Sunday, March 27, 2011

On the Path

I have been reading some wonderful blogs lately by women in their 50s, and that's led me to reflect upon my own experience in the decades between 50-70. A lot of seasoning occurred during that time, at least in my experience. I lived through a very unpleasant divorce at 56 and once the shock of that explosion began to fade in my psyche I dug out from under the sand and began to discover myself in a completely fresh way. Living alone, I had no one else to care for. I've had a long, slow chance to look deeply into the still pool of my soul and consider what is most valuable and important to me. What a blessing.

I'm much more relaxed about being myself than I was when I was in my 50s. I've developed a gentle kind of internal authority. It happened somewhere in the mid 60s. I'm certain that this is part of what is meant when we speak about maturing. I know much more about the gifts I have to share and how I want to share them. Also a blessing.

Reading Susan Piver's beautiful blog on the value of sadness the other day, I reflected upon how little I write about my Buddhist practice in this blog, though it thoroughly saturates my life. I have been a Buddhist since 1973 and have had many wonderful adventures of and teachings from Tibetan masters. I cannot imagine what my life would have been without these extraordinary meetings and my commitment to spiritual inquiry and deeper self understanding. Fortunately, I don't have to imagine that. Hallelujah! Living in such a secular society, doused as it is with fundamentalist religion, I feel protective about my spiritual life. It's so close to my heart. I will say this: my spiritual practice and the perspective it affords gives me courage in the midst of the wild waves of this era.

We had the first rehearsal of some songs from A New Wrinkle the other day, in preparation for A Celebration of Aging on April 23rd. It was great--4 wonderful singers and a wonderful pianist. Two more rehearsals to go. It's pretty exhilarating to be putting on this event, bringing together the performers and crew and magnetizing the audience. Lots of learning, new people, challenges and surprises. I'm also sending a proposal to Oregon Humanities, suggesting aging as a Conversation Project topic.

And I find myself longing to spend at least a little time immersing myself back into the writing of Songs of the Inner Life, a book project that nourishes me deeply, and that I want to finish and bring forth.

Meanwhile, I continue to notice what is being said in the culture about aging. Here's an interesting article from the New York Times about baby boomers who never had children, and their concerns about who will care for them in their old age.

And here is a link to a film that is being aired on some public television stations about various folks in their 90s. Now that gives me pause. If so much growth happens between 50-70, then what is it like from 70-90? Check out the trailer for the movie that is part of this link.

Oh and a recent article from the New York Times reported about Stephane Hessel, a hero of the French Resistence. At 93, he is the author of a best seller that has become a publishing phenomenon in France. As the Times reports, "It is not the story of his life (he wrote his autobiography years ago), but a thin, impressionistic pamphlet called “Indignez-Vous!,” held together by two staples and released by a two-person publishing house run out of the attic of their home. It urges young people to revive the ideal of resistance to the Nazis by peacefully resisting the “international dictatorship of the financial markets” and defending the “values of modern democracy.” Since its publication in October, the pamphlet has sold over 1.5 million copies.

I checked the blog of the An-Tiki voyage, led by 84 year old captain Anthony Smith. They're still rafting across the Atlantic. I like following their progress.

I like the way that sages play.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Artist's Life: The Production Details

Isn't the front of this postcard gorgeous? I'm so pleased with it. It describes the event I am producing on April 23rd at the Ashland Community Center to preview some of the songs in A New Wrinkle and to spotlight the subject of aging in life-affirming ways.

The program will include:
• An ensemble of singers with songs from A New Wrinkle
• Bestselling author, speaker and coach Dr. Rick Kirschner
• Improvisational comedy with Hamazon Carolyn Myers
• The gorgeous operatic voice of Pauline Sullivan
• Poetry, insights on aging, surprise guests!
Tickets $10 Available at Soundpeace and at the door

Robert Frost is the graphic designer for the card. I love his work and have worked with him for about 10 years on various projects. Check out his website to see more of his particular genius.

The postcard is one detail in my current event's production. And it's a very important detail. I will use the postcard for publicity and will send it to individuals who fund the arts, in the hope of attracting them to my project.

I discovered years ago that I love producing events. It always begins in imagination--visualizing and sensing the energies and talents of various people and how they might combine to create a moving experience--to me, that exercise and bringing it forth into reality is really fun. I feel confident I've putting together a great menu for this event, and that the result will be a delicious feast, a celebration of aging, creativity and community. I've wanted to produce an elderfest for 2 years now, and this event is my first step in that direction.

In order to preview some of the songs in A New Wrinkle, I had to find a pianist and 5 singers. Two weeks of challenge, frustration, including those inevitable moments of wish I never started this. That is usually part of producing anything, as you probably have noticed. Thank goodness my collaborator, the composer Laura Rich helped me with locating possible singers. Now the ensemble has appeared and we will be working with Jennifer Schloming, one of the top pianists in the area. Our first rehearsal is this Wednesday. Yes, it's pretty exciting. One of the singers performed on Broadway, another is a nurse, another a weaver. I am looking forward to our work together. After the April 23rd event, we will record 4 of the songs for a promo CD!

Who can I get to help with set-up and clean-up? What about a tech person for the PA system? How about someone for the door? What can I do to get the word out into the community, in addition to the regular news and internet channels? What about costumes? And so it goes. One month from now, it will come to fruition.

This event is a birthday present I am giving myself. When I first began thinking of my 70th birthday, I imagined taking a month off to travel, but the timing was off. One's creative projects have a life of their own. So here I am producing this event. Even though I am the orchestrator, I know that the event itself goes far beyond that organizing. It will contain wonderful surprises, new insights and opportunities for me and everyone who attends. I can see the faces of the audience as they listen to the songs and take in the other beautiful offerings everyone is making. Sage's Play in action. It is perfect, really. I feel happy. I feel happy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Some thoughts while sailing toward 70

I'll be 70 next month, an age I never imagined becoming. Yet now it appears on my horizon. Of course, I'm happy to live to see 70 and to be healthy, creative and energized in the bargain. With people living to 90 and 100, 70 seems not that old (except to people 30 and below) yet it is old enough for me to know that I have entered the final movements of the music that is my life. As I have said before, the certainty that we are mortal puts a keen edge on the passions and dreams of those over 50.

I feel very blessed these days by the love and support of many people. Nothing ever gets done in this world except through responsive relationships with others, through collaboration, cooperation and friendship. I contemplate that often these days. I am deeply appreciative when people support my work, whether they do it financially, emotionally or physically (or all three--truly a bonus). Their support, the fact that they believe in me, inspires me and increases my momentum.

I've recently received $1,800 from individual philanthropists, including one donation of $1,000 and one for $500. My total fundraising goal is $15,000, so it may seem that $1,800 is not much. But it is much. It is vital. It is allowing me to take the next step with A New Wrinkle, my musical revue on aging. Right now I'm planning a fundraising event for April 23rd and in May I will work with the same group of singers who are so generously contributing their talents at the fundraising event to record three of the songs in the revue for a promo CD. The promo CD will be very helpful for further fundraising and broader media contact. It will allow me to give possible producers a taste of what's in the revue, too.

I really enjoy producing events especially when they include a variety of people and experiences, which this upcoming event will. (More details on the program specifics to come soon!) The event also marks my 70th birthday, give or take a few days. So it's wonderful on various levels. It will take place at the Ashland Community Center, a simple, old-fashioned hall that holds plenty of memories from the more than 30 years I've lived here in this artsy town.

Incidentally, the best way to learn more about upcoming Sage's Play events is to sign up for my newsletter. The link is on the Sage's Play website.

While I have been immersed in my own creative tumult and dance, events in the world continue to provide profound counterpoint. Like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, with its massive destruction, including damage to two nuclear reactors. "Radioactive Danger Is Hard to Assess," says a headline in the New York Times today. There are people who assume the best about nuclear energy, genetically engineered foods and global warming, but I am not among them. Radioactivity is not healthy. And it's definitely on everyone's minds.

My friend Elaine posted some remedies for radiation exposure on Facebook: "Salt baths, carotenoids (found in dark green, red, orange food, and yellow fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, apricots, tomatoes, beets, carrots, kale, collards, chard, and spinach) these significantly reduce chromosomal damage in humans exposed to radiation. Seaweed has been shown to neutralize radioactive isotopes in the human body. The algin in brown seaweeds, for instance, binds to radioactive strontium to create a harmless and easily excreted compound. Black and green tea, reishii (a mushroom), beans, lentils, and garlic have also credited by numerous studies with reducing the harmful effects of radiation."

We are thinking about the people in Japan and praying for their welfare.

When I contemplate the various forms of devastation going on on the planet, I am very aware of how fragile and small we hubris-afflicted humans are compared to the immense forces of nature. My friend Elaine also posted a link on Facebook the other day to Aluna a movie made by and with the Kogi, a remote civilization living high in the Sierra Nevada in Columbia. The BBC made a movie of the Kogi in 1990 titled The Heart of the World. Then and now the Kogi are urging us to change while there is still time. This clip from the film Aluna really moved me. I usually don't write about environmental matters on this blog, but that will probably change. Creative aging takes many forms. Elders have a responsibility to protect and guide. It's up to each of us to contribute to the greater good in our own ways. We all want to safeguard the Earth for our descendants. That is a highly creative act.

Thinking about these things made me remember two poems about Icarus, who fell from the sky after he flew too close to the sun and his wings melted. Our culture and way of life reminds me of Icarus these days. One poem is by W.H. Auden and the other by William Carlos Williams. Here's a link to the Auden poem. MUSEE DES BEAUX ARTS

It's warming up. The daffodils have begun to bloom here. The violets, the crocuses. Tree buds are swelling. The hills are growing green again. Sending you warm greetings wherever you may be on this beautiful Earth.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A different kind of role for actor Mickey Rooney

Legendary actor Mickey Rooney, now 90 years old, made news last week when he testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging that he is a victim of elder abuse.

Rooney's emotional testimony put the issue of elder abuse on the national stage in a heartrending way. "For years I suffered silently. I didn't want to tell anybody. I couldn't muster the courage, and you have to have courage," Rooney said. "I needed help and I knew I needed it. Even when I tried to speak up, I was told to shut up and be quiet."

He told the committee, "My money was stolen from me, by someone close. My money was taken and misused. When I asked for information, I was told that I couldn't have any of my own information. I was literally left powerless." An April 5th court hearing will investigate charges Rooney is bringing against his stepson. The court filing claims that the stepson withheld food and medicine, acted intimidating and verbally abusive, and abused Rooney financially.

Rooney continued, "When a man feels helpless, it is terrible. And I was helpless," he said. "If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone."

I am very glad that this venerable, vulnerable screen icon had the courage to testify as he did. As he pointed out in his testimony, he was afraid to speak up, and suffered silently for years. I hope that his testimony brings some positive change for the elders that continue to suffer abuse silently from family, friends and caregivers. Regular readers of this blog know that I enjoy highlighting the artistic, athletic and civic achievements of elders. To me, Rooney's testimony constitutes a brave achievement.

Elder abuse is a very virulent form of ageism. According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 2.1 million older Americans annually become victims to physical, psychological, sexual, financial, or other forms of abuse and neglect. Ageism and elder abuse--they've got to go!