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 as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While was blessed for the opportunity, after four years of being an adjunct, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in NYC 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. As of 2018, I also started leading writing retreats to my beloved Orkney Islands. If you ever want two weeks that will restore your soul and give you time and space to write, get in touch. I am leading two retreats this year in July and September.

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 now work full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, editor and writing retreat leader. 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

In 2017, I launched a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. You can also contact me through that site.

I am now directing again, my newest play, On the edge of/a cure, and have finally updated my publications list, which you can find on the sidebar. Someday, I will have a website, but for now, you can find a lot about me on here. Thanks for stopping by...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Ashes are stardust"

That is what D tells his 6 year old lovely son G who is running around Prospect Park in his Harry Potter Wizard "Gryffindor" robe, lovingly spreading my stepfather David's ashes around various trees with a wooden spoon he was dipping into the cookie jar with a whale painted on it. I gave G first dibs because he was so enthused. G is sad David died, but somehow he gets it, too. He creates a little altar of twigs and leaves and acorn caps around one little mound of ashes he placed at the base of a tree he just knew had to have some of David's ashes.



The best thing that could have happened today was D bringing G to join us for scattering David's ashes. G asked me if he could do certain things, like place a stick he found that had been painted purple and green over ashes I had placed in the hollow at the base of another tree, one that David's very good friend had chosen to scatter some ashes. "Purple and green are the best colors! They will protect him from evil spirits!"

David had requested in his will that half his ashes be scattered here in the Prospect Park Meadow. I did not know where to place them, and so his close friend (and executor) and I asked some good friends who were with us and had spent more time with him in the park. Once we picked an area, everyone got a chance to decide where to place some ashes, which was G's brainstorm "because there's a lot!" How do kids know everything?

When we all had scattered the ashes, I stood between all the various trees where ashes had landed then turned away from everyone and cried.

David, who had been my father most of all, and yet I had not known it until he died, and how could I not have known it since he came into my life at the time I was G's age, picking up the pieces of some pretty dire predecessors, even though he was picking up his own pieces from Vietnam, and his mother's sudden death and suddenly having to care for his teenage siblings (48 years ago yesterday - on Veteran's Day - which brought him home from Vietnam early - and probably saved his life - at least that is what his sister surmises, and that may be true - not that David would have taken that trade if offered. He went to Vietnam not as a true believer but because he thought it was unfair someone poorer than him who didn't have a college education should have to go in his place. Which may be why he left money in his will for one of his good friends to go back to college, which he is now doing, and appears as a man transformed - someone finding his potential. Another life David saved.)

I am so sad because I let arguments David and I had had get in the way of our closeness when I was back in NYC. Maybe he did, too, but he's dead now, and I'm left alone, knowing I definitely did that. I can never get that time back. No do overs when someone has died.

But D kept saying to G "It's stardust - those are atoms some might have been here since the beginning of time" and he's right of course and his son's joyful sadness was a testament to this belief. And everyone's love. His executor who was in charge of this ceremony said "Julia gets the rest of the ashes, she's his daughter" and that made me cry some more, and I'm crying now of course...

I was at a crystal reiki healing thing yesterday - yes if you had told me even 10 years ago I would go to such a thing I would have been...dismissive. But I did, and I found a crystal there and it had some kind of power and the reiki/crystal healer was saying how crystals are solidified light and they have all the information in them about the universe and the multiverse and I believed her, for whatever reason, and so I planted one of those crystals at the base of a tree that John had done some kind of Taoist thing with that I don't understand, and I don't have to understand, and so that's what everyone was doing, these little rituals, our rituals.

crystal planted in hollow of this tree
Which is how David's ashes - the second half - were spread.

The rest - as I wrote about in September - are in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Maine. Another sacred place.

I may not have known how much love we actually shared and how he was my father - because who the hell else is the person in your life from age 6-53 even if he was gay and our lives were unconventional and someone else came after, another stepfather, Tom, who I also loved very much? He was there when I found writing and theater and all the things, but also the horrible things, too, and so much, and as he did for so many others, he saved me from one of them, and so now when there are terrorist attacks or other scary things, I feel really vulnerable, because he's not there. But I do feel what he was for me now, and in some ways still is, but not here physically, and that does make all the difference.

Watching Last Flag Flying, about three Vietnam Vets reunited for the death of one of their sons in Iraq, I was desperately sad not to share that with him - the heartbreak and beauty and humor of that film. I miss laughing with him most of all, and his pride in me, which when he displayed it made me feel like a star.

So I planted the crystal and watched D's son play wizard and knew David would have loved that, does love that, and the crystal is now at a base of a tree where John dug a little hole where in 10-20 years the tree will grow over it, because we all loved David so much, and as someone said, that tree (a giant oak), was like him, "Tall, large...and sexy."

We all laughed. David would have loved that, too.

This is my NYC life - the one I shared with David - me and a bunch of fabulous gay men - all smart, wildly talented and diverse in every way, and ALL in love with David. Sometimes a small child - like G - who reminded me so much of me at that age in the way he built little shrines out of twigs and such over David's ashes and being the center of adult attention, and that was it, wasn't it, isn't it, all that love and who cares if it looks like something "normal" or now - and happily NOW this is the new normal - all reactionary idiocy aside - in real life, this is the new normal.

And isn't it wonderful.

If I could, of course, I would call David and tell him that right now, and we'd laugh until we cried.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

On this day 31 years ago...

I woke up on November 1, 1986, and knew I was dead, not as in physically dead, but everything had stopped working and I had nothing inside. It was as if I had turned into a blank spot. Cold is too evocative and lively to explain the sense, as is dark, all those are qualities, it was as if I had no qualities, nothing, I had somehow disappeared. I was 23.

I had the grace in that moment to know that nothing I had done or thought up to that point in my life would help me. That the proverbial jig was up. I was done.

I also knew that there were some places I could call and maybe I could get some help. I knew I didn't want to go anywhere near 12-step recovery because some other people were there and were telling me I should go and fuck that and fuck them.

So I tried to go to places with fancy names like Genesis or whatever. I should mention this was the Haight Ashbury in 1986. Grooviness was everywhere, but it was even then...expensive. Nothing like what it would become in the 1990s, but it wasn't 1967 anymore either. And I was - surprise, surprise - broke.

So with extreme reluctance I found a certain meeting for people who had grown up surrounded by alcoholics, and I went to it; it was remarkably close to where I lived. I put on my coat and ran down the steep stairs down the street and into the basement of a Methodist Church, which - given my history with my first stepfather in the 1960s who had been a Methodist Minister - was not the funnest option ever, let's just say.

But I knew I was going to die if I didn't do something, so I ran there without breathing, because if I thought of it for one second I would have never made it to that room. I ran into the entrance way and babbled at some women standing in a circle, who I now know would have pegged me as a frizzed out newcomer within a second, but were of course smiling and nice and led me into the meeting room, where I saw a list of things suggested and some of them said God and I wanted to run screaming, but didn't. I sat there and listened, and could not believe what I heard, which was one seeming adult after another saying all the crazy shit I thought and felt but had no idea anyone was allowed to say aloud. While the dreaded God word was on the wall so were a lot of traditions that said no one was in charge, no one made any money, and you didn't have to believe in anything you didn't understand for yourself, and suchlike. So, I thought, OK, let's see where this goes.

By the end of that meeting I was crying, I may have said something I have no idea, but I did know one thing for sure. That while I could leave this room at anytime, it - this thing I had just experienced - would never go away. I also knew that I had never experienced that feeling ever in my whole life. I don't know how I knew all this, but I did. Many years later I would realize that that was unconditional love.

Flash forward about a week, and I realize - reading a book from this group - that I have to address my own destructive behavior and go to yet more meetings where we sit on uncomfortable chairs under unfailingly horrific lighting (except for the blessed candle light meetings) and drink fairly dire coffee in styrofoam cups. And all these groups of people just keep telling the truth about themselves, and eventually so do I, and then many other things transpire like leaving all these meetings for many years because of falling in love with someone I thought was all that and who wasn't and suchlike and then coming back thanks to a friend who had just gone through an almost identical experience (those kinds of 'coincidences' end up happening a lot over the years) and everyone greeting me with love - again. New people in a different city. No judgments. Hey, nice to see you, hope you stick around.

Round two, realizing wow this place works better than any place I've ever been like ever with the precise minimum of any guidelines in lieu of what is sometimes called "obedience to the unenforceable" because there is no one enforcing anything. There are a lot of half crazy people with lots of opinions all desperately trying to stay sober and/or sane but no one has the authority to do anything to anyone, so people voluntarily follow guidelines because...it's worth it, and it works.

Plus, as mentioned above, no money. There are donations you can give so the meeting can pay rent etc. but you could go to meetings your whole life and never pay a dime. Who does that? What else in this country works that way? Oh, that would be nothing.

So, I am grateful beyond measure that 31 years ago I took a much resented step into a world I was sure would not help me, and that I was "above." Ha. No.

All of you people, and you know who you are, and even if I haven't met you, I know you and you know me, and I have met so many of you in so many different countries and cities and towns and even in different languages even above pubs (a personal favorite!) and you hold me when I'm sad and celebrate with me when I'm happy and have seen me crying and laughing and shaking with homicidal rage and bullshitting myself and having moments of insight and hating you all and loving you all and wanting to run away and wanting to cling and being bored and excited and scared and happy and all of it and there you all are, running towards me, arms open, no matter what.

Even when you aren't individually doing this, as a group, you are. This is the miracle, the everyday miracle that is my life. This is why I am alive. This is why I have not had a drink or a drug for over 30 years. These rooms, filled with wildly imperfect people who came here in the same blank spot I was in having hit their own personal bottom - their own hell, is where I learned - in spite of myself - how to love.

Thank you. Or as a favorite prayer I learned when in a meeting in London that the man who was from Africa who spoke said was an African prayer:

It is. Thank you.

It is. Thank you.

It is. Thank you.