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...

Monday, September 9, 2019

on unconditional love and grief

It is a year since my beloved cousin Darcy died. I wrote a letter to her for her sons, at the behest of her husband. He had asked those of us close to Darcy to write memories down while they were fresh and she was still alive. I wrote and sent mine to him a couple days before Darcy died, which was a few days after I had visited them in St. Paul. Because my sadness today puts me at a loss for words, but I want to honor this anniversary, below are excerpts (with some adaptations for public context) from that letter. And below that are a couple photos.

***

Dear Darcy,

My first memory of you is Jani telling me about how you and she picked strawberries. She clearly adored you, and I was so envious. You were the granddaughter in Milwaukee, the one of whom she was so proud. 

We first met when I flew to Milwaukee for Jani's memorial service. You were (almost?) 12. I was 16. You told me years later Jani had told you all these wonderful things about me and you were intimidated, but there was no need. I was just a scared, freaked out teenager. But we got along as I recall, though to be honest my memory of that time is hazy, other than a very strong felt-sense, that I think most likely emanated from you and your mother, which was of warmth. I was attending a boarding school in New England on scholarship. Warmth was in short supply. 

Because of so many reasons, great and small...we were not in touch again until we were much older. We met again at my parents' dining room table in Maine, and I remember feeling: we are related. I remember also feeling: I don't feel related to anyone else. Because I had never had that feeling until meeting you again then. It felt strong. I finally understood the phrase: blood is thicker than water. As an only child with a fairly random-chance childhood, I had never felt this.

Was it the tilt of your eyebrows? Your sense of humor? The mix of deep warmth and deep skepticism? A certain depth of soul that I find rare, maybe not because depth of soul is rare, but perhaps it is not always easy to recognize in those to whom we do not feel kinship. We were both Jani's granddaughters. That was clear.

The time we got to spend in Maine in 2004 was a gift. S was 4 and L was a baby. J had to pick me up at the Portland bus station because I had made the mistake (never to be repeated) of taking a cheap bus line to Boston that literally burst into flames on the highway. All were safe but sat at the side of the road for ages. I barely new J but as will come as no surprise to you or anyone else, he was gracious about this late night guest washed up hours away, and we had a nice chat back to Damariscotta.

You and I had time to talk, but this visit was about your mother, Carol. She was dying of breast cancer then. You were so worried about her and doing everything you could to make her comfortable. Meanwhile, you asked me about my own life and affairs of the heart. Again, the warmth. 

And from Carol, too, who was insistent we go on the whale watch come hell or high water. Sound familiar? It should. And that was a lovely day. Carol was happy. I think it was hardest on you, though, because you could see her pain. You are always so aware of your surroundings, and especially the cares and concerns of those who are lucky enough to bask in your love, which I think is infinite. I know you would scoff at that and tell me I'm exaggerating, because that's what you do, and like me, you find every reason on earth to be on your own case, but I wish at least for this moment, you could stop and see yourself how I see you: loving, kind, crazy smart, funny, wise, and yes sometimes sad and angry, because why wouldn't you be? But always present. Always. Present.

Another lovely memory I hold in my heart is the time I visited you all in St. Paul in 2011. I think James picked me up and my first memory of your house is L marching me up the stairs (he was 8) to meet his plastic figurines. One looked like a Dr. Who character, which led to watching Dr. Who (with parental agreement of course). L loving it, S being afraid of the monsters, and asking me about them, walking down in his PJs with James to make sure they weren't real, asking for a hug. I was stunned that an 11 year old could speak so articulately about his feelings, but then again he had you and J as parents, so why should it be a surprise?

Once again, unplanned, I was an emotional wreck because of my second marriage ending (I took on this aspect of the Jani personality apparently). And you wanted to help, and I wasn't having it, and you - in your warm way - basically told me I was being an asshole. Which I was. You were right. I have always been grateful for that conversation. You probably don't remember it that way, but it was done with such kindness, it didn't hurt, because you said it from love.

Other times during that trip included lovely moments like sitting on beanbags (I think they were?) in Walker Art Center watching a slideshow of Nan Goldin's photos of children, so beautiful and So unsentimental. Her aesthetic suited us both right down to the ground. We also went to a yoga class together that I loved instantly, gentle and wise was your yoga teacher. Afterwards, we discussed without going too far the senses we got there. The intimations of things not seen. Larger than us.

This is where I feel the most connected to you in the end.  I know you are agnostic, whereas I believe deeply in something I cannot explain but has saved me one too many times to be easily dismissed. But I think deep down you have had this experience, too. 

I remember too and will never forget our brief - all too brief - goodbye conversation on the sofa when you told me about dragonflies, that they are ancient but live such short lives, and in their short lives they are so busy - mating, making more dragonflies… but how you loved it when one would alight on your arm when you were younger. You were somehow wanting to link to this to the fact that it was OK we were saying goodbye. You could not remember what you wanted to say, but I think you said it:

Ancient but brief. Something about life. About our connection perhaps? It is how I feel it anyway. S walked in the door soon after that, your brother had driven him from Grinnell. The mood changed, and then I did have to leave, it was so late. I don't remember the actual moment we said goodbye, perhaps because we said it a number of times that night. You told me you didn't think you were dying "right" and I feel like I didn't say goodbye "right" - which for both of us was precisely: typical.

These are snapshots. There is so much to be said. There is nothing more to be said. You are my heart. As are your sons, and I hope they know that. If they ever want deep background, I can give them the book that is half about Jani, who is an influence like no other. I am here for you always, and them, too.

You wrote once you loved me to infinity. And I wrote back I love you to infinity and back.

And I do.

I love you to infinity and back.

Julia xoxoxo……

Darcy on left with brother Jonathan, sitting on legendary Jani's lap

Darcy and me in Maine in 2004, her young son's head visible