Mard Gras Second Line

I’m hardly an authority on second lining. I’ve been to New Orleans three times, once for pre-Mardi Gras, and every year my husband Rich and I celebrate in New Mexico. But I do love to dance. In fact, I’ve danced most days of my life, often by the hour, by myself, to my favorite music from soul to gypsy.
But I love–truly love–dancing in the street for Mardi Gras. In Santa Fe, that means second lining behind the Hillstompers, a mostly brass band from Los Alamos. On Tuesday we went from the Cowgirl to the St. Francis Hotel to, surprisingly, a little arcade on the Plaza where we danced around in the cold night before heading to another bar.
The joy I feel is actually tremendous–it is so magical to be unaccustomedly out and wearing a mask and special Mardi Gras earrings. And it makes me think about second lining and art. The musicians are professional. The dancers are just folks. A few years ago, I’d gotten some irritating medical news. I was dancing and fretting. Then it hit me: surely I wasn’t the only middle-aged woman in America dancing in a second line who’d received a lecture about her lipids! I suddenly felt as connected to everything as if I’d worked a zen koan.
To appreciate art is to second line. I wish I could dance to everything–great paintings, cutting edge installations, Calder mobiles, Lorca poems, Japanese novels. I wish I could dance secretly at the opera, the ballet, flamenco. I wish I could hoot and whistle and exclaim, not just at a jazz concert, but everywhere. Writing a poem inspired by something is a kind of second lining. I’ll follow along wherever beauty and inspiration lead–an amateur in feathers, stepping in time.
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