Friday, August 20, 2010

84 Things and Radical Self-Disclosure

I am writing this because I told Joanna Jenkins at The Fifty Factor that I would, and of course I am writing it because I think it will be creative fun.

1. I am fond of the phrase "radical self-disclosure," which my onetime lover Ponderosa Pine introduced me to.

2. I met Ponderosa Pine, aka Keith Lampe, in Bolinas, a little town in Marin County, CA. He was one of the Yippies. (Remember that? They were 60s radicals.)

3. I am writing a memoir titled Songs of the Inner Life.

4. Let's get the celebrity stuff out of the way. I typed part of the manuscript for The Armies of the Night for Norman Mailer in Provincetown one summer.

5. I went to listen to Jerry Garcia rehearse in Marin County.

6. I was part of the crowd the first time that Jimi Hendrix played in New York.

7. I never shook a politician's hand as yet.

8. I want to become a saint but have a way to go.

9. I published a best-selling book on herbs (Gaea Weiss, Growing and Using the Healing Herbs, Rodale Press) but it was a long time ago.

10. Many things happened long ago because I am 69 years old.

11. I used to tell my second husband "It's nothing that a month in Greece wouldn't cure" and I still think that is so.

12. I have studied with various Tibetan spiritual masters for 35 years, and have experienced by being around them what is possible in terms of human potential.

13. Through no fault of theirs, I am still at the threshold of human development.

14. I love the poetry of Rilke, Yeats, Lorca and Thomas Merton, among others-- including women poets like Dorianne Laux and Ellen Bass.

15. I am a Taurus with 6 planets in the 12th house and yes, I love astrology.

16. I am a late bloomer.

17. I miss engaging playfully with men.

18. I do not miss being married.

19. I love systems of divination and inquiry like the Enneagram, astrology and Myer-Briggs.

20. Solo performance is a wonderful high in my book.

21. I am dreaming of Oaxaca, India, Thailand and it's not because of Eat,Pray, Love.

22. Elizabeth Gilbert is a very good writer.

23. I guess I might be considered a foodie.

24. My morning starts with coffee and then meditation.

25. I love NIA, a form of dance that includes yoga and martial arts in its routines.

26. Yes to truffles, no to Milky Way. Yes to good Indian or Thai or Chinese food.

27. I still remember a meal in a Bay area Chinese restaurant with about 25 Chinese people. The Chinese people ordered and I ate wonderful things never tasted since.

28. I have lived in Ashland, Oregon for over 30 years. It is artsy but provincial and conservative too, or maybe I have been here too long.

29. All summer I thought of having some Pernod, and now summer is nearly over.

30. My creative aging venture, Sage's Play, focuses on the art of aging including creativity, wellness and spirit.

31. I belong to an artists' coaching community called Artist Conference Network.

32. It can be deeply moving to share our work during Artist Conference Network meetings.

33. I helped to start Tashi Choling, a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center 30 years ago, in a mountain valley south of Ashland and I still go there often to pray.

34. I love writing.

35. I would like to live in a culture where I could pray quietly on the street or wherever and nobody think I was weird or offensive.

36. Sometimes I think about moving to another country, because America gets to me.

37. Sometimes in a similar vein, I wish I could escape myself, but as has been said, wherever you go, there you are.

38. I love the spacious restfulness of darkness.

39. I would love to live in the country again, with a woodstove and a hot tub.

40. One of the best things about Ashland is Jackson Wellsprings and its mineral waters where I love to swim and soak.

42. I am a self-educated woman with considerable curiosity.

43. I discovered about 6 months ago after reading a book by Barbara Sher that I am a scanner, a person who has many passionate interests and capacities.

44. When I mentioned this to my younger daughter, she looked at me sideways and commented, "And you've just discovered this Mom?"

45. I knew it already but I loved knowing more about Scanners and finally understanding why my Mother used to say, "You never finish anything," which wasn't true but it was true that some things landed by the wayside because of new passions.

46. I want to produce A New Wrinkle, my musical play about aging, in many cities because it is a theater of social change, intended to catalyze a positive perspective on aging.

47. I am grateful for old friends and the love we share.

48. 84 things is a lot of stuff.

49. I believe in the power of Eros, which has loomed large in my life so to speak-- and certainly that includes the G spot, various forms of orgasm whose existence is debated by scientists, pleasure, ecstasy, the fire of the ecstatic impulse and the links between eros and mysticism.

50. The above was not an example necessarily, but people think I am funny. I think it is funny to be in a body, but sometimes not that funny.

51. Lately I have been contemplating the phrase, "entering the world."

52. And also "leaving the world."

53. Of course, I love reading and cannot cite a favorite author or book but randomly The God of Small Things, The Myth of Freedom, Speak, Memory come to mind at the moment.

54. I started examining my life and writing autobiographical essays about it when I was 54.

55. I lost a lot of teeth when I was 55, and it seemed to be practice for losing a lot of other stuff not long after.

56. I know what it is like to be buried in the sands of time like some old mummy from a long-dead civilization.

57. I have re-invented myself quite a few times, including at 57.

58. I have changed my name because of marriage and in a voyage of self-discovery from Gail Emaus to Gail Madonia to Blackbird, Laughingbird, Gaea Weiss, Gaea Laughingbird.

59. Sometimes surprising things happen when you change your name, and they happened to me, but those stories are too long to share here, so read my book when it is done.

60. The 60th birthday was not so much of a milestone as it seems the 70th may be.

61. I believe in taking risks and leaps of faith.

62. I like learning new things, like right now I am calling people I never met to raise money to produce my play.

63. I want to learn Spanish.

64. I never wanted to travel, but now the urge comes on me from time to time.

65. I am in the winter of my life.

66. And very alive-- as Florida Scott-Maxwell wrote--"As we age, we are more alive than seems likely, convenient, or even bearable."

67. I love custard, pumpkin pie, duck, carrot/ginger soup, fresh-baked bread, and the list could go on of course because I am a foodie.

68. Yes, I would like to lose 20 pounds.

69. I am 69 right now and recovering from 4 broken metatarsal bones in my left foot.

70. I am still walking gimpily but glad to be walking after the educational experience of using a wheelchair and walker.

72. I am grateful for my strong constitution and good health and energy level.

73. I rest when I am tired.

74. I am waiting for Dr. Robert Butler's latest book Longevity Prescription to arrive in the mail.

75. I am a fan of Dr. Robert Butler, who died recently. He coined the word ageism in the 60s.

76. I have not mentioned it, but I have two beautiful daughters, 20 years apart.

77. Kindness changes everything, and I am working on being kind.

78. I used to be a lot more rasty, aggressive and domineering.

79. I am not a nice little old lady though because I believe in being subversive or you will be worse off, and for many other reasons as well.

80. Sure, I would like to live to be 80.

81. I do contemplate dying and because Buddhists do that as part of their practice, I am used to the contemplation.

82. Death is a major life event and I believe in preparing spiritually for it.

83. Sometimes you have to play for a long time before you can play like yourself, is what Miles Davis once said, and I agree.

84. I love reading a wonderful book called Graceful Exits, which is filled with the last words of many spiritual masters.


  1. Awesome job! You cranked that out pretty fast too. Well done. It was a pleasure getting to know you better.

    So sorry to hear about your broken foot. That has to be painful but I wish you a full and complete recovery. My sister just changed her name this week due to the end of her marriage. I'm going to tell her about yours and hope many wonderful changes come her way now too.

    Would love to know the book's name by Barbara Sher. (#43) I've never heard the term scanner and would like to know more about it.

    Thanks for joining in on the "84". I'm going to post your link on my blog in the comments section.

    Have a great weekend! jj

  2. Gaea,
    This was an interesting read! Thanks for sharing. It encourages me; not just the 84 'things' but the content of all that went into those 84 'things.'

    I remember Barbara Sher and her book from I believe the 1980's - Wishcraft. It was in the 'era' that I got a divorce and took my maiden name back and have kept it, and will keep it!!! There is something in the power of a name.

    Hope your foot is healing and it doesn't look like it is slowly you down any!

  3. Thanks for your comments. Yes, my foot is healing more every day. There is power in naming. I have plenty of experience having a litany of name changing and some unusual experiences that accompanied that.

  4. Gaea, I am so happy to have spent time on both your website and this blog site this evening. I am awed by your energy, creativity and scanning capacity! I have read the more recent blog posts and enjoyed them. I especially liked this one. There is something so nurturing for me about hearing other people's stories. Thanks for sharing these 84 tidbits. Linda Smith had sent me a link to your website some weeks ago and I visited briefly, knowing I needed to come back. I'm so happy to find other women who are singing the same songs I am. And you have created an entire musical on the subject of aging. Fabulous. Absolutely fabulous!