Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Celebration of Aging

A Celebration of Aging, the event I produced on April 23rd, attracted a full house, with standing room only! Of course, that is a cause for celebration. Dr. Rick Kirschner, a bestselling author, speaker and coach, shared some of his insights on the value of aging and positive expressions of aging. His presentation was completely enjoyable-- full of humor and inspiration. Rick is posting a sequence of videos that present his excellent talk on his Art of Change blog. Check in with his continuing comments and reflections on aging over the next week. He makes some great points and tells the story in a very engaging way. Don't miss it.

The audience loved Carolyn Myers' marvelous improv comedy and the beautiful aria from Tosca that Pauline Sullivan sang. My composer colleague Laura Rich did a fabulous job singing one of the songs from A New Wrinkle, Passing for Young. She was decked out in a very funny Barbie the doll-type costume. Why didn't I take any pictures of that? I know Laura's husband did, and I will try to get him to send me a couple of them to share with you soon.

I loved singing Baba Yaga's Raga and I wore wonderful dreadlocks for the occasion. Some audience members told me that the two songs sung by the ensemble were not easy to understand or hear. That was something I was saddened to hear. Have to do much better next time. Organizing the event taught me a great deal. I thought I had gotten over trying to be Superwoman, but apparently not. Next time, I need a stage manager and a director. More rehearsals, including in the performance space. But as spontaneous as the event was at times, it was well received.

Now, we are preparing to develop the promo CD. We'll be working in the recording studio of jazz musician Dave Scoggin. Another new adventure. Wonderful!

Yesterday was my 70th birthday. I had a rather reflective day. I wanted to be quiet. I took a drive to the Applegate River and sat for awhile at its banks. I hung out at the beautiful old McKee Bridge which was built in 1917.

I intend to spend more time in nature in my seventh decade. Isn't the river beautiful? The trees are so delicate as they begin to leaf out, and the river waters are flowing vigorously thanks to the winter snow and rain. I'm at the banks of a beautiful river, contemplating the river of my years.

And on the way back home, I listened to one of the six CDs from The Dangerous Old Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, who wrote the seminal book Women Who Run with the Wolves. This current work The Dangerous Old Woman is a project she has been working on for 30 years. And it's very rich. Highly recommended.

I'm resting after putting out a lot of energy. I'm thinking about the dangerous old woman and man, elders who live with wildness and wisdom. I'm musing about poetry, myth, wildness, danger, protection and magic. About this time of life and its lessons and adventures. About beauty. Illness. Death. Life. The usual topics.

And it's spring. Every year the astounding miracle of rebirth. Here it is again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A New Wrinkle Makes Front Page News! Plus the Healing Power of Poetry

I was on the phone with a friend this morning when my housemate Louise suddenly appeared with a big grin on her face. What's up? I wondered, immersed in my phone conversation. Then Louise held up a copy of the local paper and pointed to a big picture of composer Laura Rich and I on the front page. Front page! she exclaimed happily. And so it was, a BIG photo and wonderful article about A New Wrinkle and A Celebration of Aging right there on the front page. Pretty darned nice. I am glad for the chance to get some of these ideas about aging out there in my community. Take a look at the article here.

'A New Wrinkle' |

This morning before the front page phenomenon entered my reality, I was planning to write something about poetry. It's National Poetry month. I am a lover of poetry. I even love reading what poets have to say about poetry. For example......

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.
Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.
--Carl Sandburg
Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.
--Rita Dove
Poetry is what gets lost in translation.
--Robert Frost

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?
The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.
--Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.
There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.
--John Cage
Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life.
--William Hazlitt

I cannot imagine life without poetry which has been a treasure in my life from childhood on. I could never choose one poet as a favorite, any more than I could choose one fiction writer. I love the poetry of Alan Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jane Kenyon, Basho, Lorca, Dylan Thomas, Ellen Bass, Anna Swir, Kabir, Hafiz, Anne Waldman, Maya Angelou, Billy Collins, W.B. Yeats, W.H. Auden, Emily Dickinson.

How about this 3-year old's rendition of Billy Collin's poem Litany? I find it quite wonderful. May your days and nights display their innate poetry in patterns and cadences that restore and invigorate you.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Following one's bliss

" What is it that makes you happy? 
Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. 
This is what I call 'Following Your Bliss.'If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you. 

And the life that you ought to be living 
is the one you ARE living.
 Wherever you are, if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment 
that lives within you, all the time. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss,
 and they open doors for you. 
I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open 
where you didn't know they were going to be."

--Joseph Campbell

I spent 4 days recently in group meditation practice at Tashi Choling. It makes me very happy to be there. It is splendid and profoundly meaningful to me. It opens the door to a mythic resonance and brings me back to the vastness, radiance and wisdom that permeate everything. I had the good fortune to help start Tashi Choling over 30 years ago. That place and spiritual community are such a blessing in my life. In terms of following my bliss I put it up there at the top of my list.

News flash--It took decades but I finally realized what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a deeply positive force and influence, someone who is truly selfless and vastly loving. What chance is there of that in this lifetime? I am laughing a little here. I have a way to go. As anyone who knows me can attest. But that is my pervasive goal and I am at work/play on it every day.

Of course I have other goals and dreams that are apparently more mundane. But it is all interwoven. I remember decades during this life when I wouldn't even ask myself the question "What makes me happy?" because I didn't believe the possibility of creating happiness, of manifesting one's dreams, of following one's bliss. So I have done some work on that over the years. Hallelujah!

Writing this blog makes me happy, though I do wonder who in the world reads it since readers so seldom talk back to me. Who are you anyway? Say something will you please? That would be so nice.

Right now, I am highly engaged in producing A Celebration of Aging on April 23rd, where we will preview some of the songs in my musical revue A New Wrinkle. I love producing events. This one will be quite wonderful. I can feel it. Save the date if you are in the Rogue Valley Oregon area. In order to produce the event, I have to call together and work with a fine group of people. This is such a rich process. I love knowing that you can ask for help and get it. People want to do things together. They support this particular work I am engaged in to catalyze positive change in our society's views on aging.

It makes me happy to be nonlinear and right brain and to trust in my path. It makes me happy to share news of other people's adventures and challenges, like these two stories below I will share with you today.

News on the An-Tiki Voyage
Anthony Smith, the 85-year old captain of An-Tiki and his crew of three men between 56 and 71 successfully completed their 2,800 journey across the Atlantic on April 7th when they reached St. Maartens on their raft made of pipes after 66 days at sea. The expedition was intended to raise awareness about lack of clean water on the planet and to raise money for WaterAid. Read more about it here. The An-Tiki voyage--yet another example of late-life adventure and altruism.

I liked this story from the Guardian about a 91-year old man who took up bodybuilding when he was 85. Charles Eugster told reporters, 'I'm not chasing youthfulness. I'm chasing health...At 85 I had a crisis. I looked at myself in the mirror, and saw an old man. I was overweight, my posture was terrible and there was skin hanging off me. I looked like a wreck.' So he decided to do something about it and that's where his dream led him.

Do you find these stories inspiring? I sure do.

Every moment is fresh. We have the potential to discover or acknowledge what makes us happy and to engage in life in ways that are powerful, restorative and beautiful. It doesn't matter what size the gestures are, whether they are outer or inner. Each of us knows what is best for us when we allow ourselves to drop down into our heart's desire.

What makes you happy? How do you follow your bliss?