Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reaching for the Moon

Full moon time again. This marvelous photo is part of a series titled Moon Games that photographer Laurent Laveder created using his children as models. I highly recommend that you take a look at what Laurent has done at Moon Games. The images are quite magical and I imagine it was a lovely experience to play with one's children and the moon at the same time.

We've all dreamed of climbing up to the moon at times, haven't we? I know I have done my share of it. When I was a child, one of my favorite occupations each month was kneeling at the window, resting my arms on the sill and gazing out at the full moon and stars late at night when everyone else was asleep.

We humans have been moon gazing for a very long time. There's something about it that stirs and revives us. Of course, that inspires art, whether it's Laurent Laveder's photos or haiku by the famous Japanese poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). Here are three of my favorite Basho poems about the moon.

The pine tree of Shiogoshi
Trickles all night long
Shiny drops of moonlight.

Among moon gazers
at the ancient temple grounds
not one beautiful face

Spring too, very soon!
They are setting the scene for it --
plum tree and moon.

Have you ever written haiku or other forms of poetry about the moon? Do you reach for the moon from somewhere deep within yourself? What does the full moon mean to you?

Meanwhile the sun is rising outside the windows with an orange glow. Yes, spring is certainly arriving here in Oregon. Violets, daffodils and even some early tulips ornament the landscape. The hills are green again, even though we still could get more snow in the mountains. Each spring, completely fresh.

Full moon gazing and springlike appreciation-- and on a practical level, the next two weeks will be busy ones in my casita. Composer Laura Rich and I just had our second run-through of the songs in A New Wrinkle. It's great to hear them, but there is still more work to do to get the singers comfortable enough with the material to warrant recording the songs. I'm also rewriting the script of the play some. We're still revising some of the songs, too. So there's all that regarding the play.

This week, I am beginning work on what will be a series of video clips for You Tube that will document the process of creating A New Wrinkle (and other creative ventures from Sage's Play.) I am working on putting the first three of these clips up soon. It's playing around with a Flip Cam and so far has been lots of fun.

In addition, I'm moving in mid-March. The move is not a big one geographically. I will still be in Ashland. But it entails all the usual packing, so my place is now filled with empty boxes and packing material and the piles of filled boxes increase each day. I will be sharing a home with my friend Louise Pare. I'm looking forward to it.

And check out the trailer for this documentary on women artists, "Who Does She Think She Is?" Although women comprise more than half the population, it is more difficult for them to succeed as artists. If they are raising children, that demands a great deal of creative attention and rightly so. Even those without children encounter the prevalent assumption that all the great artists are men, and the cultural bias toward art created by men. I am looking forward to seeing the whole film.

That's the full moon news from my neck of the woods.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

P.S. More on Well-Aged Singers

The New York Times is on a roll. Just a couple of days after its feature on the latest musical doings of Yoko Ono, 77, the Times ran in its Sunday edition a feature on Judy Collins, 70. Nice article, and worth reading for a picture of a performer with a 40-year career who still maintains a rigorous performance schedule, packs her own healthy food along the way, likes to listen in on church choirs and goes to movies in NYC with her husband.

Of course there's Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton and the chaps in the Rolling Stones. All of them are just whippersnappers compared to the really old masters like B.B. King, a 14-time Grammy winner now 85. He's got a road trip scheduled this year of 20 appearances starting in April and ending in November. I never get tired of listening to and experiencing performances by B.B. King. Here's a clip of him singing "Three O'Clock in the Morning." Enjoy.

I will be covering more well-aged artists in different fields along the way here in Sage's Play. Poets, writers, painters, dancers, actors and more. So stay tuned.

I'm about to create a few You Tube clips that talk about the development of my musical play A New Wrinkle and feature some excerpts and songs from the play. It's another new learning experience, this time with a little Flip Cam and some friends. Will let you know when these are ready for viewing.

That's it for this beautiful Sunday. Wishing you a wonderful creative and happy time doing whatever it is you have in mind for the day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Musing on singers 70 and beyond

Two days ago there was an article in the New York Times about Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band Tribute at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Ono who will turn 77 this month, was accompanied by her son Sean Lennon, who looks remarkably like his father John, and by other musical lights including Eric Clapton, Paul Simon and Bette Midler. Yoko Ono started out as a controversial voice/performance artist, often mocked for her innovation. She's still at it, but now her work has entered the musical mainstream.

Leonard Cohen started a big big (translate as rigorous) world tour last year and will continue it this year in Europe after an injury to his lower back heals. Cohen is 75 and continues to be a moving presence and performer. Here is a clip of him singing his iconic song I'm Your Man, followed by a recitation of his song A Thousand Kisses Deep.

In 2003, British blues rocker John Mayall had a big 70th birthday concert accompanied by Eric Clapton and other old friends from the Blues Breakers and elsewhere. It was smokin'! Wonderful to hear Mayall's voice and artistry in his maturity.

It's inspiring to experience these older musicians' vividness. And one cannot pretend that the show goes on forever. Etta James,(pictured above) one of my favorite blues singers,now 72, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Her singing career has ended in a way that may seem abrupt to us as fans, but her family saw it coming. According to her son at the beginning of February, Etta had become confused and combative and was moving into a nursing home. Art can make our life rich and full of meaning, but so far it hasn't kept us from dying.

What can I say here? I am sad for Etta and for us all. Life is after all fairly brief.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Opening The Doors and Windows

“Our senses are indeed our doors and windows on this world, in a very real sense the key to the unlocking of meaning and the wellspring of creativity.”--Jean Houston

The Muse and the creative inspiration she embodies is not tidy or convenient. It's important to keep regular work hours and invite her to visit you then, but she may choose to visit you at odd hours or unlikely places, too. That explains why I woke at 2:30 AM with the sound of various songs from my play going through my mind.

Yesterday I attended the first run through of the songs in my play with four singers and a very good pianist. Composer Laura Rich and pianist Darcy Danielson took charge together, and I mostly sat and listened, and sometimes got up on the pretext of turning the heat in the hall up. I really wanted the chance to walk a little as I listened to some of the music. It was sometimes a big experience to hear it, and walking helped me to hear and integrate the sounds I was experiencing.

Reclaiming Old, the first song the Chorus sings brought tears to my eyes. I loved what Laura did with it, bringing something gentle, powerful, dissonant at times, loving and elegiac. What a process. The singers learning their parts together, me hearing where they stumbled because the lyrics were too heady or compressed, and noticing their delight and appreciation for what was being communicated in the songs. That kind of response came especially during the Reclaiming Old piece, the Scintillating Secrets of the Older Brain, and Sex after Sixty. Witnessing their response to the songs was like having feedback from my first audience in a way.

Still work to do of course. Lyrics and music are not done, but are in a process of development. This is just the beginning of opening this particular door, sharing what has been a collaboration between just Laura and I with a wider circle, then wider and wider still, opening the door to refining the songs and dialog in the play, opening the door to more actors, singers and musicians, to productions, to audiences.

"Imagination is the beginning of creation," George Bernard Shaw said. "You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will."
In that process, the Muse appears, gives you one of her incandescent looks or touches you with her incandescent wings and you find yourself going out beyond yourself into that beautiful place where what you are creating is no longer merely you. Opening the door to the transpersonal, the universal, the canto hondo, the deep song.

I had a wonderful astrological reading in December with Vedic astrologer Dennis Flaherty. One of the things he talked about was "getting into the river of what inspires you." That's what I am doing these days. That is how I want to live this part of my life.

The beautiful image included in this post is a window somewhere in Portugal. It rejuvenates me. There are many evocative doors and windows ready to be opened--the door of the senses, the door of the imagination, the door of the heart, the door of one's deeper dreams and purpose. What doors and windows are you opening now in your life?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When Galaxies Meet

Nature is the most breathtaking ongoing example of creative collaboration. Each element-- air, earth, fire, water, space-- is incredibly distinct and powerful. And those elements weave, dance, merge, collide, explode, dissipate, and appear continuously in an astounding display giving us weather, seasons, environments, ecologies, landscapes--moods and expressions that are subtle, unfathomable in their complex harmony, dramatic and without constraint.

And universes. Galaxies. Way out there in the slow turning of the timeless. Sometimes I wonder whether the galaxies are also deep within my body. And there are times when I know that they are. When I am taken out of the tiny beauty and imbroglios of my personal life to merge with the immensity of the universal. To me, this is an essential element in art and in life.

We often think of the work of great artists as the expression of their individual genius. Of course it is. Only Monet could paint those particular paintings. Only Martha Graham could dance or choreograph those certain dances. Only Emily Dickinson could write that particular poetry.

But so much of art and human endeavor depends upon collaboration. We are linked to, supported and influenced by our family, community, region, country, era, gender, philosophy, age. I've been thinking of collaboration a great deal lately. I was reviewing my various collaborative efforts over the years from the basketball and softball teams of my youth, working on magazines as a writer and editor, playing in improvisational music groups, developing new nonprofit organizations, participating in a dynamic Buddhist community for over 30 years and writing a best-selling book with my former husband.

"Every collaboration helps you grow." musician Brian Eno says of his collaboration with David Bowie. That's certain. Sometimes you just have to thank your lucky stars that your prayers for a great collaborative partnership were answered. What is a great collaborative partnership? For me, it means working with others who have talents I don't have, sharing and creating in ways that are supportive, warm, respectful, honest and lively.

It's a great experience to write in a solitary way, to spend hours imagining and developing creative work alone. And it's also marvelous and very stimulating to collaborate, to be refreshed and aired out by playing with other people.

I know that's what's in the stars for me. Galaxies will meet, that's for sure. My collaboration with composer Laura Rich on the music in my play has been and is a wonderful partnership. And I know it is just the beginning. Now I will meet new galaxies aplenty--and they will be disguised as actors, singers, musicians, directors, producers, backers, supporters and audiences. And in the meeting of those galaxies all stars, planets, black holes and mysteries of outer and inner space will be charged and changed in ways that are yet to be known.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The First Violets

Yes, I know the dear little fellow is in the midst of a field of bluebells, not violets. But he expresses so well how it makes me feel to find the first violets each year. Yesterday I found them at the side of a house in the historic district of Ashland, very near where my daughter lives. There they were, marvelous clumps of beautiful scent and color along the fence and at the side of the house. When we returned from our walk, I had to pick a tiny bouquet.

When I went out in the spring meadows
to gather violets
I enjoyed myself so much
I stayed all night.

I read that poem last night with the tiny bouquet of violets sitting on my dining table emitting its delicate odor. I did not stay out all night in the spring meadows, or run through a field of bluebells, but my rendez-vous with the violets was a vivid splash in the midst of the day. This year once again I eagerly await spring. As poet Alan Spence writes--

First warmth of spring
I feel as if
I have been asleep...

We need more rain and hopefully it will arrive. Perhaps it will grow cold again. It is only February after all. But the buds are swelling, the daffodils push up from the earth, the crocuses are already blooming. And the violets have appeared.

One more poem for the day to come, from Kabir.

Do not go outside your house to see flowers
My friend, don't bother with that excursion
Inside your body there are flowers
One flower has a thousand petals.
That will do for a place to sit.
Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
Inside the body and out of it
Before gardens and after gardens.

Photo by Goodman Chris via Flickr

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Entertaining the Possibility

The Possible's slow fuse is lit
By the Imagination.
--Emily Dickinson

I'm having lunch today with a man in his 90s. He directed several plays in town over the past few years. The only other thing I know about him is that he has a courtly email style. I wrote to him recently to tell him about my musical play A New Wrinkle. "I cannot let this bold query go unanswered!" he replied. That was a good beginning, and I am looking forward to meeting him.

I am meeting many new people these days. On February 15th, composer Laura Rich and I will do the first run-through of songs in the play with the help of 4 singers and a pianist--I haven't met any of them. I put a call out for singers via two local choirs, and people responded. One thing I have found moving lately (I have a long list) is how enthused some people are about helping with A New Wrinkle, even though they know virtually nothing about it.

It's encouraging to be met with enthusiasm and support. I put out two fundraising appeals via my email list and through Elderwomanspace, an Internet community I belong to, and donations have been arriving in my Sage's Play post office box. Sometimes people tell me they admire me or thank me for asking for what I want or need. They send little love notes and messages of support. It's pretty darn wonderful. It warms me up and provides some funding to move forward. I have to look at writing grants soon, too.

I posted the image of the beautiful flowering meadow here because it nourishes me on this early February morning. Ahh, the green, the flowers, the warm, warm sun. I am not planning any outer travel at the moment, so this meadow is an imagination vacation.

Lately, I've had many opportunities to reflect about how what we believe possible is conditioned or limited by our perception and belief. Like when the big ship arrived and the indigenous inhabitants of that place simply did not see it because that ship was outside of their idea of what was possible. Which brought me back last week to "It's nothing that a month in Greece wouldn't cure" a statement often repeated during my second marriage.

When the thought came back to me again, I had to laugh. I'm not saying that I have to go to Greece for a month just because I thought of it, but I am saying it is possible.
It is possible I will go to Greece for a month. That makes me grin.

I am looking for any other big ships that have sailed into the harbor without me seeing them, and checking into the possibilities they hold. Last thing this morning--an appreciative thank you to all the helpful people and allies who have been appearing and who will appear. I welcome your presence and activity in my life.