06 October 2007

<-----------------This way or that -------------->

I've seen Vanessa perform twice. No live performance has ever moved me more. Freedom, love, vulnerability, passion, curiosity. She surrenders her body to the vibrant, eloquent expression of these essential dimensions of the human experience. You cannot look away once she begins.

Now she is returning to New Orleans to perform and to lead a two-day workshop.

And I can't attend. The second step of my training as an Essential Problem Solving Skills (EPSS)** trainer takes place that weekend.

The synchronicity of this schedule conflict is profound and mysterious. Nothing less than a head-on collision between Artist self and the Other self that I am when I am "away from" Art. The Other who feels by comparison, at different times


The EPSS training is a project of the Other to which the Artist hopes to contribute...eventually.

For some good and practical reasons, the workshop design focuses on the workplace as the primary context for practicing the skills. Workshop participants come mostly from hard-working nonprofit organizations and the EPSS skill set is directly relevant. If I were a trainer, though, I would expand (or change) the design to focus more on "personal life" and "community" settings, using theater-games from my improv workshops (of yore) as vehicles to practice the skills of EPSS.

So I'm not in full-on Artist mode but Art is in the mix.

It's just...faced with the bald facts of my situation -- not available to study with a master performer because I've made a choice to do something
practical in Gulfport, MS... It's got me thinking. Or, I guess, just noticing the arrangement of my life these days.

When all is said and done, I said 'yes' to EPSS because it offered a meaningful way to remain a part of the Gulf Coast recovery. We'll see what happens. There are few easy choices and infrequent definitive signs of progress down here. Standing on shifting sands, sometimes you do what your hand can reach.

I met a friend for drinks last night. (This was seven hours after leaving the chiropractor's office and four hours after being rear-ended in traffic...) We laughed when our talk revealed neither of us has a career goal. We are probably typical of many people who came to the South after Katrina. Our goal is to be part of the
Recovery, to keep finding ways to be a part of the Recovery. That's what our lives are about for the foreseeable future.

It's a sketchy, complex certainty, thick with issues and questions like where and how to offer what to the rebuilding; how to maintain and sustain ourselves--financially, physically, spiritually, socially; how to discern
whether our work is doing any good, having any effect; what to do with who we were and what we loved before we got here.

For me, there is also the reality of the little man in the picture. My
grandson. Growing up hundreds of miles away from me. He is a certainty. And a possibility. The knot on his forehead is the result of lots of running toward the future, following his heart on new legs. His gaze is unequivocal. Courageous and interested and true.

I printed a large format copy of this picture today and hung it over my desk. Something about the gaze has pertinent teaching and encouragement for GrammAlee in her current situation.

I also printed
this one:

because sometimes life be's like that, too.

**I attended EPSS last spring. The workshop handbook explained:
"The focus of this workshop [is] to introduce...residents of the MS Gulf Coast...to problem solving and conflict resolution skills, in rder to enhance your capacity to work collaboratively and productively in long term recovery efforts... [It] will enhance your capacity to be an effective problem solver with regard to conflicts in your personal life, employment relationships and community."
After the workshop, I was invited to join the first class of MS residents to be trained to facilitate future workshops.


  1. I saw that flyer in an email from vanessa. And I first got excited. Then scared.

    I love her performance. But when I watch her my heart pounds loud in my chest and I have to remember to breathe. What she does is unbelievably scary to me. I love it - but it scares the bazooka out of me.

    So when I saw the email of hers saying she was coming to give classes, I thought "maybe I'm ready to try that". and then "maybe not". And I thought of you, Alex. And that you would probably be really good at butoh. And that if you went, maybe I could get the courage to go. and then "maybe not".

    so when your email about your latest post on the blog came through, and I went to the site, and that flyer came up I cringed and said no no no no no!!!

    And then I read your post. And I realized how torn you were between two things you think would be really good for you and really good for the world (as I believe both would be).

    And I think, well, if Alex can't go, maybe I can go for her. And I'll just take all of her courage and openness and strength with me - pull it down into my gut and take it with me to the butoh class. And, I just know, that the first thing Vanessa would do would be to take that away - I think that's what it's about - losing all of that stuff you think you need - other people's strenghts instead of your own. and that I probably don't even need my own strength.

    so, I'm not sure I'm going to go or not. but I think it's one of those things that's been in my head, and seeing it on your blog is pushing it down from my head to my heart. scary business, I tell ya.

    and I love the photo of Bean - you are right about that gaze - how does a camera capture that???? and how does a wee toddler have that gaze????

    love ya baby
    peace love and butoh,

  2. Oh, Butoh! It's SO YOU... strikes me as consonant with yr whole Work & expression... the balancing act of consciousness, desire, need.... from a different perspective, the class will come again; to be an "artist" is to Live Art, whether in class or out... easy for me to say, I know- I'm not currently in that conflict, although it's VERY familiar- but from this far off POV, you're truly living it.


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