Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The Christmas Eve traditions have been slowly changing. A few years back after we finished our oyster stew, we all looked at one another and realized we didn't want to have it anymore. Mom was the first one to voice it, which was all to the good since she was both the chef and the person with the longest tie to the tradition, but all six of us seemed to have the reaction simultaneously. We've switched over to clam chowder, and couldn't be happier. As of last year we've moved locations too; Mary and Tony now host the dinner at Hazelthorne. Mary was clear that she was delighted with this arrangement as long as Fang got brought over to be a part of the festivities. The resident cat, Eddie, was less than thrilled with this intrusion last year, but since Fang is not a fan of stairs, he has plenty of uncontested territory for the duration of the visit. Our change in location also means we're no longer on the carolers' path, and they too seem to have modified things a bit, setting out on the 23rd so everyone can be at home with his/her families on Christmas Eve. All in all though, the evening feels improved for me. It's nice when 'traditions' can evolve that way.
I can never decide if December or May is my favorite month, but right now, by lucky coincidence, December is in the lead. My inner Quaker still pipes up from time to time about how no day, no time, no PLACE is any more holy than any other. He blathers on about how every day should be treated as holy, each moment should be made sacred (you can see why so many Quakers become Buddhists, and vice-versa, perhaps). I hear him, and thank him for his thoughts, but it is definitely my inner Pagan Celt who is in the ascendant at this time of year. I love the Winter Solstice and all the traditions that have collected around it: the birth of the divine child, the Spring God, the longest night of the year triggering a counter-intuitive hope as we begin Winter but anticipate Spring, all the spectacle of evergreens, holly, mistletoe, wrapping paper, ribbon, the smells of good cooking permeating every indoor space, I love it all. I even love the bleak outdoors, where sudden flashes of red from cardinals and red-bellied woodpeckers shout exuberantly from the grey, brown and sepia landscape. I'll have to show you those photos later. It's almost fifty degrees right now, and pouring rain, but I love this kind of weather too. Walking in it for an hour gives one an inflated sense of accomplishment when one comes indoors to snuggle up with a cup of tea, and a Christmas cookie or six. The radio plays plainsong, or Bach's Oratorio, or Handel's Messiah, and even if I don't really share the theology underlying them, the sense of joyous celebration is one I can inhabit effortlessly.
And yes, there have already been a good couple of walks with Fang (herself a symphony of brown, grey and sepia, like fallen oak leaves), her galloping in big circles reminding me what total commitment looks like. Every fiber of her being is galloping at that moment, and loving it. A master of second-guessing and paralyzing self-analysis such as myself always benefits from seeing such examples of single-mindedness.
Truth be told, I am not looking back on 2008 with much fondness right now. Oh yes, there is plenty to be grateful for, not the least of which is the many true and wonderful friends I've made through this blog. There have certainly been plenty of good lessons learned this year, I won't deny, but let's not be too precious, I wouldn't say they were FUN. To be honest, I'm happy to see the back of this year. But this time of year usually brings with it a sense of renewal, of hope returning. I'm back in a place where it is easy for me to access feelings of serenity, artistry, purpose, community and love. This year I can feel some new thoughts brewing about how I need solitude as much as community, and how poor I am at filling either need in cities. That will be fodder for some useful thinking, I hope.
I've missed writing here. I'm letting thoughts come unedited right now, since my time in the college library is limited and I've been feeling like some internal censor has been preventing me from writing for a while. Father Tony asked an interesting question a few weeks back; he wanted to know why each of us blogs. I don't feel like I have a good answer for that, just yet, perhaps because the reasons are changing. When I started it nearly three years ago (!) I saw it as a way of staying active when I felt like I was doing precious little, especially of a creative nature. As I discovered, and was discovered by other wonderful bloggers, my sense of who I was writing FOR changed, and that certainly affected what I wrote. Entering into a larger conversation with people, most of whom I ONLY knew through the blogging, became a satisfying motivation. Then came the whole mess with Nicky; suddenly I felt I needed to write much more intimate, personal thoughts than I had before. I felt some sense of obligation to tell my side of the story. I had always wanted the tone of the blog to be personal, but suddenly it was taking on a level of intimacy I hadn't anticipated, and wasn't entirely sure I wanted.
So maybe in recent months I've been experiencing a delayed sense of over-exposure. Don't misunderstand me; none of you have pried into my feelings. I haven't felt pressure from you; no, whatever sense of over-sharing I had is purely internal. The humiliation and pain caused by the Nicky nonsense had more repercussions than I expected it to. I guess these sorts of things always do, especially such lack-of-precedent ones as this. Recently though I've begun to feeling a funny sense of lack. It seems as if something here has become a valuable tool for processing my life. I've been writing three pages of long-hand almost every morning since 1992 (a la Julia Cameron) and my day will feel off if I miss it. A similar sense has kicked in with this blog now. A different need is being filled; I suppose I write here for myself at some level, but your thoughts and reactions have been a wonderful part of the process for me, encouraging in me at least some rigor and structure (though it is obviously sorely lacking in this entry). One thing I will credit Nicky for; because of his (sic) blog I chose to focus on gratitude when writing here as much as possible. I've spent a lot of the last thirteen/fifteen years complaining, and it doesn't seem to translate into anything interesting in my life. Maybe some have found the writing here excessively pollyannish (as so many did at Nicky's blog), but it was a good exercise and provided me with a useful challenge. It may have run its course, that exercise, but I remain hopeful that any venting I do in the future will still have some structure, at the very least faith that solutions are possible. Ah, there we go, that seems key; so much of the venting I do in life (ask my non-virtual friends) can become self-indulgent and defeatist. I might be very funny while I'm doing it, but I'm denying any possibility that something can be done. In the past year the blog has been a venue for me to push myself. Believe it or not, seeking out reasons for celebration and thanksgiving is challenge for me, and one that I benefit from taking on. Maybe the blog is about to test me in other constructive ways.
I hope you're all with people you love, feeling the desire to celebrate rise effortlessly.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Once again I'm writing in an attempt to articulate thoughts that have largely eluded me. So far the best I've been able to do is identify certain themes that keep popping up. One of the biggest has been gratitude, and I don't think it's just because of the recent holiday. That was wonderful, don't get me wrong, a day spent cooking and dining with loved ones whose views on the good life I always find inspiring and invigorating. It was a great day. Other reasons for gratitude were the performances of Blueprint. Setting foot on that particular stage, I felt a surprising sense of homecoming; it's a big space -11 ft by 30ft- with a 40 ft dome overhead, yet the audience feels very close. This gives it a magical blend of intimate and grand, and has inspired my work on more than one occasion. I was thrilled to be back in it.
Both the producing companies, Six Figures and Kinesis Project, are additional reasons for gratitude. For nearly six years these two companies have provided me with many opportunities to explore my own work. Generally the offer has been something like "we have some free evenings in a great space coming up, ya got anything you want to do?" I'm sure even people outside the nutso world of New York City know just how rare such offers are. Getting to work with both companies at once was luxurious. It was also great that these shows gave me a chance to introduce some of my blogging friends to some of my theatre/circus/dance friends. My worlds got woven together just a bit more.
these hawks. You'll have to enlarge this photo to see them, but there were three, count'em three hawks sitting in a nearby tree. Actually none of the squirrels in the area seemed too concerned. I was just thrilled to see the birds. I never got a decent shot of any of them flying, unfortunately. In this photo there is one in the lower right quandrant, and two in the upper left. The lone bird appeared to be trying, very casually, to join up with the other two, but it never seemed to go well. Families during the holidays, you know how it is.
Good friends, a little work, the natural world if I just pay attention, yeah, I'm sticking with gratitude for now.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
BLUEPRINT: an assignment (take 2!)
Nov. 21 and 23rd @ 8pm
Produced by Six Figures Theater Company at
The West End Theater
263 West 86th St.
New York, NY 10024 (B'way and West End Ave.)
Friday November 21, 8pm Sunday November 23, 8pm
Kinesis Project dance theatre
and Jeffrey Wills
share the stage in the AOT Festival!
Tickets are $15
Performances by Jeff Wills as Lloyd Schlemiel, Sharon Estacio on film, Patrick Lacey, Madeline Hoak, Zoe Bowick and Melissa Riker. Seating is limited. Join us!
Buy tickets HERE--
Melissa RikerKinesis Project dance theatrehttp://www.kinesisproject.com/
for fun Kinesis Project t-shirts go directly to:http://www.kinesisproject.com/contactus.htm
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Nonetheless I was sorry not to have the camera at one point. I and several other folks were standing by a stone wall overlooking the West Side Highway, the Hudson, and off in the distance, the sun setting behind the George Washington bridge. One guy nearby had a beer, a boom box, and a bag of nuts. I think they were acorns.
Yup, it really is the fluffy tail. Not sure why that makes the difference. But it does.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I had a wonderful October, as I've mentioned before. There have been visits with new friends, time with family, walks in beautiful places, train rides, romping with dogs, bonding with cats, some great meals, and maybe just a bit of drinking. The weather has frequently been stunningly beautiful, showcasing the later-than-usual Autumn colors in New York, Virginia, Cape Cod, Indiana, and points in between. All this alone would be enough to make me very grateful for the past month, but it hasn't been all. Two events rose to the level of ritual, reconfirming some important things for me.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
When Sunday dawned, the previous day's storm had taken all the moisture out of the air; the temperature was in the middle 60s. The light was that gorgeous, autumnal kind where the shadows are diamond-cut sharp. It was a Maxfield Parrish kind of day. I had to get out in it. It was warm enough not to need a coat, but I was covered up enough that I didn't need to coat myself with a layer of shellac before going out. This is one of the times of year when I actually seek out the sunlight.
I went back to Inwood Hill Park, the place my friend Cheryl showed me earlier this month. It is yet another side of the old growth forest I've explored with Melissa on a few occasions. As Cheryl said during our walk, it's fun to imagine that this area probably hasn't changed much since Europeans first showed up. Maybe it's not true, but it's fun to think. (I'll post a proper entry about that lovely walk soon.)
I took the long way back, taking the A train to West 135th and St. Nicholas Avenue, then walking home by way of St. Nicholas Park and City College. This is the view exiting the station. .
Yesterday was almost as beautiful, and today we're back to glum and rainy. Good thing, because I've got to do laundry, and make final preparations for the weekend. Man, this has been a good month.