Things are looking up.
Spring is springing. I continue to be amazed by all the blooming of flowers and buds. I have a lilac flower in a glass-as-vase, smelling up the hallway with that sweet lilac smell. Was walking with a new friend tonight when I came upon the lilac bush and he being taller than me, picked a flower for me, which was lovely. He's someone like me in weird marriage-limbo so we discussed this as I took him through the same walk another friend had shown me when I first moved up here. To the wetland area up through the woods and around to the Hudson - during twilight to sunset. I had figured out my fancy camera, which can take kick-ass photos in low light and am delighted by some of the shots. I have not yet installed the software on my computer to download the photos properly so will have to post them later - along with a bunch of other amazing shots I've been getting.
I can smell the lilac from here now - the advantage of a small studio. It reminds me, too, that right now in London the lilac tree I planted in the backyard that used to be B's and mine should be blooming. I planted it as a memorial to whomever could have been if I had not had the miscarriage five years ago on this coming Sunday. I love lilacs. They are my favorite flower. In Maine, they bloomed in June, which was my birthday month. I think usually they bloom in NYC around May, but this year has been so warm, so we have them now at the same time as the canary yellow forsythia, which I remember mostly from Waterford, Connecticut - growing at the gravel driveway that led to the back of the house in which we rented the upstairs apartment from Mrs. Beckwith who lived downstairs, next to the young couple who used to fight and have loud make-up sex below our kitchen. My mother told me once - in another one of her excellent moments of mothers (and I mean that not sarcastically at all by the way): that (referring to the sounds below) is a bad relationship. You don't ever want to be in one of those. Amen, tell it sister. She was right.
I have managed to get into some sub-optimal relationships, but have never had to go to that extreme, though I have a lot of sympathy for those who do. Because, imagine if you will, the shame attached to it and who the fuck wants to admit to that shit? I wouldn't. I couldn't even admit I was being emotionally abused, never mind if there had been physical abuse, too. On the other hand, the lack of physical abuse was the excuse I used to stay in that particular relationship, as in: "on the positive side, there's no physical abuse." Trust me, if that's the best thing you can say about a relationship, it's not a good thing.
However, it's easy to know this intellectually, as I did even then, but not be able to act on it, such is the nature of emotional loyalty to really old and bad ingrained ideas....
So, how do I segue from that into my theater workshop on Saturday that went really well? Ok, here's the attempt:
Speaking of emotional loyalty to really old and ingrained bad ideas: the workshop works first with clichés as a way to penetrate into the reality grid we live in at any given moment. And I'll be damned if it didn't work again...levels of address, cutting them up...bringing in gestures, doing the same. I've taught versions of this same workshop to numerous groups of people and every time I'm re-amazed: it works, it works! It still works!
This group was special, too - people from many different backgrounds and ages, some in theater, some in social work, some doing conflict resolution work...some teachers, some professional actors...a fantastic combination of talents, opinions, points of view and amazing dedication to the task at hand.
There were 14 participants in all, which considering it was Easter and Passover weekend struck us as quite extraordinary. The comments and engagement was phenomenal, and as usual, I had some inspiring conversations and made a few connections with people that may lead to some very interesting possibilities.
I am thinking of continuing in this vein - teaching workshops at Brecht Forum and other places independently, as everyone involved gets so much out of it and I find out so much new stuff about the work. I will be working up a proposal to teach an experimental play/performance writing class, because I want to move this 4 dimensional performance energy into working with writers as well.
But I am also hoping to extend these workshops finally, past the beginning stage to something where people can take the ball and run with it a little further. If you are interested in checking out the one-day workshop, we'll have another one on May 12 (see sidebar for details). We will probably also have another workshop in June to do more advanced work for anyone who knows the basics, so that'll be a start. I've done that before with 4-5 day versions of the workshop in university contexts, but want to see if I can bring that outside to a place like Brecht Forum, so can work with a more diverse group who can then bring this stuff into their professional practice as artists, teachers and/or political organizers...
Speaking of which, just saw an amazing documentary on PBS tonight called 'To Be Heard' following the lives of three students in a high-school Power Writing class that takes place on the campus of Bronx Community College. From the beginning of the documentary to the end, starting with a glimpse at the buildings where I teach and the students, I started crying - in recognition and in joy at what the teachers were doing with the students and their voices, which were so crystal clear. If you can see this documentary, do. It's extraordinary, not for the faint of heart, not in any way sugar-coated happy-clappy but real as dirt. You will then see the faces of the students I see about a year before I see them. Though some of these students go on to places like Sarah Lawrence College, which is great, too. It really made me wish I was teaching writing, too...but also gave me some ideas for the class I am teaching.
I realized, too, the importance of where I am teaching and the politics of teaching these young people language, writing and communication skills. The whole documentary vindicated my insistence on writing in my class. The lecture one teacher gave about the importance of understanding vocabulary words, because if you don't know the language "you will be screwed" sent me into another fit of crying for joy. He went on to say things like "If you can't control language, you will be fucked by it and adding another bar to the prison cell - not necessarily an actual prison, but the one in your head." A man after my own heart. The motto of their writing class is "If you don't write your own life story, someone else will do it for you." So great. I will try soon to find these people and see if I can help out. Obviously. I am also going to apply for a full-time position at BCC. I'm just a teaching application machine...one application at a time. Need to go and work on one now. It's late but it's due tomorrow. Oy. Wish me luck...will be interesting to see where which chips land. No clue right now.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.