So, let's continue.
I've already linked Armistead Maupin so I'm not going to give background here. Like many people al over the world, I fell in love with his Tale Of The City series, and in love with all of its characters. Maupin loves his characters, warts and all. In watching the documentary, I learned of his Southern conservative background, which only made me feel how much more compassionate he could be because of it, at least in his writing. He understands his characters, accepts their imperfections and makes us all love them, too. The early films of Ang Lee (The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman) have this similar character phenomenon. Many of the most successful American sit-coms do the same thing. You love the whole ensemble.
I was in teaching in Argentina in February of 2015 and reading Maupin's The Days of Anna Madrigal (2014) which was a continuation of one of the main characters, now aged 92. In the book, one gets to "catch up" with many of the characters of the series, and it's BIZARRE how real this could feel to me, even though it is fiction. Perhaps the reason I felt it so strongly was that I was also going through a similar experience by being in Argentina. The last time I had been there was in 1998-1999, making multiple trips there having met a man whom I deeply loved. Like many long distance relationships, it wasn't destined to work, but my memories from that time were life markers, and the people I met there were ones I would never forget. On the bus from Mar del Plata where I had been teaching to Beunos Aires, I was reading Maupin and thinking about how I was about to re-unite with that man, and many of the people I had met 17 years earlier.
I've noticed over the years that gay people manage to convert their former love relationships into friendships more often than hetero people. I've got my theories to explain it, but that is not really important. I have remained friends with virtually all of my lovers. Good friends. We can talk on the phone. We say "I love you" even now. It's AMAZING to me. It makes me so happy and also makes me want to cry. Maybe because it's a heart-bursting kind of feeling. And on that bus, going to Buenos Aires, reading Maupin and, (here comes the connection to the title of these two blogs) listening to the Beach Boys song God Only Knows over and over again, knowing I was on my way to re-unite with friends and lovers from 17 years earlier, I just cried and cried in my little seat there, watching the flat pampas passing by endlessly. This moment on the bus, and the stories all combining to make that moment are a huge part of this solo project for me.
It's been about 4 days since I've been lamed. This inability to walk more than 200 feet without having to sit down really put the brakes on. It is turning out to be a mixed blessing. I needed to slow down, dial it down, rest, go easier on myself. Seattle just experienced an unusual snow episode; the city shut down for several days. I caught a nasty cold. Time to stay in bed and read a book. I read Gaiman's American Gods in about 3 days. 750 pages. Really good. Ate, read, slept. Probably the last thing I would have thought of doing just weeks before the shows, but there you go. The forced rest was a godsend.
I taught my weekly ballet class last night and walked home -- a 15-minute walk-- with no pain. That gave me hope.
I'm thinking that working on the ancients is affecting me more than I want to admit. It's affecting me for a number of reasons. In embodying them, learning what they are doing and how they are moving, I can't help but think about the future. In the far future, if I live another 25 or 30 years, I will be those people. But I realize that it is the near future that is affecting me more. I will lose these people sooner than that, and as much as I like to think I understand the way of life, it is an understanding that finds its security in the rational and intellectual. The emotional is another story.
Among the ancients are my mother and father. Of all the 371 people who contributed films, I have known these two people the longest. I wouldn't be here without them. I am so fortunate to have them still here at this time. All four of us children feel beyond blessed to still be able to talk and laugh with our parents in our late 50's. They are relatively healthy, still cognizant, funny, loving. They both feel so fortunate, and each one has told us (they are divorced and live in different states) that they have had wonderful lives and are ready to go when it's time. It's amazing. It's fantastic.
So I feel so lucky for all this, and simultaneously never really ready to lose them. I teeter between the sweetness of love and the pain of loss. That's life, isn't it?
Tonight, I was unable to sleep because of this cold. Every time I got horizontal-- even with those Breathe Easy strips-- I could not breathe through my nose. And as I lay there in bed, my thoughts went to what I've been writing about here, as well as a documentary Koushik and I watched this evening on Armistead Maupin.
Well, it was bound to happen.
I'm having trouble walking and standing. It's been going on and getting progressively worse since the beginning of January. I've been to see all the great body people I know and no definitive diagnosis yet, which leads me to think it's soft tissue and maybe even related to psychosomatic causes and, um, BEING ALMOST 58 YEARS OLD! Xrays await me this week, which I hope will help rule out bone stuff.
Anyway, no stress. One moment at a time. I can get a lot done visualizing, and I'm still not through learning the ancients-- literally a handful of films left of people born in 1933 and 1934. I will sit here at my desk and finish learning what I can. Maybe I'm just empathically taking on physical limitations as I learn the movements of those in their 80's and 90's? That is kind of creepy, but why not? Pain and limitation are two things that I believe visit us more often as we age; it might be better to view them as inevitable social calls, and optimistically, as temporary ones.
The hard part of course is living with the memory of that pain and limitation and continuing to move through it. Yesterday, I wanted to move through it, and went out walking, but had to sit down every two blocks from the dull ache in my left leg. That kind of pain can lead to an aversion to walking, a shrinking of a world, a closing in of sorts. It's what all aging people deal with: the reduction of ability and the simultaneous knowledge that fighting the reduction is the best way to slow down its hold.
It's winter :-)
Slowly slowly slowly....
This afternoon, looking out at the snowfall, I rehearsed at the Velocity Dance Center for 3 hours and actually ran through 27 minutes of material. I integrated all those born in the 40's, 50's and 60's-- about 150 films.
The 60's is a big decade-- almost 90 films just in that decade, so it scares me. I learned all of them in the fall, but then moved on to the 50's and earlier this January. This is one of the hardest parts-- to go back into the films I "learned" and not be able to readily conjure them up. It's frustrating and intimidating; I tend to want to shy away from getting back into them because I'm afraid I've lost everything and have to start from Step One to learn them again. However, each time I face that obstacle and go in, I realize that it's still in my memory, and my body memory, and I don't need so much time to re-learn them. They come back more quickly than I anticipate, which is GOOD. Perhaps knowing this, I won't have quite as much resistance as I put the monster together. Maybe it's not even a monster...?
So today was good. And I love the snow!
View from the studio today.
Damnit, I just don't write! Part of the problem is that I want to write BEAUTIFULLY, but then I don't write at all. In addition, I want to write in some sort of chronological order, but that holds me back as well. SO, forget it. I'll just write what I want to write at the moment.
The past couple of weeks have been tough. Weirdly tough. It's all based on anxiety.
I am at that special point in the process-- almost finished "learning" all the films, and approaching the goal of being able to remember everything and run everything. It is also the point of perhaps realizing that this project is not possible the way I envisioned. I will have neither the memory nor the stamina to do it. With that in the back of my mind and permeating my soul, I am living in a state of anxiety which seems to manifest in a bum hip that makes it hard to stand and walk. (Not hard to dance, mind you, just stand and walk!) What this means is that I can rehearse, I can even take dance classes (I have taken two WHOLE dance classes each week for the past 2 weeks-- something I have not done in at least 5 years), but when I just need to WALK to rehearsal or class, or stand up in between running something, I'm in pain. Yep. I am so grateful to have a team of people who know my body and bodies in general, and even more importantly, the health insurance to see these people! It's nothing major like a hip that needs to be replaced, just muscles and tendons and TENSION.
To confirm this diagnosis, one has only to be with me at night when I am dreaming. I have so many anxiety dreams in every possible stereotypical direction: 1) the unprepared-for-the-performance dream 2) the can't-get-to-the-theater dream 3) the cannot-find-my-things-to-leave-the-house dream 4) the body-falling-apart-need-a-doctor dream. Yep. Fun fun fun!
My mantra for today is RELEASE AND SURRENDER. Release, especially. Let my muscles go. Try not to hold on to anything. Trust. Oh, and I've been virtually rehearsing here in a Starbucks, having looked at about 100 films already (people born in the 40's 50's and 60's) and run through them in my mind. This post is my break from that. At least I wrote something today. God knows no one is reading this, anyway.
Love to all.
Let's go back to an older beginning.
The Shree Rudram.
The Rudram is an ancient Sanskrit text, or stotra, a Sanskrit word that means "ode, eulogy or a hymn of praise." It is a literary genre of Indian religious texts designed to be melodically sung. I'm trying to find an approximate date of when these verses were written, but I cannot. My experience of chanting this text happened in the early 90's at the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Ganeshpuri, India where my mother was living. One grabs a little book with the Sanskrit text and translation, sits down, and recites (sing) it for about 30 minutes. The words in the text have signs over them to indicate what tone to sing (example). Between the strange foreign words, the tones, and the breathing necessary to sing, chanting the Rudram requires a lot of focus and stamina. I would finish the chant feeling this strange combination of exhaustion and exhilaration.
There are Brahmin priests who memorize these entire texts-- tones and all-- which reminded me of how I have memorized long pieces of classical music as a child, or how as dancers, we can memorize 20-30 minutes of steps. These undertakings of memorization have always felt like acts of love and devotion.
The full-evening solo I made to Johann Sebastian Bach's The Goldberg Variations was just such an undertaking. Choreographed between 1994 and 1997, I wanted to make an 80-minute solo for myself that would challenge/extend my physical and expressive capacities while simultaneously being entertaining to an audience. The title of this Bach masterwork alludes to a story in which a certain Count Keyserlingk who suffered from insomnia, wanted Bach to write some music for his harpsichordist, Goldberg, that could be played on those nights he could not sleep. I used to jokingly say that The Goldberg Variations were written to help someone fall asleep; I wanted to see if I could keep everyone awake.
I wanted to make one more "big" solo for myself. Another act of love and devotion. To be continued....