Grooves…and Graves

The only difference between a rut and a grave… is in their dimensions.”~Ellen Glasgow

The other day, I was driving some distance to a meeting on a route I’ve driven several times before.  It was a sunny morning and I was alert.

Still, I nearly missed my exit when I realized at the last minute that I had been driving in the lane farthest to the left rather than 3 lanes over to the right where I was supposed to be.  Jolted by my mistake, I wondered aloud how I could have done that?

Then I realized that traveling in that left lane was part of the path I had followed home umpteen times over the past few decades when we lived in another part of the state.  That groove has been so deeply worn in my  mind that I just let it carry me along… in the wrong direction.

The experience reminded me how difficult it is to change our habits, our patterns, even our comfort zones. Awhile ago, I wrote about automaticity: “…the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice.”

Achieving automaticity is a swell goal for things we want to incorporate deeply in our lives. Routines from mundane tasks like cleaning the dishes and brushing our teeth to more complex practices like sports and dancing to soulful practices like compassion.

But automaticity can also mire us if we end up practicing things we don’t want to have as our default setting.  Like driving in the wrong lane to take the wrong exit to someplace we no longer live :).

We often need to work even more consciously, intentionally, and harder to retrain our minds and bodies to expand along new pathways.  That’s the road to possibility, to vibrancy.

My little outing brought to mind that great quote of Ellen Glasgow.  It’s true.  For when a pattern of ours lacks vitality, and yet we continue to practice it, we get stuck.  And when there’s no movement or potential for movement, there is a death.

The boon of this experience is that it spurred me to examine, once again, both what I am practicing and what I seek to be better, i.e. more automatic, at.  Are my practices serving me, where I want to go, who I want to be?  What’s stale, needing to be discarded or refreshed?

So many questions.  And the answers? Not so automatic….

Photo credit: Top-Christina Goldberg, Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds, Old Lyme CT, sculptures by Gilbert Boro

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A Different Voice: Musings from the Marshlands

 

I attended a gathering recently, a newcomer to a group of people who have been working hard together for some time.  After a policy decision was announced and explained by the decision-maker, the meeting drifted on.  But something rankled me about the decision.  It seemed unnecessarily narrow.

As the conversation continued around me on other matters, I had a now familiar internal battle about whether to raise my concerns and my suggestion about altering the problematic decision.  I mean, who was I to say anything?  A newbie, someone who had not invested the abundant time and effort these generous people had put toward the project?

Plus, as a newbie, I might be ignorant of other issues involved.  And everyone else had moved forward with the agenda.

When I couldn’t get the point unstuck from my craw, I plunged ahead.  Prefacing my comments with a recognition of my limitations and couching my observations as humbly as possible.

I’m still unsure about whether my perspective were correct or wise.  Still, I’m glad that I proceeded to voice an opinion I believed in that may have been unwelcome, unpopular or simply overlooked by the others.  Because a discussion ensued and the participants seemed to be viewing the situation through a different angle of a prism.  To me, this opening up of perspective, of possibility, is essential.

It’s often said that this is the job of the artist: to inspire and challenge people to view things differently or see things they hadn’t before.  All I know is that I have found myself in countless situations over the years, the decades, of questioning the “norm,” the assumptions, the conventions, the precedents.

Because I’ve come to appreciate how limiting, how stultifying those walls can be.  And, conversely, how essential it is to vitality to continue to expand our sense of possibility. Even with these little moments, maybe especially with these little moments, we each confront every day, it’s important not to be lulled into the complacency and shrinking that attend failing to question.

Only yesterday, a well-meaning person I’d just met asked if my husband and I are retired, no doubt based on my age. What?! Heck, no. Remember what assuming makes you and me?

So, here’s to the chorus of infinite voices, sharing infinite perspectives. It’s what makes this symphony of life so rich, exciting…and full of possibility!

Photo credit: Top-Rich Davis; Bottom-Nikki Carrara

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back from the deep

From the archives…for anyone courageous enough to plumb the depths AND rise….

Sirena Tales

wave after vast wave

crashing down, staggering us

here comes another

\

cannot recover

squelched breath of too many dreams

spectered ocean teems

\

deep dark descending

unending fall, now halted

by exalted calls

~~~~

distant, haunting tune

insistent, enchanting thrall

sirens’ sweet lagoon

~~~~

remember? joy buoys

in the deep rediscover

her magical spell

^^^^

we rise with this swell

breach, gasping for life’s inhale

exhausted, wracked, and pale yet

here to tell the tale

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Musings from the Marshlands: When One Way Doesn’t Work….

…another will.

The enormous great blue heron feeding close by on the marsh has been reminding me of that important heron wisdom.  One of the things heron teaches is that when one way doesn’t work, another will.

The heron draws on its determination, resourcefulness, perseverance…and willingness to pounce on opportunities immediately, opportunities others would pass up.  Or maybe not even recognize.

All of this valuable medicine has been on full display as the heron waits seemingly endlessly, often on one leg, to seize its meal.  Adjusting the location, the angle, the timing.  Negotiating the sharp stubbles of marsh grass, uneven terrain, earthy water, watery earth.

I was about to write that such constant bobbing and weaving, and tenacity, are essential to artists.  It’s certainly been my experience as a dancer and choreographer.  Opportunities dry up; inspiration eludes; projects falter or fizzle; rehearsal space evaporates; dancers are injured or move away, funding is scarce….

The list goes on.

But, as you know, being resourceful, flexible and dogged are keys to continuing to craft and live a meaningful life for all of us.  No surprise there, as we are all the artists of our own existences.

Admittedly, I sometimes find it difficult to read the tea leaves. Is the universe signaling to give up on the whole shebang or adapt the initial plan?  Such was the case when opportunities shriveled awhile back.

I kept going, but sought new and different collaborations.  The moment some possibilities presented themselves, I dived in.  As the heron teaches.  Possibilities that are now inspiring, and bearing fruit.

Long story short, I agree with Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work…Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time….”

And, “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.”

Avanti!

Photo credit: Bottom: Nikki Carrara

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Endings…and Beginnings

As I sit here tonight, once again waiting for the writing muse to smile upon me…no answer. Or perhaps only seemingly so, as I see that this post from the archives that receives so many visits has had another one just now. Perhaps it was the muse? Endings and beginnings, ending and beginnings. The circle, the cycle, the spiral. Kali. May she in her wisdom lead you on many adventures and with much inspiration….<3

Sirena Tales

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No surprise, really.  When I drew a goddess card this morning, I selected Kali.  As always when I see her beautiful, powerful, wise visage, my heart sank and leapt all at once.  Heart heavy from loss and excited at possibility.

As Kali advises, “The old must be released so that the new can enter.” (Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards, Doreen Virtue).

Yes.

I know this.  And yet I don’t know this.  Or want to accept it.

I did know this last night, before drawing the card, as I cleared out file upon file of documents from projects of the past several years that I’m ending, or that have fizzled.  I knew Kali’s wisdom of cleansing “…away the old with natural storms and fires to make the ground fertile for new crops and life.  Kali is the ultimate get-things-done goddess, and she’s a powerful ally….”

Still, even though I exulted, felt lighter…

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More Vulnerability: Life Lessons from Dancing

Being in performance mode again last week highlighted for me that ever present, and often loathed, human condition: vulnerability.  We human types are constantly “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Yet, we often forget this–or trick ourselves into believing we aren’t so vulnerable.

That’s where the glorious gifts of live performance come in.

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When you’re performing in front of another person or a crowd of them, there’s no getting around the fact that you’re making yourself and your fallibility visible.  Sure, the threats of harm may not be dire.  But they can be potent and painful.

Failure, rejection, derision, ridicule, shame.  They’re all possible outcomes when we expose ourselves and what is meaningful to us through our art.  And with dancing, of course, there is the possibility of physical injury–never a fun thing.

Last week’s performances of new work threw in a couple of extra wild cards: dancing with people I had performed with only a little or never before;  co-choreographing the work for the first time…and with another choreographer I am just getting to know.

When I look back on what I wrote previously about the life lessons of vulnerability that performing dance has taught me,  I recognize  “…the familiar, tumultuous stew of fear (or terror), nausea, trembling, uncertainty, dread, coaxing, and, ultimately, commitment.” I also appreciate the tremendous treasures yielded when we open ourselves to possibility.

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Perhaps it was due to all of the additional uncertainties and unfamiliar terrain.  Or maybe it’s that I’ve been in this vulnerability practice for awhile.

Whatever the reasons, these performances demonstrated even more clearly for me that when we take the leap our passions urge us to do, we’re so often rewarded with connection with others, inspiration, depth of meaning, exploration on the frontiers of the self, discovery.  I was this time.

Scary?  Absolutely.  Essential to a vibrant life?  Absolutely.

To vulnerability!

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity….”~Dr. Brené Brown

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Photos: Chloe, Linalynn Schmelzer, Marisa Valdiserra–Spectrum Art Gallery

 

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The Treasures of Collaboration

nik_6134Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”~Helen Keller

The images in this post are the product of my collaboration with the multitalented photographer Nikki Carrara.  Sure, I had some movement prepared that I wanted photographed.

But that served only as a springboard that launched us on a tag team adventure. The ideas of one of us–whether verbal, visual or kinetic–ignited inspiration in the other, resulting in many evocative images, most of which never would have been produced had Nikki and I not cooperated in the creative process.

I hadn’t recalled all of that experiment when I sat down to write this.  Yet, it helps me realize why I am so passionate about collaborating: in most areas of life, and particularly with other artists.

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My unforgettable experience with Nikki merely reinforced my conviction that we are nearly always–always?–more powerful when working together with others.  The old adage got it:  Two heads (and hearts and souls) are better than one. Which brings me to today.

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about my decision to take a leap of faith and dive into co-choreographing a performance in a few weeks with a choreographer I have never set work with before and whom I don’t know well.  Oh, and with 3 other dancers I hadn’t met before or had barely worked with. The prospect seemed risky…and exciting.

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Today, at our first rehearsal, I think we were all a little anxious.  And, why not?  New faces, new movement, new process…making it up as we go.

And, as I’d sensed it would be, it was so inspiring! By the time I left the studio several hours later, I had such an abundance of ideas, my head felt as if it would explode…in a good way :).  Most of them would not have been born had I been creating solo; most of them were in response to the other choreographer’s movement and ideas, or to one of the dancers.

So, we are on our way!  Excited to see what unfolds and to cultivating our connection. Opening up to others’ visions and expanding our own.

Yup: better together.

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