Friday, February 24, 2012

The Artist's Life: Blessings of Creativity

I often go to bed early, so waking before dawn is not so unusual for me. This morning I got up at 4am with a head full of ideas. Starting the day early is normal, but waking with a flood of ideas does not happen every morning. Should I be thankful for that? Probably so. And I'm thankful too for the ongoing exhuberance of my creativity.

Many creative ideas are brief visitors. They just pass through on their trajectory as they seek some artist who has an affinity with them. Some of them do stick around though in order to be womanifested.

This morning I met with a gaggle of ideas for creating T-shirts, baseball caps and mugs with positive aging slogans on them. I was thinking of them as perks for donors who contribute to the fundraising campaign that we'll be mounting at IndieGoGo soon.

I already developed one T-shirt that says YOUTH IS A GIFT OF NATURE BUT AGE IS A WORK OF ART...Perhaps I should do more of those, I thought. How about a t-shirt that says AUDACIOUS AGING or BE BOLD! The B in bold should be a different color in order to bring the idea that one has the choice be bold in aging. I really like the idea of creating objects with positive aging remarks on them. Should we also develop a little book with photos and lyrics from A New Wrinkle, as Frannie suggested? Hmmmm....

And so I made my way to the kitchen to brew the morning coffee.

My daughter's puppy Samo stayed overnight. Now my house looks the way a place looks when there's an active toddler around--toys and a half chewed up cardboard box are strewn all over the floor. Samo's resting on the couch at the moment. When it warms up we'll go out into the garden and play out there for awhile. It is delicious to have an animal friend in my life again after more than a decade without any pets. I enjoy her visits-- though so far I have no urge to get a dog of my own.


During the last month I engineered three photo shoots of tango dancers, Death and Baba Yaga, to be used for publicity for A New Wrinkle. I really enjoyed getting dolled up as Death and Baba Yaga. Stepping into various personas and archetypes is a great deal of fun. What about doing it on a regular basis? a voice within me is saying. Hmmm....

I've returned to do considerable work on the script for A New Wrinkle, after a great session with my old friend playwright Carolyn Myers. I changed the order of the songs and have done major rewriting on the connective between-song skits. I'm far more satisfied with the script now-- but I'm sure it's still in the development phase.

I have to laugh when I recall starting in on the revue in January 2008 and saying perkily to Carolyn that I was sure it would be ready for production by June. She arched her eyebrows ever so slightly, looked at me straight on and said, "I don't think that's very likely." Of course, she was right. I was naive, overly optimistic and just plain unaware of what it would take to work in a completely new medium, or what a sizeable project I had undertaken.

Thankfully, in spite of an old habit of impatience, I have been enjoying the learning curve, the people I've been meeting and working with and the experience of the revue's organic development.

The garden is another creative endeavor that I find rejuvenating and satisfying. Over the winter months, I've done pruning, digging up ivy roots, enriching the soil and I've even moved plants and planted a few new ones.

I have a red wheelbarrow. When I used it this morning it reminded me of the famous poem that William Carlos Williams wrote about a red wheelbarrow.

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

William Carlos Williams was a renowned poet and he was also a doctor in Paterson, New Jersey --in fact he was my doctor when I was a baby. When I began writing poetry myself at the age of 11, my father used to joke that he thought Dr. Williams had thrown some poetry dust on me when I was a baby. Maybe he did. Poetry has been an essential part of my life and imagination from early on.

Here's Blackwater Woods, a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver

P.S. I have posted some of my writing on the Sage's Play website, and you are invited to take a look at it if you wish. Selections include several poems from Carrying a Torch for the Old Flame, the introduction for Songs of the Inner Life and some articles I've written on aging. Lyrics for the songs in A New Wrinkle are also on the site, as well as 4 mp3s of songs from the revue.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Baba Yaga and the Archetype of the Wild, Wise Old Woman

"There's a saying in our family: Be careful calling forth the great personages of stories; they have keen hearing and are likely to suddenly appear when you least expect them..."

---Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This certainly applies to Baba Yaga. One must have a healthy respect and be prepared for surprises, challenges and strange gifts. Baba Yaga is a figure from Slavic folklore, a dark goddesss, fierce like Kali or Hecate, a wise, wild crone, a demanding figure who may set you off on a heroic task to test your mettle. That's on a good day. When she sees your potential and likes what she sees, she can extend her magic, which she is doing here with the fortunate lad Ivan.

Baba Yaga is an archetype--- which Carl Jung describes as "ancient archaic images that derive from the collective unconscious."

In The Structure of the Psyche, Jung wrote, "The collective unconscious - so far as we can say anything about it at all - appears to consist of mythological motifs or primordial images, for which reason the myths of all nations are its real exponents. In fact, the whole of mythology could be taken as a sort of projection of the collective unconscious..." Jung said.

Archetypes have sweep and magnitude. They bring us out of linear time into the realm of myth and magic.

Which explains something about the fact that Baba Yaga lives deep in a forest in a twirling house that stands on chicken legs.

Naturally I had to write about that when I created lyrics for Baba Yaga's Raga, one of the 12 songs in the musical revue A New Wrinkle.

My house stands up on chicken legs/ it twirls and never sleeps/it makes a fearful frightening sound/that gives the people creeps/ and that's alright, yes that's alright with me."

One of my longtime friends is an archetype known as Coyote Woman. I am attracted to quixotic, mischievous, magical and powerful agents of the imagination, so I suppose it's not that surprising that I invited Baba Yaga to enter my world. Some days though it seems that she appeared before I was aware that I was inviting her. Then it was obvious that I had to write her into A New Wrinkle, my musical revue on aging, as an important character. Not that Baba Yaga could ever be an unimportant character.

So far so good as far as my relationship with Baba Yaga goes. Healthy respect and good motivation help. Clarissa Pinola Estes describes Baba Yaga as, "...a representation of a great woman who sees clearly, is decisive and knows the patterns of the universe." "Confronting and integrating her lessons make the heroines stronger and wiser. In confronting her, the heroines have to listen to their intuition.
Baba Yaga is also unconfined by convention and unafraid to be herself.

In A New Wrinkle she tells us, "You found your inner child years ago, and now it's time to find your inner Baba Yaga!"

I made myself a Baba Yaga headdress months ago-- long gray dreadlocks with silver threads and feathers. I love wearing it.

Last week, a wonderful nose that I ordered arrived in the mail. Baba Yaga has a big nose and I needed one to get into character.

Here are a few of the photos that Helga Motley took in our Baba Yaga session the other day.

the heroinesT

This one is one of my favorites.

What does it say to you?

I'm interested in knowing your reaction to this image and the others here.

Baba Yaga had a very tiny tea cup that day.

These humans, they can't even remember to bring along a proper tea cup.

Bust those nice little old lady stereotypes with a powerful wise woman archetype!

I invite you to listen to the mp3 of Baba Yaga's Raga at our website, where you can also look at the lyrics for the other song that Baba Yaga sings in A New Wrinkle, a funny song about drugs and medications.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Saturday Shenanigans with Helga

I spent two Saturdays recently with Helga Motley, a photographer I've worked with over the years on many projects.

This time we were focused on some images for A New Wrinkle.

These are a few of the photos she took at our second photo date, when I got dolled up as Death.

One of the songs in A New Wrinkle is titled Death is Right around the Corner. Actually it is a series of songs -- one of which is sung by Death himself. Death says:

Death! it’s a hard job but somebody’s got to do it.

No one knows just when it’ll come and nobody’s gonna live through it.

Imagine if you will what life is like

For me, for Mr. Death.

Folks look at me with anguished eyes

When it comes to their last breath.

They flee from me, they will not play

Not a friend on Earth, no kids at home

I’ve got no one, I’m all alone

No wonder I’m not very gay.

I like some of the images we captured. What do you think of them?

The first time we met, we focused on tango photos. Our models were Clay Nelson and Ann Berry. There is a song titled Sex after Sixty in A New Wrinkle and it debunks the myth that older adults are uninterested in sex and intimacy. What's sexier than tango? Not much.

And even though the song Sex after Sixty actually has a Carribean feel to it in the revue, the lyrics do mention the tango---

doing the tango and fandango
from here to Durango
with your well-seasoned mango!

You can take a listen to an mp3 of the song at our website, Lyrics are available there, too.

This coming Friday Helga and I are getting together again to get some pictures of Baba Yaga, the archetypal magic hag who provides some of the medicine and humor in A New Wrinkle. You can hear a nice recording of Baba Yaga's Raga on our website, too.

And if you don't already subscribe to our monthly newsletter, please sign up at the website while you're there in order to receive more news and updates, fun graphics and links.

Here's an item from the National Center for Creative Aging January Newsletter....I am not in this league, contenting myself with exercising at the Y, taking some walks in nature and dancing. But more power to Mr. Finch and all older athletes. Here's the news item.

Greenville Centenarian Wants to be the Fastest Man Alive

Bill Finch turned 100 last week, but he still runs a mile twice a week and plays badminton. Finch does not have a secret for his longevity, but has been active his whole life. When he worked, he ran at least one mile a day before breakfast and has continued to pursue an active lifestyle. He set the national record for the 1500 at the age of 96 and plans on running in the National Senior Games in Cleveland by which time he will be 101. “I hope I keep living as long as I’m in good health” said Finch.

January 17, 2012,

Meanwhile, violets are blooming in this unseasonably warm and dry winter. Hoping we get more rain soon.