Passionate Embrace Book Launch and Milonga

by Sandra Vander Shaaf

Thank you to all those who braved the cold wind and rains of Vancouver to join in the celebration last night.  The Fan Club was packed, the dance floor was lively, the mood was golden.  It was wonderful to revel in the embrace of community, friends, and family—the very embrace that inspired and nurtured the book we gathered to celebrate.  For those who were unable to attend, I wish I could recreate the warmth and energy of the night for you.  It was a splendid evening in every way—with good food, lots of laughter, a few good tears, and loads of love.  By request, here are the words I shared with those gathered last night:

 Thank you for joining me today for this celebration.  Thank you for your support and encouragement and curiosity.  Thank you, writing friends, dancing friends, doula friends, church friends, neighbourhood friends.  Thank you, my family.  And thank you, my Peter.  This is a book born into the embrace that you have shared with me and I am deeply, deeply grateful to you all.  I wrote this book for you.  I wrote this book because I am passionate about faith, flesh, and tango.

It is hard to speak of faith in a world so shamefully and tragically dominated by religious extremism, ignorance, and intolerance.  But I believe in the passionate embrace of Grace, the passionate embrace of the Divine.  I believe in a sacred space of giving and receiving, a sacred space where strength meets vulnerability. I believe that faith inspires a way of listening, a way of paying attention to the call of the Divine, to our shared yearning for peace, wholeness, and healing, and to the inmost desires of ours souls.

It is hard to speak of flesh in a world where bodies are so often treated as commodities, where we are taught to despise our own bodies  and idolize the carefully contrived perfection of cardboard cut-out celebrities, all in the interest of a consumption driven culture and economy.  But I believe our bodies matter so much more than this.  I believe bodies are sacred.  It is with our flesh that we taste life in all its richness, struggles, sorrows, and joys.  Our bodies are places of giving and receiving, places of strength and vulnerability.  Our bodies invite us to a way of listening, a way of paying attention to the world around us, to the people with whom we share the wonder of life, to the intimate details of our flesh—heartbeat, breath, muscle, skin.  There is no embrace without reaching arms, without strength, without the will and warmth of flesh and blood.

It is hard to speak of tango.  How can one put into mere words the experience of this sensual, intricate, ever-so complex and ever-so simple dance of the soul?  But I had to try.  Because tango’s embrace has been, for me, a rich, fruitful, and profoundly creative space.  A challenging space.  A consoling space.  The tango embrace is, at its best, a place of giving and receiving, a place where we offer ourselves to each other in strength and vulnerability.  Tango invites us to a particular way of listening, of paying attention to your own heartbeat, to an experience of shared body and breath, and to the music that draws us together into the possibility of a mutual, embodied expression of grace and beauty.

It is hard to speak of faith.  It is hard to speak of flesh.  It is hard to speak of the experience of tango.  But it’s important to speak of all of these things.  I hope that when you take yourself into the embrace of the covers of this book, that this book will become for you a sacred place of giving and receiving, a space for the contemplation of your own strength and vulnerability, and an inspiration to pay attention, in your own particular way, to your own particular experience of life.

May you be blessed as I have been blessed.  Thank you.

Originally published on, September 2013.


Brian 2013-10-01 - 4:06 pm

Congratulations Sandra! Wow such a wonderfully written words you delivered at the launch. As a writer myself I know that getting to the place of a published book (mostly because I am not there yet!) is an amazing feat. I look forward to delving between the pages. Thanks for the inspiration to continue in my own writing.

Sandra Vander Shaaf 2013-10-01 - 5:17 pm

Good to hear from you, poet friend. I look forward to reading more of your work, too! Peace to you.

Lucia Frangione 2013-10-01 - 8:20 pm

beautiful words. beautiful soul. xo

Monique 2013-10-17 - 9:18 am

Lieve Sandra ik ben zo trots op je. Liefs Monique Wolkorte

Sandra Vander Shaaf 2013-10-17 - 11:28 am

Bedankt, lieve Monique!

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[…] book before undertaking such a venture! And Sandra is a good writer. This brief excerpt from the words she shared with those who attended the dance gives a sense of both the content and the […]


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