2:30 AM Saturday

One two four two one two four five four six four two one.

There are three hundred songs on my tatty, first-gen iPod touch, which I can plug into my car. A semi-permanent state since iTunes ‘upgraded’ to something so slick I don’t really care to interface with it anymore. A musical museum of a few months ago when I was healing something -shit, I’m always healing something- and all that jazz was the right idea. I know every note of every tune, each burdened with moods, moments, stretches of road.

Accompanied me tonight, loud and rocking, playing softly as a ghost in my head through…well, look at that: another work day of the transactions that keep us alive. Those are my stats at the top. How many humans in my look, touch, breath, moment, from dinner with a friend at a reasonable hour that grew to her boyfriend and his coworker, then shrank to me and his coworker who held the Camel in her hand: precious, needed, but unlit we parted. Afraid to offend? Alone a few moments -five songs- to the next breathing entity of us, changing shape eight times in the four plus hours. If you must know, this is love. This air exchanged as we minutely grow old together, attention and presence given and taken freely.

I did not count the house party at Ellery and Harvard. The overspill of guests clumping in the cool night air on the porch and knobbed brick streets; hands occupied with cigarettes and drinks. But I admired those hips finding music leaking through the walls. I did not tally those waiting for green lights with me. Though I saw the trio of young women turn their heads to take me in, each at a time. We wondered together (you wonder about anyone, anywhere in a car at that hour). More humans but we did not share the air. Safe home. Begin again.

Thursday

Awoke, stumbled into shoes and out the door early enough to walk with the last bit of the sunrise.

A bike burred past me, and there were few enough cars on the street I could hear the clockwork ticking of his gearing down the street, over the rise in the road.

Someone had been sick on the sidewalk. A sure sign the summer season is here, even if the weather demanded three layers and light gloves; would have welcomed my neck gaiter; watched my breath the whole time; witness the grass rimed with frost.

In the cemetery, the birds roost preferentially in the trees nearest the street. They were riotous with spring song. A Grand Central Station cacophony blurring their calls into dense foreground crackling. In the trees further along I heard the woodpeckers.

Pre-mornings are an inescapable stamp on my existence. Genetics and my father’s habit. Acquaintance with the dawn used to be a forced march. Now, anywhere near a city it is the only time I like for itself. A silence truly gilded.

I was forced out of bed by a dream I could feel melting, Dali-like into a nightmare. And once up, my typical mild meander toward consciousness seemed unbearably heavy. So I walked outside to grab lungfuls of the day’s first air; hover in the sadness and confusion of the broken dream state. It broke the fear that had been mounting.It brought the whirr to life of my internal difference engine.

On my last lap a rabbit ran before me, hopping off to bed. He paused at such an angle before a headstone –HIGGINS WILLDON– he appeared to be reading it, recalling them. ‘Good folk. Nice garden. No dogs.’ The sun was just above the horizon then, huge and bronze, laying radiant paths between the trees. “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Just want to get this off my chest

I have run out of optimism for this 24 hour period. It will get replenished. My blood sugar will go up, because I have food, a blessing it is too easy to ignore. At some point I will sleep and morning is a unique, inextinguishable benediction. In the course of this evening, there will be company that will lift my spirits. But in this moment, in this gratefully transient now, my mental wheels are spinning in a tired muddy rut, too often visited in the past several weeks: there’s some stuff I think I want in this life that I just might never get to. It might forever be beyond my reach, or the wrong shape for my available time, or it just may abruptly be gone in the wake of the continuous and escalating conflict (with truly devastating weapons) humans have sown in the last 50 years.

I’ve got the mantras down: Live each day as it comes. Think happy thoughts. Believe in yourself. It’s never too late for your dreams. I am as genuinely Pollyanna and glass-half-full as anyone who has met their darkest alternative and been glad to find their way back. But I am not infinitely courageous. Sometimes the lamp gutters to stillness for dark moments long enough to let doubt creep in. Which is where I’m standing now. Not frightened. Just concerned. Playing the what if game, but only sounding the sad alternatives.

Fretting that something may never happen is always my impatience speaking, and often my id shaming my ego for her practicality.

There is only one answer to the naively pining “But what if I never make it?” A jaded, possibly scoffing, gimlet-eyed query, “Yeah? So what?”

So what? So what are you going to do now? You’re still living and doing. So what? Are you disrespecting everything you gained and learned from the effort you made? So what difference does it make? And feeling bad for some unknown future outcome? So what the hell is that?

Yes. I take your point.

 

Guerillas

My new friends are

talented.

Quick to give thick hugs

smothering you

in a moment of levitation.

Chest to chest

a dumpling wrapper of arms

custom molded

warm, doughy, and tight.

 

Those dewdrops of weightlessness

are Ambrosia

to the thirst

of an under-tenanted heart;

and as ephemeral

as any gift from Gods.

 

No sooner

have you formed the cave

of heads and necks

and upper torsos–

craning to be out of the way

curving to press together–

heard the ‘whuf’–

involuntary ecstatic relieved exhil/halation. Another human skin!

 

Then,

cooling breezes and shields up.

 

Inches coagulate

to

miles, years, infinity;

thicken to a perfect shroud

hermetic, glove-fitted, deceptively transparent.

 

To play act deep amity

while lying

thousands of miles away,

beached

gill-less and gawping.

 

 

 

Home

I am fortunate tonight. It has gone quiet inside me and slightly blurry. I feel like I am hovering, weightless on the subtle ache of worked muscles, and post-prandial satiety. Glucose soothes the savage beast.

The ideas still roar out faster than I will ever fulfill them -wouldn’t have it any other way- but I’ve scored three out of five on the TCB scale today, and the day’s not done yet. The day’s not done.

Things on Tuesday

The creak of crust when you tear a baguette.

Olive oil’s sunny, shimmering wink  from a bright white dish.

When the BBC radio schedule highlights TODAY which is still your tomorrow.

The smell of the ground rehearsing for spring in air that still stings of winter.

That moment when your mood, swings.

And we’re back

Gloriously, real waking sunlight is upon this corner of the world before 0600. I love the gain of light in March. Speeding toward the equinox. And I feel wist -yes, even then– for the coming summer day when the trend will, second by second, pluck the light away.

In the meantime mornings are Italian here. New England light is sharper, colder; but it creeps on the world with a shifting delicacy and a painter’s palette, as if shone through gauze while trying on its hues.

So it seems I want to found an Art Village. NBD.

All those tortured, pollyanna machinations of earlier this week. All those ‘And your hear whispers, keep writing,’ conclusions I drew. Yep, all part of a bigger whole. My greedy imagination actually wants to, y’know, grassroots green building straw bale old fashioned barn raising renovate some amazing multi-acre property and make it a center for arts performance and training.

No. Really.

And please, think Berkshires (Massachusetts) in the summer, not hippie cult. Can’t do it alone. So, consider this a (possibly eternally) premature announcement of my intention. And if you know any other dreamers with skillz, who might be into that sort of thing. Well, have them comment or message me.

NB: Dreamers with skills, dreamers who know Skrillex, and Skrillex are also all encouraged to apply.

Thank You Thursday Quiet

There is less tonight. Less.

Less traffic.

Less honking.

Less calling across the street between mates.

Less of my internal clackety, prattling on.

There was no one in the cemetery tonight. No one. There’s always someone. Some dog walker; the woman who sits in her camp chair at her husband’s grave; the family that spells out TJ in sea glass stones for their gone too soon son brother; the dudes smoking pot in the electrician’s van.

Not tonight. Tonight I heard the silence. Heard a spot in the middle, where the traffic from three border streets is barely audible. Heard the geese call as they flew over, loud enough to startle. Heard my feet pound beats on the different textures of of tarmac; my mind name shades of blue as I watched the sky shift.

Less tonight. More than enough.

Celtic Knot II

As we covered yesterday, not about knots. Onward with the navel-gazing.

‘Who am I?’ is truly the more iterative looping question. Though what I’m trying to get at is less existential than that, more like ‘Why am I doing theatre?’ Followed by, ‘Okay so how should I do theatre?’

I concluded yesterday that I do theatre because I have to. I believe in it; find it necessary, vital, aspirational, challenging and useful. A combination I which his endlessly appealing to me.

So how do I do theatre? To a certain extent the Carnegie Hall punchline ‘practice, practice, practice’ is applicable here, but what you’re practicing is much broader. To do theatre one should: read plays, go to plays, work on plays in both their unaccustomed and preferred roles, read theatre criticism, engage with people who do theatre in ways you’ve never imagined, train your body, and voice, and tune your whole being as a giant sensory recorder. I guarantee you will need to conjure up the memory of the most unexpected or banal sensations in the course of doing theatrical work. And of course you should try to get as much experience in your subspecialty as you can.

For me the subspecialties are actor, director, manager, writer in alphabetical order. Quadruple threat! Polymath! Jill of all trades? Maybe, but it’s hard to tell. My preferred roles are writer and director. But because of the other needs of my life (a woman cannot live on creative inspiration alone, though I bet I could light my house with mine) it’s hard to do any of my subspecialties consistently. So I sometimes (like now) grow impatient with the pace of my own improvement, and the limited opportunities to develop or express myself.

Instead of figuring out what show to do, I am figuring out how to configure my life to allow myself more space for my creative soul. So the answer is, too early to choose. Those bursts of fire under new ideas and urges to run hard in a specific new direction are excellent. I should cherish and nurture them. And follow them until a strong gust blows the flames out or I stumble, out of breath from the effort. Because if it’s necessary you go until you get there, understanding that getting there isn’t the important part.

Yeah, okay. That’s not where I thought I was going. But the sun is shining and that’s where I went on this blue-eyed sky winter afternoon. Until I angst again.

 

 

 

 

 

Celtic Knot I

I’ve done it again with the misnomer. Today’s post is neither about Celtic knots, anything else specifically Celtic, nor knots.

To provide some truth in advertising here is a picture of some Celtic knot work on a grave marker, and a full moon.

DSC_0013

Celtic knot is the imagery for tonight, because they are traditionally infinity loops, without a visible beginning or ending. Whatever the heck it is I’m trying to identify in my life right now feels (in spite of the tone at the start of the sentence), in a positive way, to have the same iterative looping quality.

I am a member of a theatre collective. The people in the group, the work we do together on Sundays, my ideas and dreams for the group, even -or perhaps especially- the preparation I do for the group all make me happier than anything that has come into my life in a long, long time.

The group also feels incredibly precarious. In the short term, the membership has changed -a lot- as people did and did not find what they were looking for. While a committed core has emerged, those individuals are also prone to being siphoned off -appropriately-  when they get roles. I believe in self-selection and bravo for landing the part, but selfishly, ack! guys don’t tear us apart! There’s an awkwardness I cannot shake off. I feel it every time I arrive and it takes a few minutes to dissipate. I don’t have a specific role in the gorup. It’s a collective we are supposed to all be participating equally. But it’s my nature to organize, and sometimes the organizer defaults to leading. So I’m floundering a little for an identity, and I fear my enthusiasm may be perceived as overreaching.

In the long term, I have this niggling concern that our founder’s utopia is the collective decision making process and establishing a pure cooperative. This is sometimes at cross purposes with my utopia which is creating and putting it out into the world. But perhaps my biggest fear is our inevitable disintegration. I’ve been in a number of collectives, cooperatives, mutual interest creative groups -even started some- none has lasted more than two years. Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy…yes, at just seven weeks with these people I barely know, it’s too soon to be looking for long term commitment…but, but, but…this is all I want. I want my life to have some creative community purpose. I want to be surrounded by people who move me with their artistry and whose humanity commands profound respect, and I want us to make engaging artistic experiences together. Forevuh!

When I was in medicine, I was initially drawn to surgery. Mentors told me only to choose surgery if I had to. If I couldn’t -not at a competence level, but at a what gets you out of bed every day level- do anything else. Well, we all know how that turned out (hint: I’m not a surgeon). At the time I thought this was a ridiculous metric. How could anyone know that? Since then I’ve heard people say it about other careers, and very loudly about acting specifically. Acting is not my raison d’etre in the theatrical realm (more about that in another post). But theatre is the closest I have ever come to that siren’s call of something I must do. And I’m still figuring out what to do about that.

Finally, given my track record of commitment, I’m terrified that this fountain of joy is one day going to run dry (well, less robustly) like most others. It has all the hallmarks of staying power but, y’know, since I’m over here voicing all the fears and doing all the premature morning just thought I’d point out that I’m terrified of my own emotional infidelity. Maybe I should get some counseling. I would really like for me and theatre to work out…

 

Line of beauty

The Line of Beauty is a Man Booker Prize winning (2004) novel by Alan Hollinghurst. It is a touchstone of gay literature, and though I haven’t read it feels like a familiar friend. I have checked it out of the library multiple times (because it looks good on my floor apparently), and after that many weeks of staring at it, the cover art is ingrained in my brain. I can spot it on a bookshelf at fifty paces and name that plot in four keywords. So naturally this post is not about the book.

Rather, it’s about missing beauty. I miss beauty. And the phrase ‘line of beauty’ makes me think of having beauty in my line of sight, and I don’t have quite enough of that right now, so there you go.

I am craving beauty and I am no longer confident that I live in an environment that can supply the beauty that I want. Sounds so simple. Find the right environment. Find a better environment. If that’s your focus, just go get it. But it’s not that simple. It’s startling to me that this is my new priority. That’s going to take some adjustment. There is a mixture of sadness and fear around the truth that the precious connections which have sustained me these past five years can no longer soothe this particular void; and would I ever have something so good wherever I went. Could the beauty sustain me like the people and places in my current life?

A couple of years ago some of my friends moved out of ‘the city’ to ‘the country.’ I cringed at the cliché. I thought I was in a sitcom. Who really does that? Yet, here I am thinking about it daily. For the record, I’m not thinking of ‘the country’ generic as a panacea for my beauty deficit. There is a particular landscape I am seeking, which needs to occur in collusion with several other factors to be worth sacrificing what I have in ‘the city.’ But that time in my adulthood has come, when I feel like they paved paradise, and I might have to seek some grassier shores.

 

Goodbye Sunday

I’m no lover of Monday, but I rarely find myself sad to see Sunday go. Used to be that I got stomachaches or some other breed of pyschosomatic discomfort right around dinner time on Sunday nights, so the latter part of the day was ruined. Those were an improvement over the days when I was nauseatingly lonely at the Sunday dinner hour, and would mope cry and question the value of my existence.

Sunday is also very much the start of my work week: cooking, laundry, tidying, all the planning I don’t want to do, get crammed into that weekend day so I just relax on Saturday.

But this Sunday. This Sunday the day felt like a luxury item, and I did not want to stop stroking its fine, soft surface. There’s a new category of people in my life. Friends. No. Definitely not friends. Twenty-eight hours does not make friends. Not even knowing the barest basic details about someone, does not make friends. Colleagues. Yes, more like. But also more than. Companions on a ludicrous, committed, heartfelt journey.

Creating something in community is a wondrous experience. In spite of the act of performance, the shimmering road stumbled to get there is often invisible. If conditions are right some patina of that creative celestium will glint through the spectacle, but it is felt rather than seen. I’m not stumbling that road any given Sunday.

Life doesn’t go away though. Grocery shopping was the bookend on This Sunday’s magical mystery tour. But I was driving home at the change of the light; gloaming -purple, gray, and backlit by the westerly dipping sun- made quicksilver of the bare trees of the cemetery, cloaked a winter-weary ground in a deceptive shimmer, fairy glamour, the incredible luck of our well-tuned human eyes, planet earth’s unique atmospheric english on incoming light, and imagination. I glowed right home, and clung to Sunday tightly. ‘Come again.’ I whispered. And the day slipped away.

Tiny lightbulb

Early this month, a long time friend asked me (as he does every few years) why I lead my life the way I do. He’s not critical. He’s genuinely curious. He has defined himself out loud to me as ‘boring.’ In any objective demographic measure I am pretty much his polar opposite. White man; Black woman. Same job for thirty years; Fourth career and counting, pretty much a new job every two years. Still driving his 199X Toyota Corolla; lease so I’m never out of warranty, never have to pay for service. Own; rent. Et cetera.

I actually like being asked that question because it forces me to check-in with myself and make sure I’m still living in a way that feels true to me. This morning while daydreaming about where else I might like to live, I was visited by a little clarity on this question.

I didn’t grow up in the house my idealistic parents bought with their meager savings, or a wedding endowment from the grandparents. My parents weren’t fifteen, ten, or even five-year job holders. They were crafters who made our living with their hands a little bit at a time every day, and went out to sell it in person-to-person trade most weeks of the year. So I didn’t start life with eyes already trained to the shrine of stability, or the burden of expectation that I would duplicate or improve on my parents’ model living. The constancy of my external environment or circumstances has never been my touchstone.

But the epiphany was this: my life changes frequently and apace because I set very short timelines for my goals, no matter how large. When I want something, I usually give myself a maximum of two years to achieve it. Because that’s about as far as I can project my interest and commitment.  I don’t always make the goal, but the effort to get there in two years means frequent evaluations of progress and re-assessments of the goal itself. And if I hit the two year mark and I haven’t achieved, I trust my emotional choice of whether I should renew, change, or abandon the goal.

I have kept my life fluid (don’t own a house, eagerly take on new job roles to gain the most flexible skills, etc.) so I can turn on a dime at those two year marks. Things I care about never drop off the goal board. And with this frequent cycle of re-evaluation, I can see what matters to me most, and keep moving toward the best balance of all those valued experiences.

To be clear, I’m not having it all. I’m only having this. By choice. Some people want marriage and children, and home ownership and retirement funds, and gradual promotion to the head of the company. Pondering (and often executing) a complete refresh of your life every two-ish years is not a good fit with those goals. But if you want a life that is not about those things, go get it. It’s worth the effort.