‘My Sweet Wild Dance’ by Mikaya Heart

My Sweet Wild Dance (Dog Ear) is a lucid account of the sexual revolution, coming out as a lesbian, discovering women’s liberation and breaking into male dominated careers.

Today, many baby boomers are looking back nostalgically at the era about which Mikaya Heart writes, and many young feminists and lesbian activists are interested in the battles fought for them by their forebears.

What was it like to come out as a dyke when the word was still both venomous to utter and extremely dangerous to be identified with? My Sweet Wild Dance provides one account of this world.

In this story of her life, Heart takes the reader on a journey filled with both adventure and an unusual insight into many of the burning issues of our times. She enlightens readers about what was it like to shuck of the compulsory uniformity of the 1960s and exchange a mini-skirt for a pair of overalls and a greasy wrench.

Heart’s journey takes readers through the hippy years, women’s liberation, coming out as a lesbian, moving to the US and then through her many careers; including as a mechanic, a builder, a gardener, a farmer and a writer.

Living in California she finds a spiritual path, which helps her tame her anger and arrogance. In the end, Heart becomes a free-wheeling adventurer and writes about her travels–learning to kite surf on wild beaches all over the world, kayaking down flooded rivers and riding spunky horses in the wilderness. Heart’s relentless courage and honesty in opening up the dark crevices of her earlier years, and the revelations of her stumbling steps into maturity through the heydays of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, provide a joyous and entertaining saga.

The landscapes Heart transverses include deep canyons, perilous cliffs and dizzying heights. Heart first wandered wild heaths as a child of the Scottish aristocracy, and although she was deprived of the full benefits of her birth into nobility, she suffered the psychological ills of arrogant and distant parentage.

Heart writes about her aristocratic family and other abusive hangers-on, including a truly scary British nanny. Heart endured mental and sexual abuse in her early childhood then transformed herself into a women of immense physical and psychological strength.

There is no self-pity or anguish in Heart’s account in My Sweet Wild Dance, just the description of her evolution from a life filled with repression and oppression into a life of true inner and outer freedom.

The array of sexual partners that Heart describes is appealing. There are also a variety of adversaries, mostly males, she bumps up against in her adventures. Often they are disarmed by her searing honesty.

My Sweet Wild Dance is full of derring-do. Heart never allowed herself to be restricted to what was expected of a girl or woman of her time. She took on forbidden careers, dressed as she felt comfortable and dared to take on physical risks even other lesbian rebels of her age shunned – and continues to do so now in her 50s. In this way, Heart’s work stands apart from others writing about these times. Many aging lesbian feminists started out defying stereotypes.

Most, though still working quietly on social issues, settled down to steady careers and a quiet retirement, slightly exhausted by the enormity of the change they created for women and lesbians. In fact, it is a significantly less oppressive and challenging life as an out lesbian nowadays in the Western world at least.  Heart, however, has gone on, quite courageously.

What woman would travel to a middle Eastern, Muslim country alone to go kite surfing on desert beaches? What woman would jump into a flooding river to retrieve a kayak and find herself carried over an international border wearing only her underwear and not panic? Mikaya Heart.

Although My Sweet Wild Dance is an adventure story, the point is not the adventures. The true excitement in Heart’s story is her self discovery and how she finds a way to be at peace with herself and her world: by continuing to be brave enough to be herself. For many of Heart’s contemporaries, once the passionate idealism of youth faded, they also faded back into the background.

Readers of My Sweet Wild Dance are called to witness Heart’s struggles. Through her tussles between arrogance and compassion, anger and joy, raw sexuality and loving expression, we meet a woman who is unique, individual and incredibly unusual; especially to anyone who languors in safe conformity.

Heart’s writing speaks eloquently to sexual abuse survivors, animal lovers, nature lovers, sporting adventurers and all those who aspire to throw off their shackles and follow their wildest dreams. My Sweet Wild Dance is a personal revelation, devoid of any political rhetoric. Heart just simply tells her remarkable story in a humble way. The gift she gives readers is an open heart, rare and deeply nurturing.
by Mikaya Heart
Dog Ear Publishing
Paperback, 9781608440702, 238p
September 2009