Sunday, December 27, 2009

Baba Yaga is My Homegirl

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” --C.S. Lewis

I guess I am qualified, because Baba Yaga, the Russian fairytale hag, is my homegirl. The Urban Dictionary defines homegirl as "The girl who's always there to talk to and who can talk to you back about all kinds of stuff. You've been through a lot together." And that sure applies to Baba Yaga and me.

I'm already on close terms with Coyote Woman, who is mythic and often mischievous. Now Baba Yaga has appeared, too. Perhaps I should be concerned to be associating with them this way. But I'm not. Nothing like a Kali type figure to stir things up. And Baba Yaga is that, an archetype that moves between the visible and invisible worlds. She's a crone, a Black Goddess, a dark woman of knowledge. She can be a bit dangerous and unpredictable.

When I began writing A New Wrinkle (a musical play on aging, which you may have already heard me say) I was looking for a character that could take part in the action in an unconventional way, without being affected by or caring about what anybody thought of it. I wanted a character that could move between ordinary and magical reality. That's how Baba Yaga showed up. Well, actually, who knows how she showed up. This stuff comes in via the Orphic Radio.

And she has done a good job of playing her part in A New Wrinkle. As an additional bonus, from hanging out with her so much for months, I have developed my inner Baba Yaga!

Wishing you all a new year full of joy and adventure.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Call Back the Sun

Ashland, Oregon--a small town with a lot of artists of all kinds. Sometimes it seems to me that our town's population is mainly composed of artists, healers and real estate agents plus those who aspire to being artists, healers and real estate agents. That's my little Ashland joke.

The dance community in Ashland is quite large and varied. Dancing People Company magnetized many dancers and a big audience of dance lovers last night for its 4th annual "Call Back the Sun" Solstice celebration.

First, I will say that I could not find any reviews of Dancing People Company performances. This proves I live in a small town, even if it is pretty saturated with all manner of art and artists. No proper dance reviewer in sight. (if there are any reviews hiding somewhere, I would like to read them to see what others have to say.) Second, I will advise that I am no dance critic. I am also rather reticent to discuss wine's finer qualities though I do know good wine when I taste it.

The performance began with the room completely darkened. Dancers appeared one by one, illuminated only by the candle each carried. They moved slowly through the space. More dancers appeared, and together their movements conjured up a mythic, ancient rite. I was mesmerized, enchanted. My heart was moved; the audience/performer boundary was erased.

In dance, things move fast. It's not like looking at a painting or reading a book. What a no-brainer, you may be thinking, but bear with me, I am not a dance reviewer. Watching dance is more like watching a football game, except that nobody is doing video replays of what just happened so the mind and emotions reel as ecstatic gestures and movements cascade through eyes, brain and heart minute after minute. You want to stop just for that particular gesture or jumble or leap, but you cannot. It's already gone.

Of course the sheer physical power and grace, that beauty, was astounding at times. The leaps, raises, balancing, catches, such evocations of flight, lightness, power, freedom and trust, such vulnerability were at times completely breathtaking.

The performance included aerial dancing too. It was stunning. To watch those beautiful beings suspended in mid air, curling and uncurling like flowers, revealing all their strength, delicacy and skill, well what can I say except Hallelujah! Bravo brothers and sisters! You filled my heart. All of our hearts are full.

Mythic, primal, Dionysian/erotic, lyrical, powerful. Somebody write a proper review of these folks, please! The musicians were wonderful, too.

Photo by Hennie Van Heerden,the Netherlands, via Flickr

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Winter: Time to Go Within

It's looking as if it might snow tonight up in the mountains. Last year at this time I was in Mexico near Puerto Vallarta. This year, I am happily ensconced in my sweet place in southern Oregon, contemplating the tropics from afar. White narcissus flowers on the dining table fill the room with their fragrance. I've just finished writing a very funny song on drugs and medications for A New Wrinkle, my play on aging. It is Baba Yaga's farewell song in the play. Now all I have to do is conjure up the play's finale, and I'm done with a good first draft of the script. Laura Rich has already scored three of the songs and today she is working on Scintillating Secrets of the Older Brain, which was inspired by the work of Dr. Gene Cohen and his book The Mature Mind.

I never knew how much I loved writing song lyrics until I started creating A New Wrinkle. I find the process of discovering great words, rhymes, near rhymes and rhythmic patterns really pixillating. It gets me going. The potential in ironic/pranic/sonic/harmonic or ecstasy/remedy/bimini or medicine/reticent, it does something to me. I start to feel a bit elfish or puckish. Regrettable, heretical or health-wise antithetical? No, it's not regrettable at all. I like it.

In terms of seasons, winter is likened to later life. A slower pace, more time for reflection. By the time you reach your sixties, you naturally become more reflective (unless you are one of those folks who takes "active aging" to aerobic extremes and never allow yourself to look within,which is sad, because reflection is a key element in aging.)

Winter is a great time for going within. Don't get me wrong. I love hiking around in the snow or getting out in the nippy air of winter. But I appreciate the opportunity to rest and reflect in the colder days and longer nights of winter.

I'm "living in the past" during some of my reflections. I reflect on my life experience, my relationships, the people who have crossed my path or filled my life with their presence, how things went,the patterns of my thought, emotions and behavior. Sometimes I am forgiving myself and others. During some of my reflections I am contemplating, meditating and praying, letting go of the solid reality of everyday life and welcoming the radiant essence. Sometimes I reflect upon the world, the Earth and its myriad beings, the future of the planet. Sometimes I reflect upon the cosmos, the constellations, the galaxies, vast and awe-inspiring.

Sometimes, right now for instance, my mind turns to what I'm about to cook for tonight's dinner, when my friend Betsy comes to visit. Now reflection must turn to action.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Googles-Eye View of Aging

How about using Google for some impromptu anthropological research? For instance, enter the keywords "pro aging"-- 13.5 million possibilities. There's a few think pieces scattered throughout that examine what pro-aging might mean. There's some maniacal life extension entries (does pro aging mean living forever?)and a lot of entries on Dove Soap's pro aging campaign, which used photos of older women. **SHOCK**

How about "anti-aging?" 11 million entries focused on life extension, anti aging medicine, exercise, supplements and how to look younger. UNICEF capitalized on the fascination with anti-aging in Germany to launch a cosmetic series the purchase of which provides funds to help children in Africa, where so many children die before they have a chance to grow to adulthood, much less age.

If you want to get into the anti-aging market in Dubai, check into the 2010 Dubai Congress on Anti-Aging and Aesthetic Medicine, whose website Dubai Anti-Aging tells us that "the region is a major force for change in the burgeoning anti-aging market." According to the site, The Middle East anti-aging market is valued at *US$5.58 billion by 2010. Wow. The anti-aging market.

How about abandoning pro and anti and just going for "positive aging" which has a mere 2,870,000 entries. There are a lot more interesting sites to explore here--books, conferences, newsletters, retirement coaches and more of a focus on happiness and personal growth. I liked this site and the services offered. Revolutionize Retirement

Here's a real interesting one--ageism, with only 181,000 entries, while sexism has 879,000 and racism has 4,580,000. Hmmm. Ageism-- the most ho-hum form of social discrimination. What is it going to take to ignite some real change?

Some people are focusing on doing just that. Check out this interesting site where filmmaker Patrician Sahertian discusses her documentary film on ageism in the workplace titled Cut Back: Fighting Ageism. Documentary on Ageism in the Workplace

Of course, you can always take your own Googles-eye view of aging and see what you come up with.

Photo of an Apatani Woman in Arunchal Pradesh India is by Rudi Roels, from Flickr.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Full Moon

On full moon nights, I love driving out to the Tashi Choling Tibetan Buddhist temple in a mountain valley outside of Ashland. When meditation practice is finished, a wonderful experience in itself, there's something else to look forward to--the drive back to town with the full moon's splendid light radiating over the expansive valley. Tonight though, it's cold and foggy and I chose to remain home.

This painting by 19th century German painter Carl Anton Joseph Rottman is such a beautiful evocation of the energy the full moon pours out over the landscape. The moon streams through the inner landscape, too. I couldn't sleep last night because of the way the energy of the full moon spurred recollections, ruminations and musing. I usually appreciate the disturbance of being moonstruck. But I'm glad to get a rest from the intense luster of the full moon for the rest of the month, or who knows what the heck life would be like.

I lie on my couch by the front window
and watch the moon rise
like a pearl held between two cloud shells
like the luminous center of a flower of cloud petals
like a jewel appearing in a round cloud window

just the full moon
above a mesa and canyon
composed of cloudbanks

I wrote that poem in December 2004. The moon waxes and wanes. The months and years pass. Now here we are nearly at the end of 2009, which has been for me a year of deep invention, acceptance and expansiveness. As the composer John Cage once said, "Everything we do is music. Everywhere is the best seat."

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Gene Cohen, author of The Creative Age and The Mature Mind, both marvelous and inspiring books. I have been and will continue to be a big fan of Dr. Cohen's pioneering work in the field of aging. I wanted to share this tribute to Dr. Cohen from the December 1st issue of the Human Values in Aging Newsletter published by the AARP Office of Academic Affairs, H.R. Moody, Editor.


This month the field of aging lost one of its giants,
with the passing of Gene Cohen, M.D., on Nov. 9, 2009.
Gene Cohen's life was a stellar string of "first's":
At the National Institute of Mental Health in the 1970s,
he was the first chief of the Center on Aging. Later
he became President of the Gerontological Society and
Editor of the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Since 1994,
Gene served as the first director of the Center on Aging,
Health and Humanities at George Washington University.

Gene was a prolific scholar and writer. His book, THE CREATIVE
AGE: Awakening the Human Potential in the Second Half of Life, and
later THE MATURE MIND: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain,
have become classics expounding a vision of "positive aging"
based on solid empirical inquiry.

While at Harvard, Gene was a student of Erik Erikson and
he carried on Erikson's legacy of adult development. Unlike
Erikson, Gene lived only until age 65, and, as with Moses, he
glimpsed the "Promised Land" of old age, but did not himself
live to enter it. He has left us a legacy and I hope we live
up to it. For those who knew him personally, Gene was, truly,
a giant in his field, but a gentle giant-- humble, funny,
endlessly creative and accessible. In a word, he was a mensch.
He will not be forgotten.

Thanks to for the full moon image