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...

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Moonshots, yoga, and writing retreat on Westray

I woke up to see a post of the broadcast from the Apollo 11 flight to the moon fifty years ago. Watching bits of it made me cry. I remember watching it with my mother back in 1969, tired because I was 6 years old, she was waking me up to see Neil Armstrong step on the moon. They looked so fragile, black and white snowmen ghostly, bouncing lightly on the surface like they might fly away, but there they were on the moon, and the adults were excited. I think to me at that age it seemed like a dream. But I knew it was important.

This time, seeing the image of the earth from their tiny little return rocket, all of the fragility, all of the beauty flooding into me.

And I am here in Westray, Scotland (part of Orkney Isles), my spiritual home, writing and writing and writing, about my yoga journey mostly, which was and is rocky, not at all a happy, clappy ride into bliss or whatever. But working with the Yoga Sutras and seeing their depth, so grateful for the transformation I experienced during the yoga teacher training at Kripalu, which feels more real the further away from it I am, because it was not a rosy time. It was a really challenging time, with some amazing moments, but through that rough road I transformed.

The Yoga Sutras embody an experience I had many years ago, a sudden illumination early in my sobriety, but one that I did not have a strong enough container to launch me into transformation. Instead it was there to save my sorry ass through many years of hurling myself into what Rumi would refer to as "mean-spirited road houses."

But it did save me, because I did not drink again. I am alive, and now, only now, do I feel I have any of the tools I need to begin to embody the reality that was shown to me so clearly and yet so shockingly in 1987 at a bus-stop in San Francisco of all places. Not the primary location one would choose for a life-altering spiritual experience, but there you go. My life is nothing if not filled with the spiritual smashed up against the quotidian—to be perfectly honest I would not have it any other way.

So what does the moon landing have to do with any of this? Moonshots I suppose, those moments you shoot ourself out there wondering where it will lead but knowing you literally have nothing left to lose other than either a sense of being stuck or some other prison cell you are finally ready to leave.

And now, because one of those moonshots for me was starting this writing retreat in Westray, I am reaping the benefits of one such leap of faith. Here now writing with other women who are also writing, for many hours a day, in a house that is silent from 9am to 5pm, a luxury all of us love, the luxury to Not socialize or respond, but instead to be absorbed in one's own thoughts and writing. For women especially, socialized since the gate to respond, listen, receive, mirror, etc., this is a gift. We need to allow ourselves time to sink into our selves and Selves, our voices, our own ideas, listen to the subtle shifts, Not perform, Not make someone else feel better and etc.

Everyone seems to be having breakthroughs with large projects—the kind you cannot wrap your mind around without large chunks of time and space. My breakthrough is simple: I am writing. After months of grief-induced silence, since November, I can write again. This alone feels like a huge gift. It's a bit creaky, of course, but it's happening and ideas are flowing out of me. Of course it's just a draft and will need lots of rewriting, that's a given, but that is also totally OK.

I also did the final edits on White shoe lady for Nomadic Press, so that will be coming out as a chapbook in the near future. Not sure of the timeline, but you will of course hear of it. I don't think I wrote a blog post when won the Bindle Prize (their chapbook contest) because it came as such a shock. This was a story I wrote here in Westray last year and was rejected all over the place, though some were 'nice' rejections, from places like Granta, so I had some hope...but also felt despair because I had been submitting it for months. So, if anyone out there is a writer, please use this as inspiration and Keep Submitting your work.

Also, hot tip: yoga and meditation to start your day helps. A lot. So honored to lead that most days here, and some days on my own out behind the house, Orkney wind energizing me, breathing me alive...and sometimes Qigong as well, gathering the energies, bringing them back inside and writing all day long.

Today I have been editing an excerpt from the book project I am drafting in hopes can be legible for a reading tomorrow. We shall see.

And of course the beauty of this place cannot be overstated. Some photos below. All are from or near the house. I could not feel more grateful. This place is a gift. This place is my home. So is New York City. Go figure.

Maes Sand, the beach a few minutes walk away

Maes Sand

Puffins here and below! A cycle ride away.



The extraordinary water of the North Sea where it meets the Atlantic - crystal clear

The retreat house, overlooking all of the above

Sunset close to 11pm
















View outside my window at 3am—in the summer it never gets truly dark

Thursday, July 4, 2019

"I'm getting closer to my hoooome..."

Just aged myself with that title.

But as anyone who knows me would know this means...I am on the train headed north to the ferry to Orkney.

I have two places on earth I consider home. NYC and the Orkney Isles. I love islands. Crowded islands and way less crowded islands. With waterways that meet, specific currents, energy coming from the stone, and something that cannot be pinned down.

I am now on the final crazy leg of this journey. The great part is the train is usually half empty and the  other part is because it's such a wendy way, what is about 2 hours or less by car takes 4 hours by train, but it is a beautiful four hours, so I am good. That plus all the extra space means I am happy.

Had a wonderful time in Glasgow and Edinburgh before the journey, first seeing art in an exhibition Home Where Home Is Not, that I am honored to have been asked to respond to with a "performative tour" (no I'm not sure what that means either, but happily I get to decide what that means so it should be fun). The exhibit was created in conversation with women who live in NorthEast Glasgow, and the work has been made by Birthe Jorgensen and Sogol Mabadi. It's extraordinary, half of it is at Plat-form and the other at Glasgow Women's Library. Go see it if you can. My response, which will be in conversation with whomever shows up, will be on July 21 from 2-4pm, beginning at Plat-form, with a bus that takes everyone to GLW in between. Having had a chance, even if jet lagged, to engage with the work, I cannot tell you how excited I am to contribute even a little something to this exhibition. Come and play with me if you can.

Next was staying with friend Jules in Edinburgh. We met when she was on my writing retreat last year in Westray (the same one I am going to lead now). She, too, is an incredible artist and writer, so we were able to talk about so many things and ground in the way too people of like minds and experiences can ground. A soul friend. As is Birthe. I am lucky that way. The biggest and most consistent blessings in my life have been my friendships.

Got to see Edinburgh from Jules' point of view, which was enlightening. I like ground eye view of cities more than tourist eye view or event-specific. The quotidian is where my heart lies, not the grand gestures or the city's frosting. Jules made gorgeous meals, and we took long walks, and one afternoon I just...napped. Which was delightful. Plus she has a cat named Tiger who is the female equivalent of Ugo in terms of size, coloring and temperament.

Now I am simply traveling, which - once the luggage is stowed, I have a seat and a little space (and a view out of the window) - is my happy place. I am however always taken aback by the nerves the accompany each stage of travel, even when I have done it before and know it will be OK. I was able to use techniques learned at yoga teacher training to accept these emotions, not push them away, and thereby let them move through. Understand there are reasons for that anxiety, some from my past, and that trying to suppress that makes it worse. But there is also a way to accept without just getting stuck there. "BRFWA" as it's called at Kripalu...aka Breathe (as in, you know, breathe), Relax (find a way to just be in whatever place you are without too much resistance, and check if the body is clutching at things real or imaginary), Feel (acknowledge and let yourself feel whatever you are feeling even if it is "irrational" or "disproportionate" - letting go of the judgment long enough to, you know, just feel whatever it is you are feeling), Watch (cultivating witness consciousness, a compassionate eye that watches all the fluctuations of your mind and feelings, which is also you, but not a part we usually acknowledge, and that part also connects to the larger universe, so is kind of a portal in a way to an awareness of connection to all that is, but in this instance is simply a part of you that can watch without judgment), then finally Allow - with witness consciousness in place, there is a container that is strong enough to allow the feelings, to ride the wave of whatever is happening, so you don't have to push it away or cling to it, so you can let it be...just as it is.

When I have used this technique at each stage of travel, I have come in touch with a rather terrorized little girl who was wrenched in many directions against her will. And in many cases (not all) the changes were not good. Sometimes they were, so it was a crapshoot. This is the level of vulnerability that comes up when I do one of my favorite things: traveling. So, with BRFWA, I get to be in touch with that, have compassion for that little girl but also assure her that things are different now and that I'm here. And we are OK. This may sound kind of cliche or self-help-y, but when felt deeply in my experience, it has been transformative. What creates stasis is when I try to push that fear away, because I was told I had to do that from about 3 years old, so when pushing these uncomfortable (read: embarrassing) feelings away, I am reenacting, however unwittingly, a level of abuse.

By using the full technique, starting with the breathing, I can allow the little girl the full range of her feelings, thereby liberating years of stuckness, and the effect is I feel lighter and more energetic. Not by trying to be "positive" or whatever, but by allowing in Reality in its full dimension/s.

So, here I am now on a train, happy as a clam, writing this blog post. I may go through some anxiety later, but right now, feeling happy. And the fact is the feelings change. "This too shall pass" applies as much to happiness as sadness. It's like the Scottish weather. The sun can disappear quickly, but so does the rain, the sky is ever changing, the clouds have so many colors in them, infinite varieties of blues and grays and whites, and they are always moving. In Orkney, with its high winds, which are usually a constant, this phenomenon is on fleek. The land is varied in height, but with very few trees so the view is 360 degrees - you can watch weather systems come in and out, tides and currents shift - and where I will be staying in Westray with the writers on retreat - we look out to where the Atlantic and North Sea meet.

At Kripalu for 26 days in the Berkshires, I began to really understand the attraction of mountains, which has never been a big thing for me. But looking out at the mountains day after day going back and back to the horizon, all the layers of blues and mists and fog and grey and green, I saw how peaceful that is, too. Any buzzing thoughts fade into insignificance in the face of the mountains' gentle solidity. In the same way these thoughts melt into insignificance in the face of ocean tides.

It is a gift to go from that to Westray, from one place to another of deep calm.

I write this while a young mother chases her little kids up and down the aisles of a train, one screaming periodically, and am aware of the privilege built into my life wherein I have the freedom to do the things I do. And I am profoundly grateful for these gifts in my life. I don't have hardly any money, but I do find a way to hurl myself into the world, and so far, like the trapeze artists who have to let go of one bar and hang suspended before caught by another pair of hands or to catch another bar, I have been caught or sent something to hold onto, so many times.

There have been times when I have felt alone, isolated, and profoundly hard done by, but in the end, even after these fallow periods, something new emerged. This is not an "it's all good" post, because I don't think things I and many other people have had to endure are "good," but this is a gratitude post, because I do feel lucky that I have managed to rally so many times...

with a little help from my friends...

(or, as Rumi would say, the Friend.)