Hello intrepid readers of this blog. I don't know so many of you who come from all over the world but am grateful for you.
Today I have turned 50.
Last night after midnight feeling blue about turning 50 even though sitting in front of a warm wood stove with my beloved in the cottage in Maine where I spent many summers as a child and have not been able to stay since I turned 19 (!), we walked out to the porch, looked up at the sky and I saw not only millions of stars but also the Milky Way. Then I saw a shooting star and made a wish. We were chatting a little, John holding me like he does - a way which makes me feel loved and held and safe in a way I've never felt before - I looked up and saw another shooting star and made a second wish.
There is no way to stay sad when the Atlantic Ocean is lapping against rocks beneath you, the stars are dancing in the sky and your beloved has wrapped you in his arms.
So, this is 50.
It's so different from turning 40 - a time in which I was off to take over the world, starting with the UK. That didn't happen, though I did stay in the UK for 8 years and did a bunch of stuff, ended up homesick and back in NYC after all the stuff wound down (PhD, theater company, marriage, fertility, therapy…kind of in that order). When I turned 30 I was newly married for the first time (please attempt not to laugh at me for all the marriages - it's embarrassing and kind of a family trait I was hoping to avoid but apparently - well obviously - have not) and kind of still figuring out my way. A bit of an amoeba really. When I turned 20, I was going back to university after a year in NYC - was about to have my life changed by directing a play called The Serpent - putting me firmly on the path to guaranteed obscurity, because I decided a certain kind of experimental theater was way more interesting than the traditional stuff for which I had been trained…and therein lies all the difference…When I turned 10 I was a kid and doubtless spent part of that summer at this very cottage most likely with my friend Kristen...
But, this is 50.
Still never had a real job. Have cobbled together a way to make ends meet through part-time jobs, postgraduate studies, artistic work, teaching, etc. Every time I try to find a way to "settle down the way adults do" it just doesn't work. I doubt anyone would believe me but it's not for lack of trying. I just don't seem to be built that way or haven't found the settled place that works…really, not sure...
And now at 50 I am sitting on the porch of a cottage I have not been able to peacefully enjoy since I turned 19. That week in 1982, I was alone mostly, reading Sartre, worried about the environment, feeling guilty I was not at the June march against nuclear power/bombs in NYC and exhausted from my first year at university protesting everything, including a sit-in against the end of aid-blind admissions, bringing Abbie Hoffman to speak moments after he got out of prison and going down to D.C. every other weekend to protest something - or so it felt like. Not to mention the usual - and in my case way more excessive than most which is why I can't do it now - drinking and suchlike adventures of a first year university student. Oh and yeah, my classes, including the Freshmen Integrated Program (or FRIP for short) in which - pre-deconstruction-as-canon - we read the History of Western Civilization - from literature, history and philosophy. There was no irony, FYI. Well, until we hit Nietzsche anyway and that was just at the end... The reading from that series of seminars formed the basis for my play Besides, you lose your soul or the History of Western Civilization (which was part of my PhD…a zillion - aka 25 - years - later).
So this is still 50.
Wherein I am still not sure what I will be when I grow up. Even though I've done lots of Stuff and some would even call me accomplished, I'm still not sure it constitutes A Life, and so I cherish stories of people who find their Way post-50. My grandmother Jani was one of those people. There are many others, men and women, who do so.
What I have found this past year is true love and that is no small thing (thank you Britain for the art of the understatement). But that doesn't feel like an accomplishment as much as sheer dumb luck aka grace (depending on your religious/spiritual/eww don't talk about any of that predilections). However, if I'm honest it is a miracle and should at least be given that due and must at the very least mean I've done enough 'work' to be open to such a thing. Though I kind of cringe at giving myself that kind of credit…but anyway…
This is 50.
And I am not crazed, well, not as crazed. Even in moments or whole days/weeks of radical self-doubt there is a calm, too. Some kind of simple acceptance of life on life's terms as we say in a group of folks with whom I'm lucky enough to hang (you know who you are my anonymous friends…)…
And I can look out and see the blue blue water and the blue sky blue sky white puffy clouds smell the pine needles and the salty ocean and the cedar and the musty cottage hear the weirdly melodic bell buoy feel the cool breeze see the shadows of the clouds move ever so slightly on Long Island across the sound of Casco Bay hear the waves crash and lap against the rocks alternately and engines of motor boats and see the delicate whites of the sail boats gliding along on this most perfect of Maine days, what my mother refers to as a blue and gold day…low 70s, sunny, breezy, fucking perfect….
and be grateful for the happy fate of having been born in June and the fact that this cottage, this porch, this view, this pine birch spruce forest, these rocks, this island was part of my childhood - that this beauty - this beauty saved me. Because no matter how bad things got, I knew somewhere in me at all times that this place existed. I honestly believe this porch, this view, these smells, this peace and privacy, this nearness to the ocean's roaring lullaby is why I have whatever modicum of sanity I do possess. There is simply no way to know this exists and think life is not worth living or that everything is shit.
Sitting here on this porch where I am now and plan to spend most of the rest of today is enough. Brings peace and contentment equal to any such peace I've felt anywhere ever. And then to have the great luck to be sharing this day and this peace with my beloved Canadian who is doing his tai chi on the porch as I write this as the seagull caws and the bell buoy rings and Atlantic crashed up against the rocks beneath the porch - well - that is just joy beyond description…because so simple so complete so peaceful…
So, this is 50.
Thank you God, Goddess, Universe, Whathaveyou…
It doesn't get any better than this.
p.s. for those of you who know me and my sleep schedule: I woke up to Watch the Dawn today…just sayin….no photos tho. Just to experience it. Nice.
p.p.s. photos below of today from the porch…about 3pm, Peaks Island, Maine aka heaven…(if you want to see pictures larger just click on them...
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. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.
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 a new book recently completed.
I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.
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. You can also contact me through that site.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
|lilies at Royal Botanical Garden in Hamilton, Ontario|
Why am I launching into this? Well, because I've taken to photography again and - as you may have noticed - I like taking pictures of flowers, the ocean, birds, sunsets and what may be considered cliché beautiful things. And part of me is embarrassed by this turn of events, as if I am not suitably gritty anymore.
However, I have been somewhat emboldened by the reverse experience of being with my beloved in the Met in January after looking at black and white photos and following him into the Impressionists room, filled with - you guessed it - flowers and beautiful colors. At first I thought, oh I don't know, but then looking around me I was astonished by the depth of the beauty. I was unexpectedly moved, especially in the middle of freezing winter in NYC. The next room was filled with the post-Impressionists like van Gogh and Cézanne and I was speechless. I had forgotten this world of almost hallucinatory color existed. I forgot I used to paint with those colors.
I realized I had drunk the Kool-aid or the Too Kool for School-aid wherein this kind of beauty was suspect. I am now kind of sort of reasserting (while still somewhat embarrassed) my right to love all things beautiful - knowing that yes of course to some degree this is a construct because yes I've read Bourdieu and know the relation of class to taste, etc. However, it is that very class consciousness that is leading me back to beauty. Because it was when I went to the fancier and richer schools that I learned that beauty is suspect - oh precious irony. Being schooled in post-Marxist taste by the Trustafarian class...so sad...
Reminds me of the story of how there was an attempt I think in the earlier Soviet days, either the USSR or East Germany, can't remember which - to make prints of tractors and such on curtains so the working class would have class conscious linens. Perhaps needless to say, this did not go over well. There was a revolt and the flower prints returned. The working classes weren't having it.
Having said all that, what I love about NYC is its gritty beauty and I'm a sucker for decay with surprising grace notes. So I'm not saying we have to go back to something old-school. I'm just thinking perhaps it's time to give beauty a chance...wherever we find it. While I can find beauty deep down in a subway tunnel in the way the light flickers between cars as a strange instrument is played on the platform by someone from perhaps Malaysia while someone else dressed as God knows what walks by twirling a hula hoop, I can also find it now in botanical gardens...
So, take what you like and leave the rest, but below are some pretty pictures of flowers and such. Thanks to John (my beloved Canadian), I think I'm raising the technical aspect of my game. Still not using Photoshop so these are just raw photos, but finally getting a handle on my digital camera, which I am beginning to use with the ease I had done with my film camera.
Perhaps it also helps that I'm stupid in love...but in fairness - as readers of this blog may recall - there have been photos of beautiful places and things even before meeting John...as I was falling love with Inwood. This also may relate to an observation I made a while back that I was beginning to believe my shadow side was light...
So here's some dispatches from the shadow.... all taken at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario in May...of lilac groves and lilies and tulips (oh my!)....
oh and of course, here's John with his beloved Nikon preparing for a series of landscape shots he will stitch together as a panorama (they're gorgeous!) and a random-chance close up of us: