animals. I don’t mean the zoo or pet type, but the free and wild ones, full of the freedom to move.

Now what I see are people stuck in chairs. Yeah, they’re sitting next to each other, but it feels sometimes like they’re all separated by great distance. There’s a static in the air instead of music. There’s a separation that wants to look like individuality but is instead a kind of upside-down version of conformity. Having your own ringtone doesn’t make you free.

One day at the height of Iran Contra and right before ACT UP, I did what I’d done lots of times before, which was to throw myself off the stage, arms spread out, to be caught by the people dancing. But this one time, just by chance, nobody caught me. I fell on my face. I fractured my jaw and broke some ribs. I cracked my femur.

That started my many months in rehab, which ironically enough wasn’t because of any drugs like you’d think for a person in my line of work but in fact where I got the drugs. They gave them to me freely to try to dampen some of the pain. I spent a lot of time moving different parts very slowly and in specific ways like I was made of gears. I was all bandaged up. At night I was tied down so I wouldn’t move in my sleep and tear something more.

Maybe it was the drugs, the moving so slowly, or the being tied down. Maybe it was all three. Whatever the impetus, that’s when I had my first green vision. What I mean by that is that I was a tree and I was green. My hair was spiking out into branches and broad leaves. My toes were stretching into thin white roots and reaching down into the soil where I could feel the worms and the grubs. I could feel the finches and the chickadees in my branches and the raccoons and cats clawing at the bark on my trunk. In my mind I was crawling with movement and jumping with life. Although I was stuck in a bed, in my mind I was free.

Every time I fell asleep during those months, I became the tree all over again. After a few of these dreams I figured out that the birds, the crawlers in the dirt, and the scratchers on my bark were talking to me–not in words or songs. They were telling me all kinds of things, things I didn’t understand at first but that eventually, over many months, started to make some kind of sense, as I let go of my need to have words for meaning and I learned to hear with a different kind of hearing.

I understood something was calling to me. I thought, crap, I’m a singer, and I’ve got the band, what am I supposed to do with this? Write some weird songs that you can’t even dance to? So that’s what I tried to do at first. I didn’t want to let go of so much, and singing was what I did. But it didn’t work. The songs stank. It was like I was trying to put the salt back through the little holes in the shaker. My life had changed and I had changed. The guys didn’t know what to do with me. We all kind of split up and started working on our own projects.

For months my project became walking. I was walking all over the place. I did all of Manhattan and all of Brooklyn. I did Long Island, and then I branched out to the West Coast and walked all over Seattle and then to the Cascade Range. Finally one day I got to the sea over on the Olympic Peninsula. I looked out at the sea, and I saw that it wasn’t the end of anything or the beginning, but just a long ribbon that came back around again right behind me and underneath me. I knew then that what I cared about most, the thing I’d always cared about on Earth, whether as a singer or walker or even now as whatever it is you call what I’m doing, was motion: of all of us animals and of the ground and of the sky and of the water. That’s what makes this experience we share on Earth unlike any other we might have in another incarnation. We can move.

I started talking too, I wanted to. I needed to talk about what I had figured out. Eventually, I was part of this new wave, what had become known by then as the eco or green movement, I guess because I was talking about life and where we live. But I didn’t come at it from a place of science or a place of fear or worry. I didn’t get there from a desire to stop or control some kind of disastrous human behavior. I came to be in this crowd merely from a love of the motion that is manifest in life. It’s physical.

I talk to people all over, but I don’t talk about carbon credits or recycling or changing lightbulbs. For one thing, I can’t remember all those details and facts. My mind doesn’t work that way. For another, what I care about is different from carbon dioxide. Yeah, if we don’t take care of that, then I guess nothing else is going to matter anyway. But what I mean is that I’m not interested in talking about taking your cloth tote to the supermarket or using the other side of the piece of paper. That stuff is good, but it’s like blowing into a fan. What I’m talking about is complete rehabilitation. From flat on our face to remotion. I’m talking about saving ourselves–not our lifestyles but our lives.

For me, green is about motion. But I see it as less about getting away from certain things, such as greenhouse gases, and more about moving toward a new kind of life.

©2008 ProgressiveKid

Photo by Simon Law, 2006, Creative Commons license.

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