Tag Archives: new york city

My Number One

8 Jun

I’ve heard tell that what you imagine sometimes comes true

– Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

In NYC, I quickly realized that the experiences I was having were significant. I remember walking the streets with the kids and thinking to myself that I was totally drawing all of it within. I didn’t want to ignore any of it nor give any piece of the experience away, even to them. It was the strangest feeling, and to be perfectly honest I began to feel a tad guilty. The trip really was supposed to be about allowing the kids an experience, but what it ended up being for me was taking it all for myself. I became one of them in a way, trying to fully immerse myself in the landscape, in each event, in each moment.

I think this is where the idea of really living with purpose…i.e. “the bucket list” was actually born. I had always had a list of places I wanted to go, things I wanted to do, and I encourage my students to make a list as well. When I teach Ode to a Nightingale, I always try to connect the kids to the fact that Keats died so young and when you know you are ill, every single instance becomes precious. Every sensation, every moment, every breath you become awake to when you understand that it may be your last. So I ask them to list 25 things they want to do before they die and then I direct them to live life in such a way as to cross things off of that list and then add 25 more.  Sitting in the theater at Memphis, I suddenly realized how many experiences I put off for the pleasure of others. No more; these I need to do for myself.

The number one item on my list was to go to the greatest toy store in the world, FAO Schwarz. I can remember telling my friend Paul when he was a student of mine to bring me back a picture of it when he ventured to NYC as a senior . He did, and brought me a tiny stuffed lion as well. There was something about the idea of a tremendous toy store that allowed me to reconnect with the child within, the simple joy of toy and wonder. I needed to go. I had no idea what I would find, but if I was only allowed one item on my list, FAO was to be the destination.

When we approached the store, the kids knew the whole story of why we were going. In knowing about my list and the importance of this event, they watched me instead of me watching them. They gave me their experience as I so often had done for them and for others. This joy they felt for me, in seeing my excitement was a gift in itself. And so I allowed, probably for the first time, to melt into my truest self in front of a lovely bunch of teenagers. They took pictures of me with the doorman, racing through the different sections, throwing myself on huge stuffed animals, and they began to play alongside me, snapping pictures along the way. I remember one young man who said to me, “You know, I didn’t really get why we were coming here, but this place is awesome!”

After several hours, I struggled with what to buy to remember this moment, this number one experience that I had lived to see. Suddenly I knew. Of all the things to buy, I chose my favorite candy. Like enjoying a piece of candy, these sorts of gifts happen for only a brief moment, and just once. No use in trying to really keep them.

I may return to this land of childhood again one day. I do plan to, but no other afternoon will ever be as important, as meaningful as accomplishing this first one.

The Willing of Peace

6 Jun

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One of the most amazing plays I was able to see in NYC was Warhorse and it connected to me in a way that no play really ever has. When the music began, and an Irish soulful voice echoed in the darkened theater, I was suddenly sliced down to my core, into a tender softness that I hope will never leave me. I tried so hard to push away the thought of giving the essence of this experience away in a “wish you could see this” moment. But I couldn’t. I thought of my former husband and I wished he was there to see it with me. The ability to make a gift of a moment has been my blessing and curse, all of my life. I stopped because now there is really no one to give  it to but myself. Do you think that’s what this is supposed to teach me? Giving away too many experiences to others and enjoying life through their pleasure is over. I am no longer a reflective mirror. I have to shine.

And in that almost holy darkness, I was captured by a puppet named Joey, his ears, his subtle movements, so correct, so delicate. I believed in his reality, willingly trusting an exterior illusion, and able to be vulnerable inside this armor of muscle and bone and blood I have built around me. My will to believe intertwined into the creation of this animal spirit. And as this joint road of connection and empathy spread out before me, I felt whatever pain there was, Joey would understand. His sacrifice which played out before me showed a truth, that we will our peace into the chaos of living. Our hearts, our souls, our wishes mean nothing in repose. We do not find peace. We will our peace into this madness of shadow and suffering. In his legs, there was the promise of strength to hold pain if I couldn’t hold myself. In his head, his neck, there was promise of protection if I could not hold on. In his loyalty, there were glimpses of a permanence that we all long for, a shining moment of happiness that won’t ever change.

The lingering lesson from this display of love and brutality, humanity and the Divine? How can one love an animal so much? Because in loving him, we can safely love ourselves through his intercession. We reveal our own vulnerability, raw and unbroken, when we love an animal so fiercely. Even in our blindness, we feel the call of self. And in this illusion of heart and soul, of empathic connection, the voices which rose around me like lost ancestors reminded me of the essence of my purpose, a reason to be open, to keep going, to exchange the pain of an emotional bruise for wisdom because the light never dies.

Up and away like the dew in the morning,
Soaring from the earth to its home in the sun,
Thus we would pass from the earth and its toiling,
Only remembered for what we have done.
Only the truth that in life we have spoken.
Only the seed we have sown,
These shall pass onward when we’re forgotten,
Fruits of the harvest and what we have done.

In my struggle to be fully human and to understand the Divine, I am reminded that the truth within this life is in the be-ing, in the do-ing, in the love-ing, inside.

I turn into self…and shine.


Life is in the Tasting

5 Jun

My time in NYC brings me now into a into conversation with my senses.

Its been quite a long while since I wrote of experiences, travel or otherwise and I haven’t fully become used to the delicate balance in public journal writing. However, since I aim to go places to live, I must start somewhere. And so all I came home with were my playbills from Memphis, Warhorse, and the Amazing Spiderman. I don’t know why, but I started scribbling phrases in my head while sitting there. So I wrote in them, some thing along the line of annotated poesy. Just thoughts, that came rising like a tide on fire.

This is what I wrote:

It’s my first night and I am walking the streets, wading through a flooding richness of culture. 

faces ….smells…. food scent curling the black lamp posts and coloring the twilight sky.

The life in this heavy air is to be tasted.

How can a city be tangible to nose, to mouth, to soul?

My fingers probe for the underlying vein, running through the collective body, a hive of human presence, a brooding of culture.

Sitting at dinner,  white gleaming china circles filled with red and green and mellowed tan vegetables … a slight give in bites. Fresh ginger, five spice, garlic. I can smell it..taste it …fish melting in my mouth.

At the table, I slightly lean toward the gentleman seated next to me, resting my energy

a mutual companion…a partner at this table of experience.

Water in my glass, icy crisp like melting snow,

a sip on top of this deep, complex dive into the ocean of streets upon streets,

sidewalks to sidewalks. Corners to stops.. to wait …..to wait…..to walk……. to a small cafe, street unknown.

concrete clutter and worn refuse, layers of waste and living.  The dirty underwear of reality in a city filled with souls zipped up in their private suits of personal boundary

what cracks that shell?

not one face alike, not one tongue.

I linger on a red velvet cookie, upon my palm, slightly warm, red ….rich…darkly sweet 

Around the corner through the door…I climb….higher, higher, higher to the chandlier seats 

looking down upon a tiny stage, a gilded box… curtains wheel apart.

Music…harmonies …one inside one…the voices cutting the breath of a darkened theater.

gold glints in the low lights and I gasp in rapture


…these first moments.

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