Nowhere do you get That Happy Feeling

I’ve done this dance/theatre producer/presenter thing for almost 20 years now.   Year after year, I experience euphoria at the conclusion of the final performances of the residency.   It’s intense and can be contagious.  Unfortunately, euphoria is unsustainable, but the work created here has been born and will have a life.  That’s the big picture.  For right here and right now, we’ve embraced our shared humanity, celebrating the arts.  For a time, the generosity of the performers and the generosity of the audience has become one big love fest.

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Vim Vigor selfie at curtain call
eu·pho·ri·a
yo͞oˈfôrēə/
noun
  1. a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness.
    “the euphoria of success will fuel your desire to continue training”
    synonyms: elation, happiness, joy, delight, glee; More

I’d prepared myself on Friday for a small house that evening as ticket sales had been slow. The theatre is a big one for a small city and we rarely fill it with our performances of contemporary dance. So, as a presenter, unless you’ve got a big headliner on tap, it’s hard to know what to expect in terms of ticket sales.  I’ve learned to tap down expectations as much as possible telling myself it’s not about the numbers.  Which is only partially true, but a convenient little white lie to repeat when you’re getting panicky about such things.  I need not have been concerned.  The dancers gave it their all and the ultimately large audience responded accordingly.

Saturday’s performance had an even larger crowd.  The performances, which began as  a concept in the mind of the choreographer a little over three short weeks ago, had taken shape and become a work of art. For me, the process is nothing short of miraculous.  But here’s what it took:  Hours and long days of rehearsals.  Hours of lighting cues. Determination. A supportive staff.  Grit. Talent. Stamina. Boundless energy.  Enthusiasm. Teamwork.  Vision.

I’m always slightly shocked when something I’ve anticipated for months, finally arrives and then is quickly over.  It’s life’s story, isn’t it?

But, it doesn’t really end.  Relationships have been born. I let go with the knowledge that the art will continue, inspiring some,  perhaps generating controversy, but always enriching our humanity.   This, I believe. I think it forms the basis of that happy feeling.

Vim Vigor dancers with Shannon Gillen

 

Moon Watch

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Such a hullabaloo about the moon in recent years.  Until recently,  a person only needed to know rhyming words such as moon, June, swoon, etc. inserted in insipid songs.  Now, to be fashionable means being knowledgeable about how often a blue moon comes along,  knowing the characteristics of a super moon as well as when and where to look for one. The past few days were the apogee of the full Harvest moon. The last several days Facebook has been full of spectacular moon images.  The Japanese have held moon viewing parties.  I’d spotted  evidence of the full moon only late at night, high in the sky, as it illuminated our now pathetically dry back yard.  Craving some natural inspiration, I suggested to my husband, that we head to the beach to watch the moon rise over the ocean.  We arrived about a half hour before the predicted moonrise, now timed perfectly from an iPhone app.

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The late afternoon transitioned into early evening and finally into night, as we began our moon watch.  The offshore oil rigs, barely visible in the daytime, became illuminated Christmas trees balancing on top of the ocean as night descended. The scene outside the 1920’s Santa Barbara bath house shifted and became decidedly somber as the darkness deepened.  The daytime holiday atmosphere of bright sunshine, snack shop crowds, children playing in the sand had vanished.  It was replaced, as we watched, by the denizens of the night, the alternative culture of our California cities, the ones the travel magazines avoid like the plague.  The Santa Barbara homeless now claimed their places.

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A youngish bearded man in jaunty plaid shorts began to make his rounds of the garbage cans, but coming up empty handed.  Soon another trim looking young man drifted by on a skateboard that looked self-propelled, carrying all his worldly possessions in one arm.  An old woman dressed in black, limping badly, came out of the shadows with the gear she needed to settle down for the night on the unforgiving concrete portico.  She carefully and repeatedly spread and smoothed out a blanket on the terrace and then began to search through the multiple plastic bags she carried along with her, I know not for what.  I wondered if she had enough to eat.  Before long another old woman, pushing a wheelchair in front of her, joined her.  There was a heated discussion between them that seemed to agitate the first woman, but eventually, they both quieted down. I wondered if this were their first encounter or if this was a nightly recital.

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We kept looking at our watches and looking for the moon.

Two overweight men in green t-shirts that barely covered their bellies and proclaimed the word GREEN on them, came by to hose out the bathrooms.  City workers, I guessed.  Soon the water was running out of the bathrooms across the portico into the sand.  I half expected to see starving cats come crawling around the corners of the building. Maybe they came later. Most of the people who appeared so far seemed  starkly alone in the eerie yellow light cast by the overhead lamps.  It could have been a stage set.

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We were observers in an alternate universe that I had never experienced.  I tried to imagine what it must be like to spend the night in this environment.  I  wondered about the stories each of the nightly inhabitants could tell.  Maybe they were beyond stories.  I wondered about their families.  I felt a deep respect for the courage, fortitude, and skills they must have to survive in their unpredictable and challenging environment. Simultaneously, I was almost embarrassed by my own level of comfort. How damn fortunate I was to be going home to a real bed with clean sheets, a new pillow, and private bathroom steps away.

We kept looking for the moon.

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A fairly deep fog bank had accumulated on the sky/sea horizon.  My husband suggested that the moon might be hidden and we probably should head for home.

Just as we rose, he pointed in an easterly direction.  We had been looking out to sea, in a southerly direction.

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“Isn’t that the moon?”  he asked. We finally had gotten what we came to see, although not where we expected to see it. I felt deeply grateful to finally witness that huge golden orb that was slowly rising.  Yes, the entire evening  was worth coming out to witness.

Satisfied and more than a little saddened and unsettled, we headed for home.

A Walk in the Woods

Many long years ago, when I was struggling to raise children in their teen years, I read an article entitled A Walk in the Woods written by the grief-stricken mother of a teenaged son.  While I have never had a great memory, I’ve never forgotten her words.  The story feels as relevant today as it did when I originally read it.  It’s the age-old story of children gaining their independence and going off into the world that repeats with each generation.  The angst of the parents who remain behind is the same, as is the eagerness of the children to be let loose.woodswoods

The Story

The son of the writer had just lost his best friend, killed in a horrific traffic accident.  The friend was one of the several boys injured or killed while driving recklessly after a round of drinking.  The author’s grief was an acknowledgment that there comes a time in the raising of children when they go off our radar screens;  a time when they must take “a walk in the woods.”

It’s a time when we as parents cannot follow them, nor can we see them.  They are on their own.  All we can do is prepare them by telling them what they will need in the woods. Life survival skills. Resilience, determination, a sense of humor, creativity, trust, etc.  Then we must let go.

We must wait for them on the other side.  That can be tortuous.  Remember, cell phones won’t work.

We can take comfort while they’re out of sight that we’ve prepared them well.  But, there are no guarantees.  We must trust that the lessons we’ve taught over the years will serve them well and that they will emerge safely from the woods.  They might have a few bruises, but undoubtedly we will marvel at their maturity, their self-confidence and newly found sense of self.

In the meantime, while they’re in the woods, our jobs as parents are done.

Most likely, only for the time being!

 

Friendship at Any Age

“I wanna say hi to my friend, “announced my three and a half year old granddaughter, as she arrived with her mother at a mostly adult picnic.  Who might that friend be?

My granddaughter had met him the day before at another event and then spotted him at the party. Was it another child?  Nope, it was a 60 year old gentleman whom she’d talked with the day before.  Whatever it was about that interaction, it  felt to her that he was now significant in her life and she was eager to reconnect.

Ah, friendships.  They can happen unexpectedly at any age, as I now learned.  They don’t have to be limited by age or gender.

What leads us or a three year old to describe another individual as a friend?  An invisible spark felt between them, perhaps?  A shared giggle?  How is it that we know almost immediately that we would like to call someone a friend?

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

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I’ve seen friendships wax and wane over my lifetime.  I’ve mourned some when they ended, others, just peter out like a long burning campfire. Deep friendships require sustenance and trust.  It takes some effort.  But good friends go right to the heart of being alive and being your best self.  They can be challenging, they can require forgiveness and they can instigate growth.  It’s a great package.

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What is it about a person that brings out the best in us?  I can feel it when it’s happening, but it’s hard to describe. I tend to become more articulate in conversation.  More playful, too?   In terms of dance, it’s like being in a duet with someone, responding to the music in a similar and complimentary way.  Laughing at the same jokes.  Sharing similar concerns.  Making the texture of our lives richer.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
– Marcel Proust

Friends have come in and out of my life, appearing, vanishing, reappearing.  For various reasons, many friendships cycle in and out.  I still have a few friends from childhood.   It goes without saying that social media keeps friendships alive long past their earlier dates of expiration.   Each place I’ve lived,  I’ve collected a few really good friends who seem to have a permanent place on my treasured roster of Good Friends.  The dancers I’ve worked with over the past few decades almost always become dear friends.

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When you’re a child there’s lots of time for friendships.  As a young and middle aged adult, there’s not as much.  There was a time when it seemed important that friends were about my own age. Now, as an aging adult, I know that friends are to be treasured and can be of any age.

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The category of Close Friend is a small but treasured  one.    There’s a reciprocity of energy and caring that I never question.  It’s a gift.

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Hey!  Call a friend.