This will be the fourth time I write about it on this blog, the first time was 2011. Let's review.
In 2011, I was beginning what would turn into a final separation from my then-husband. It was a painful time. I spent the day with my dear friend Julie at a spa in Montauk, getting massages and such. A beautiful day with one of my best friends, but with sad undertones.
In 2012, I was sitting in my beloved step-father Tom's ICU room. He would die a few days later. More fun times. This year, for some reason, that time came back quite vividly yesterday and I cried and cried. I didn't cry that much at the time because my mother's suffering was quite acute and his biological children were present. I shelved my direct pain for the most part (except one moment at memorial service) in order to be present for others. That is OK. But now, it's coming out. That is OK, too.
In 2013, I turned 50 and we spent the time in what had been a family cottage on Peaks Island, Maine where I spent time during the summer from 1971-1982. I was with John whom I had met a few months prior, so that was a much more joyful time, though I was aware it was also the anniversary of Tom's death, so soon after, there was a lot of sadness - especially when my mother arrived the next day. Staying at the cottage was also bittersweet, because it was lovely to return, but sad to know the cottage was no longer in the family. However, overall a gorgeous time. Some of Jani's ashes are buried there, BTW, and I write about the cottage a lot in the book, because she and I spent her last summer together there in 1979.
Last year, 2014, John had just arrived from Canada, with his Green Card finally approved. That was such a relief that we did nothing for my birthday other than hang out together and mostly sleep. That was the right thing to do then because we were so exhausted from the strain of all that and were just relieved to finally be 'allowed' to be together.
This year, I thought: wow, OK, it's time for a group celebration! I thought going to the Hayden Planetarium would be fun and give much-needed perspective upon turning 52 and not being able to pretend I'm young anymore. While I'm not old, I'm not young either. I still do yoga and walk and enjoy myself, but being at Vermont Studio Center this past May, surrounded by people in general much younger than me, it was clear. I'm not young anymore. So, cosmic perspective would be a good thing.
But, then when I called they told me the Planetarium is closed today. Drat!
On the other hand, I also booked a table at a restaurant for a some friends and me and that is happening! So, while I will not be able to be aided in consoling myself that we are all made of stardust so therefore 52, so what, I will have the day to commune with friends and my beloved and just enjoy the fact of community and the greatest consolation of growing older: good friends, especially friends that span one's life. While many of my friends live elsewhere, in fact are dotted all over the globe, there will be a nice group of folks, new and old friends, celebrating another human's next year on the planet. So hooray for that!
Speak of celebrations, I had the great privilege of witnessing a friend's adult Bat Mitzvah on Saturday. I've never seen anyone's Bat Mitzvah, so can't compare but this was truly special. I am not Jewish but at times like this, really wish I was. The sense of community and of redemption through that community is so palpable and human and Joyful. There were 18 celebrants, all of whom spoke of their spiritual journey through the year to this place and how it linked to some part of the (reform) ceremony. Then there was lots of singing and chanting in Hebrew (translated in prayer book, so I had some clue what was happening).
There was a time when everyone who had lost someone throughout the year - or who had lost someone at that time of year - could stand up and say their name. I so wanted to stand up and say Tom's name, but of course am not part of the congregation so did not. However, I was deeply moved by how people are remembered in this way.
Speaking of memorials....I read some of this blog, Dick and Jani, and a piece I wrote for a gathering at The Present Company Theatorium the week after 9/11/01, at Bruce's Garden last Wednesday. Bruce's Garden is named after the son of the man who created the garden, because his son died in the attack as a first responder. So, the feeling of memorial was in the air in that beautiful place as well. Below are two pictures from the reading, which went very well. Dick and Jani are gaining voice and moving out into the world, the blog was well-received, and it was good to remember what we all shared fourteen years ago. One man said, of the 9/11 piece (which you can read here: No Words - Prentice-Hall Pearson) that it reminded him of how everyone was forced to have an opinion right away, while we were all still in shock. That comment was a huge compliment, because that was my main slow-burning rage at the time: that an event in which thousands of human beings died was immediately turned into a Symbol by people of all political stripes and no one took even a moment's breath to take in the reality of it. That experience changed my artistic practice. I now only am interested in any methods that get me closer to reality, however experimental or not, whether with writing or performance. I am convinced, have been since then, that all of our delusions about where, who, what we are are what cause us suffering. I do not - by the way - harbor the illusion that I know reality. I understand it's a constant struggle and I can be as deluded as the next person. It's a search, that is all. Just because it's impossible to do perfectly, does not exempt us from trying.
One of my favorite recent books is David Shields' Reality Hunger; this fall semester at Fordham I will be teaching a class based on it. I do not obviously mean 'reality' as in 'reality shows', which are the biggest fictions ever. Instead, as Shields proposes in his manifesto, through his own and others' words, it's through levels of fictionalization that reality shows through, but fictions that announce themselves as such. Work that allows the seams to show. The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani is clearly in this camp. As is all my theater work.
(In case you're keeping score, I'm still editing the book and it's slow as molasses now that I'm back in NYC - in part because the past week and a half included three - count 'em - three root canal surgeries and I couldn't do a damn thing. I think hope pray that is done for now...editing will commence again soon.)
OK, gonna go enjoy my birthday now... and here's some reading pictures:
|Geoff Wisner and me answering questions after we both read (Bruce's Garden) - June 10|
|Q&A in Bruce's Garden, Isham Park (Inwood, NYC) - photo by John Barclay-Morton|