Monday, October 31, 2016

Word of the Week - 139

Word of the Week:  CHOREOGRAPHY

First, credit to Jerome Robbins for conception and choreography of WEST SIDE STORY.  The opening sequence has never lost its appeal, likely never will.

This week's word came to me while watching the Golden State Warriors play the New Orleans Pelicans the other night.  Having seen the Warriors throughout last season, including the playoffs and championship, I had a picture of what the court looked like during a game.  With the addition of Kevin Durant to the equation, it appeared to me that a new configuration was being eased into, one with which those concerned had not yet become fully fluent.  Where there had once been two principles, now there were three.  As one of the color commentators seemed ready to declare a team misfire part-way into the second game of the season, I saw the working out of new choreography.  When you go here, then you go there and you'll be ready for this.   Places, everyone.  Rehearsals have just begun.

I find that flux influences my days, flexibility and improvisation are required if one is to keep on one's feet, even figuratively.  It is still choreography, whether or not one is actively mobile.  Colliding with other dancers, with fixed objects, with change, happens.  Would that it happened less rather than more.  We have our routines, our expectations, the pieces of the production on which we depend - our own strength, our wits, our capabilities, all of them mutable.  Aging may bring these variations, this need to regroup regularly, into sharper focus, yet I know they've always been there for me.  A more youthful elasticity may have masked their constancy, whereas they now step boldly from the wings and demand a place on the stage.  The other dancers rearrange themselves with as much grace as they can muster.  They are learning not to grumble.

It seems my actions are all variations on working to make peace with uncertainty.  The phrase, "What fresh hell is this?" is one I utter often.  Not hell, exactly, but still surprising, unexpected.  I think of walls, the bricks hold their integrity while the mortar crumbles.  How to keep it all from falling down.

As words escape me, awareness seems easier to access.  It may be the product of greater stillness or the brain teaching itself new tricks.  A definition of evolution refers to, "the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form."  I don't believe it was ever truly easy, we just let ourselves be fooled into thinking it so.  My wish:  the ability to evolve as the situation requires.  There will be new steps to learn tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Word of the Week - 138

From "Letters to a Young Poet," by Rainer Maria Rilke. Translated by Joan M. Burnham. New World Library: 2000.
Word of the Week:  FERVENT

Yes, "completely baked" as spoken by Benjamin in THE GRADUATE would qualify as fervent.  Definitely feverish.

Fervent is never half-baked, never tepid, never neither-this-nor-that.  It is passionate, fiery hot,  may appear obsessive.  Heartfelt.

What is the point of showing up with indifference?  Let them talk.  "She seemed, well, awfully intense.  I'm not sure that is considered good manners."  Probably not.  This is life we're talking about.  As Mary Oliver says, "your one wild and precious life."  Be a shame to get over-excited about that and all the wonders it contains.  Perhaps I need to sit back down with a cool cloth to my forehead.

As I write this, we are having oddly balmy winds, none of the chance of showers forecast as late as this morning, and the neighborhood Amazon parrots are shrieking through the skies as though warning us of something.  They do a lot of jabbering so we don't take them seriously.  The point is that I sit at my table on the second floor, amid the trees where I can see no cars nor dwellings.  An hour ago a crow with a wingspan of several feet found delicacies in the palm tree just beyond my window.  His departure sounded like an old window shade that had been yanked down, then let go to flap and shudder.

Rilke knew that our ordinary moments are filled with texture, brilliance, joy, sorrow, sights and events to make our hearts leap or thud.  Best to take nothing for granted, to see it all as miraculous for the everyday is our most intimate universe, the room in which we spend the most time, the place it all happens.  Even peak events are cushioned by the everyday.  It is that with which we most surely need to fall in love, if we have not.  I had a stamp made that says, "Fall in love with everything," then I realized there are some situations in which that is difficult, many in fact, but as a goal, an aspiration, it seems a not bad fit.  I use the word love more and more, realizing that I do love so much.  I do, in loud and giddy and probably unladylike ways.  The list is longer every day.

I occasionally visit the Jet Pens website, perhaps to look at bottled inks.  Some of the colors, with names like Apache Sunset, Heart of Darkness or Dragon Catfish Pink, make me think of fervent correspondence.  Is there really any other kind?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Word of the Week - 137

Painting, "Araigami" (After Washing Her Hair), by Ito Shinshui.

Word(s) of the Week:  ORDINARY SACREDNESS

There is no way I could say it better, not even close, than poet Ellen Bass.


Pray to whomever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah. Raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekinah, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.

Then pray to the bus driver who takes you to work.
On the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus,
for everyone riding buses all over the world.
Drop some silver and pray.

Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latte and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

To Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, pray.
Bow down to terriers and shepherds and Siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.

Making love, of course, is already prayer.
Skin, and open mouths worshiping that skin,
the fragile cases we are poured into.

If you're hungry, pray. If you're tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.

When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else's legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheelchair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer as the earth revolves:
less harm, less harm, less harm.

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail,
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, twirling pizzas --

With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your Visa card. Scoop your holy water
from the gutter. Gnaw your crust.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

Ellen Bass

Monday, October 10, 2016

Word of the Week - 136

With thanks to Plaisanter's Flickriver site.
Word of the Week:  MUCILAGE

These are days, it seems, to think about what exactly IS the glue that holds us together, either to maintain a congruity with self or a plural binding of one to another.  There is something, beyond gravity, centripetal force, magnets, chewing gum or baling wire, that stops us from dissolving into fragments.  Its forms are as numerous as are we who rely on its existence.

At its most exalted it is sticky and honey-sweet, with names like optimism, kindness, beauty and love.  It is scent, known to transport us in memory to other realms and times, or words, as used by poets to translate, impossibly, the ineffable into language.  It is color or form that jars the heart.  It is magic, mostly unintentional, the product of man or nature simply bringing forth what must be brought.

It is experiences shared, even if known in solitude.  It is recognition of me in you.  It is music, sounds raised in thanksgiving or lament.  Perhaps beyond all else it is music.

If I understand anything of the universe, it is this:  we are not meant to be divided nor to seek or invent ways that make us unalike.  We survive with each other, it is how we will thrive.  Our hands reach out to comfort.  With vocabulary we soothe and support.  In the rock-hard moments we remind one another that there are softer times.

We are the glue, aided by the wonders amid which we sometimes flounder, wonders which lift our spirits, replenish our hope.  There is no wonder too small or obscure to be considered medicinally adhesive.  It only requires - demands - the ability to illuminate what has been dimmed.  Circumstances have been known to abandon us in dark caves and haunted houses of the mind.  For me, the image of a rose, bodies of water from a puddle to a fountain, canal, river or ocean, the thought and, one hopes, the taste of dark chocolate, works of art, a hummingbird outside the window, the voice of a loved one or even sight of their name reconnect me to frightened and lost parts of myself.  They secure me to a greater circle where light prevails.

This is a gummy business and we serve as human fly paper to one another.  As we abide, fastened, we joke, we sing, we listen, we doze.  Our thoughts may wander but we, it is hoped, do not.  We are tethered for the long ride.  That is what's real.  Anything else is the illusion.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Word of the Week - 135

Wrestling a demon, one of many.
Word of the Week:  CONSISTENCY

My two great adversaries are gravity and consistency.  To turn an act into a habit is the product of focus, determination and time.  Landing on the same square, as it were, with each daily leap.  Letting not rain nor dark of night be a reason to slide, to neglect, to procrastinate or to be half-assed.  As to gravity, I tend to drop things a lot or they leap from my grasp, plus the earth seems constantly to pull me closer.  I used to be considered tall.

Somewhere, once, I read that it takes 30 days to create a habit.  Oh, if only.  Maybe if one is under the age of, say, 35.  When one is more than twice that number, well, do the math.  All I know to do is begin, and continue.  I've reached a point, much as I thought it would never come to this, when the day contains too few hours for all my intentions.  Certainly if what I intend is to do a thing well.  And who wants a sub-par habit?  I'm sure I have quite enough of those already.

The vow to self of returning to art as a daily product, not a for-sale sort of product, but a thing brought into existence in whatever form, whatever medium, is a current priority.  I have not yet committed to a specific amount of time every day.  I'd already be in trouble if I had.  As long as it is something that I can call art, I feel successful.  I have not betrayed myself.  Whew.  As I have said many times before, if it were easy, everyone would do it.

So a day becomes parcels, liked packed lunches.
Bento boxes.
On different days, the portions of each habit-in-the-making vary in size.  Too much consistency goes against my basic nature.  Perhaps it needs to be a dual word week - consistency and balance, with each day allowed to bring its own set of circumstances, to set its own schedule.  The fact that the world seems to see rigid consistency as more virtuous than flexible consistency is one of those slippery places.  I don't do rigid well.  I don't do rigid at all.  And thus, the challenge.

On the other hand, a day full of bento boxes would not be the worst thing.  I could reclaim time spent cooking and use it for art or serenity or stretching.  Meanwhile, we, as they say, start where we are with what we have and do what we can.  One can do no more.