Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Art of the Human Spirit

I receive emails from time to time from friends' companies, galleries, etc all over the country, as many of us do. Often on a busy day, and as the email onslaught continues to gain momentum worldwide, I unfortunately delete these little nuggets of artistic breath without even reading them. When would i read this? There's so much to do! I'll never be able to see that...

But this one caught my eye, and reawakened why I joined said mailing lists in the first place. My two great passions are the arts and the healing arts, and one of my great loves, is to travel. Hence my intrigue and delight upon reading about this touring project that will be put on by the Moving Dock Theater Company in Chicago for one amazing performance as it makes its way through a few cities.

Still in Buffalo, I feel I was drawn here for reasons beyond what have yet been fully revealed to me, one of them to create bridges between the refugee and local populations via the arts, create spaces and dialogues for this vital work. As more of the world, and so many of its inhabitants become refugees, how can we help these people transition to very foreign cultures, and encourage them to share the richness of their own artistic traditions with us? Just a few of the questions with me tonight, and thought I'd share this piece for any who might be in Chicago, or for whom reading it may similarly inspire them.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

White Sails of Peace

Small actions, one at a time, that's all we need, as we walk our own individualized, yet connected paths towards inner peace.

More than a few years ago now, strange to even write that, my father gave me a "White Sails" aka "Peace Lily" or more formally as "spathiphyllum clevelandii." During the period in my life I was living in Detroit, and set upon two quests. 1) To offset the often bleak, lacking greenery landscape of this battered city with a lush green oasis inside my apartment, helping improve the air quality for my sensitive lungs all in one fell swoop. 2) To try to overcome, in my own humble way, my family's inability to keep any house plants alive. I look back on this period with great joy, everywhere I turned there were gorgeous aloe plants, spider plants, cacti, kitchen herbs and white sails, among others, and I was humming and happily propagating like mad. It was incredibly meditative and grounding to have my hands in that soil, to gently coo to the plants, to rejoice as they grew, and mourn those who did not make it. I dried my own sage to smudge the house, clipped fresh basil for pizza, and apologized and thanked grandma aloe for healing my burns. This was during a time that I cultivated hobbies. I took up knitting as well, and both my plants and my weaving brought me great peace.

And then the transitions, the upheavals that we go through continually in this earthwalk. My tenure in detroit was coming to a close, and I was moving into an indeterminate amount of time as a wandering gypsy artist. Each time I left my house, I forced myself to take something with me, to recycle, to give away... There were days it was a great joy, to look around at all that I had amassed and see which thing needed to go, why and to whom. Other days a great struggle, but I knew the outflow had to continue. I gave my plants away, eventually, to my dear friend, and many of them are still alive and well. And practicing detachment of one's belongings, although not always easy, is almost always rewarding. It reminds us that things are transient, friends, belongings, jobs, and to have faith that what we need in the future will be provided, or we will be led how to bring it into existence.

Ok, so quite the long tangent, back to the white sails. I was in love with the plant my father had given me, I remember the sheer joy when i saw the first arumlike flowers spring forth like great white cobra heads. I literally squealed. When my father passed, the plant became a strange connection beyond the veil, and it was ever so hard to part with it.

At the time of his memorial service, I remember that a family friend had gifted my sister and mother with a massive peace lily plant, not even knowing of the plant I had possessed. It started off in all its finery, lush, happy and vibrant, a poignant symbol of life, as we all dealt with the loss of my father. Over the next two years as I would go home, the plant looked less and less vibrant, I won't speculate why. As I mentioned, things have always thrived outside under the sun at my childhood home, but not inside those walls, and this plant would be no exception. I can't remember if my mother or sister insisted i took it or i offered, but somehow what was left of this peace lily traveled with me up to Buffalo. My lone plant coming to the new place I had set down roots.

And for the past two years, it has hung on for dear life, and I have not paid it the attention it needed, other than watering and finally getting some miracle grow sticks. A few months back, a friend with a green thumb, who i queried about the plant's health said, "how old is it? and you haven't replaced the soil? there are no nutrients in there!" And i cringed, guilty as charged, and thought how true that is of so many of us, still trying to get nourishment from dead soil of the self, fearful of what repotting might mean.

I cannot even count how many times I would look into the kitchen, where this plant sat, a life force exactly as old as my father has been gone, and think "i need to repot you" or "maybe i should get a friend white sail and we'll repot you together." but these thoughts remained just that, thoughts, musings.

June 16 was four years, four years?!? And today, July 1, I finally repotted the plant. I had a mystical morning and after receiving a much needed massage, found my way face to face with Urban Roots, a store I have wanted to go in since I moved here, and finally did so today. And right in the front, was a baby white sails, eager to grow and push forth those magnificent flowers. So i bought her and some organic soil and went home and gently emptied the old pot and sang to the starved roots and leaves, introduced them to their new friend and sat there so at peace with my fingers in rich earth. Who knows how they will fare, if they'll even get along and coexist, but that's part of the fun, to see what will happen, and to give them each a fighting chance.

And now I return to my day, and all the things to do that are always waiting for me, but with a different sense of peace then I have had in some time. A small action that meant so much.

Love you Dad.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Slowing the Tennis Match of the Mind

I just finished a very short, not long enough vacation, says my rational self. A deeper self says, at least you took some time to yourself, and you can already see the benefits.

i found myself, while on the short time away, observing my mental tennis. it wasn't just one match, but many, andre agassi, steffi graf and pete sampras all hammering away at the same time, with john macenroe screaming at the judge at the same time and same volume as peter connors...

but the physical distance i gifted myself from my current home of buffalo, the time in the car watching the landscape change, the vastness of the forests out the window, and then the vastness of the ocean, began to work their magic on me, and in just a few days it was just billy jean having a mellow practice match with chris evers...

i am now in the challenge of being back in buffalo, with many things looming ahead of me as i return to my schedule, but with a deeper sense that i can keep the match slow, and have the tools at hand, my breath, my yoga, my writing, music... for each of us they are different, singular and evolving, that when all resume their din at once, which is sure to happen, i can recall the breath of the ocean, or the sound of the open road, close my eyes for five minutes of vacation and return renewed and refreshed... enjoy the time between each hit of the ball, the deep inner peace that is always only a breath away.