25 November 2012

Cloud Atlas

I am reading Cloud Atlas. David Mitchell is a genius. I concur whole heartedly with the New York Time review on the back on the book:  “Mitchell is clearly a genius. he writes as thought at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition s written in magna across this novel’s every page.”

I have absolutely no idea how he does it. It is magnificent writing. Mitchell takes me somewhere. Takes me wherever he wants to because the worlds he creates are irresistible, complete; simultaneously strange and familiar, compelling and outlandish. I love the novel. I love David Mitchell.

Morning in Holly Springs

Leaving Christ Church last night after a good session at piano, I took this picture with my cell phone. It doesn't approach an accurate rendering of the colors, but some of the mood is conveyed. It's funny how a sunset picture harmonizes with my new song about dawn in Holly Springs.

Up all night
And I found myself
Morning in Holly Springs
A lacy sleeve
at the edge of a velvet night
Morning in Holly Springs
A crazy early morning bird is singing with me
Harmony the Secret on the breeze at dawn
first light
naked autumn trees
Morning in Holly Springs

Took all night
but I found this song
Morning in Holly Springs
a sweet reprieve
in the dark alone
Morning in Holly Springs
Sleepy little town
snug in dream around me
Fragile first light
naked trees
Morning in Holly Springs.

24 November 2012

Maybe It's More Than a Headache

I have not read Susan Sontag's "Illness as Metaphor."  Things are happening in my body lately and my attention is frequently drawn to it. I ponder whether they are "age-related" or need immediate attention by a healthcare professional. I ask myself if it's related to cigarette smoking.

And I consider it as metaphor. As a symbol of some metaphysical expression from my deepest self that I should attend and translate...and be healed of.

In CA, lots of people pay attention to their bodies. They exercise and eat right; they avoid scents and additives and gluten and nuts. They buy ergonomically correct furniture and footwear.

They want to live as long as they can, feeling as good -- physically -- as they can.

I couldn't get into it very much when I lived there. When it comes right down to it, my core belief runs along the lines of "Whatever happens will happen." You might devote your life to eating healthy and then get hit by a truck one day, crossing the street after an appointment with your chiropractor. Anything can happen and it's all out of my control.

Here in MS, people don't pay much attention to their bodies (although I learned this holiday weekend that lots of people "don't do sweets"). I see a lot of obesity and there's no such thing as an "organic aisle" at the only market alternative to Wal-Mart.

And, paradoxically, I am more and more inclined to take care of my body living here.

I would not ask to lose my sight or mobility; still, when my knees bother me or my vision blurs after hours on the computer or at the piano, I contemplate what life would be like if I could not see, if I could not walk. The contemplation doesn't frighten or horrify me. People live good lives without sight or mobility. Life is not about our physical existence

and yet

an essential aspect of living is profoundly physical.

I tease myself with an invitation to go all out for physical health: start exercising, stop smoking, drink water, eat organic. Just do it for a while and see what it's like.

I tell myself "You can still be your own juicy, spicy, edgy self. You don't have to get all California-airy-fairy."

I see the whole thing as part of that thing I was talking about in the last post. That feeling like it's time to get on task with some projects. Including stepping up the maintenance of my physical health.

23 November 2012

Work to Do in Holly Springs

I'm searching files for a Project Timeline template used by Landmark Education. If you took a stroll through my mind, you'd see lots of gorgeous, sexy, exciting Ideas lying around a pool admiring their own reflections. If you perched as the proverbial fly on the wall of my bedroom (because that's where you'll find me 80% of the time when I'm at home), you'd likely fly away after a day because I don't look like I'm doing anything.

I'm playing computer games and reading and playing guitar and piano and writing and baking artisan loaves (and, today, a chocolate bourbon pecan pie) and hosting CouchSurfing.org guests. I'm also smoking cigarettes and growing compost and raking the yard and collecting trash from the entrance to Johnson Park. And retrieving mail and showering and sleeping. 

But I'm not engaging with the sexy ideas and moving them from latent to active.

And I'm feeling called to engage. Hence the Project Timeline template. We used it in a seminar I took with Landmark. It was a useful tool that supported me through the steps of turning Idea into Project. And completing it.

"The Idea" by Latent Vision
I want to do a "community story play" (as developed by Jo Carson) here in Holly Springs. Two of the motivations stirring me are

- - the work feels like a constructive "next step" for me artistically, flowing naturally from what I've been doing the last 14 years. It combines performance and teaching generally; more specifically, it relates to recent exploration of solo performance work and improv playshop facilitation with diverse populations.

- -there is what I call "prelim work" to be done in Holly Springs before Chrysalis HS can thrive. It has to do, in my opinion, with the stranglehold that religion and race have on local culture. Storytelling is a way for the people to resuscitate themselves and their town.

Chrysalis cannot succeed in Holly Springs as it is.

In July, The "Holly Springs Plan" was drafted. The Plan is "overseen" by "a planning advisory committee, the planning commission and, ultimately, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen". The mission statement of the Plan is somewhat vague (and needs editing) 
The City of Holly Springs will develop as a growing, united and economically thriving community which [aggressively] facilitates the health, safety and wellbeing of its citizens. Recognizing the value of its all its assets, with citizens being the most important, we will pursue a balanced approach to the future by protecting our natural environment, promoting a quality townscape, pursuing the preservation of its all its history, cultivating local business talents and encouraging arts and cultural concerns. The City will
pursue this mission through the implementation of [progressive] public planning policies, strategic community development initiatives and complementary partnerships with like minded organizations. 

Still, the boldface items suggest Chrysalis could find a seat at the table. (Among the steps to be plotted on my Project Timeline worksheet, "Determine current status of the HS Plan."

Now, where did I file that template?

20 November 2012

Things Change

Every now and then, I feel a bond of kinship with my mother with an intensity that is momentarily shocking. I recover from the surprise highly "awake" conscousness and "buzz of Life" feeling in my body, like my cells are champagne bubbles.

I haven't detected a rhythm or cycle to these bursts of expanded consciousness.

The experience is beyond words; but, of course, we are by nature inclined to seek words, to capture our experience by thinking about it, writing about it, singing about it.

Serene. Forgiven. At peace. Forgiving.

Except for two occasions -- a nuclear family reunion at Lake Tahoe marked by volatile, vocal conflict and the two-day combined family and friends gathering on the occasion of my son's wedding, during which we exchanged no more than 100 words -- my mother and I were hermetically estranged from each other for the last 20 years of her life. The separation was not emotionally painful most of the time but I carried the wound of it in the background of daily life.

I wrote bad poetry -- "I do not love you, my mother" -- and tearfully, relentlessly, retold the stories of our conflict and my wounds to a series of therapists for a few years. This gradually resolved into an acceptance of things as they were and getting on with my life. 

Increasingly, as the aging process sculpts my body and Time delivers me to the places and lessons it must, I have noticed both physical and personality similarities between us.Some of the similarities are very funny to me. Others are embarrassing.


These instances of new sight, of seeing something I could not see before or seeing something I've never seen before, are miraculous. How does the invisible become visible? How does what seems solid and incontrovertible disappear?

16 November 2012

The Trouble I See

Sometimes everything breaks at the same time. Light bulbs burn out. Batteries expire. Printers jam.

Sometimes everything breaks at the same time for a few days in a row.

Some people call it "a run of bad luck" but in my mind that phrase is only used when drugs or bloodshed are involved.

There's a scene in the movie "Pinocchio" that takes place in the belly of a whale. The image lives like archetype in my head:  tossed and tumbled in the garbage-cluttered swell of a contained ocean, the sound of water echoing in a large space.  This image comes to mind lately. There's no terror but things are falling apart around me. First one thing and then another. "What next?" is the cry from the whale's belly.

The thought occurs "I should be careful" and I consider it. The thought stems from belief that I've floated into a maelstrom and I have no control over events.

It's true I'm powerless. The car battery dying was not my doing. The heel of my shoe falling off is the result of a chemical decay process of glue and wood and leather over which I have no inluence.

But if there is such a thing as a cosmic Things Falling Apart tsunami, I have no control over it either. It will move on when it moves on.

It helps that at the same time, wonderful things are happening in my life:  I am writing songs again. A friend's timely gift of money facilitated replacement of the car battery and purchase of super glue to repair my shoe.

I'm meeting the people I need to meet to accomplish what I want to accomplish.

The choice is between focusing on the calamities -- being cautious, feeling sad and afraid -- and  noting calamity while focusing on the creative business at hand.

When I was growing up, my father called it "Kinchlow luck" when things went "wrong." He expected things to go wrong -- misfortune was attached to his name in his mind -- but he remained jovial. He was a mail carrier and believed his job required a happy face.

Now he's retired and it's like his energy for putting on the good face ran out. Now he's just stuck with "Kinchlow luck."

Some beliefs persist like wearing a suit made of heavy, dirty carpeting.

A current project is to create a public story-telling space in Holly Springs. I want to launch the Story Circle and community story plays here. I'm inspired to this work because sharing stories through theater is transformative. It can turn dirty carpet into something to dance on instead of wearing.

How do I share this with Daddy?

13 November 2012

Finding Freedom: Every Breath

Life is Change.

I know this.

Yesterday on the phone with Daddy, I reminded him "The only constant is change." He said, "Um hum," in a tone that said "We're entering dangerous waters conversationally." He didn't want to make that journey with me.

My father is 77 years old. He's had "health issues" for several years -- I can't say exactly how many because we were not talking to each other for several decades. He was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes sometime before I left CA in 2004. His health had declined to a mostly-homebound existence when I visited him in June this year.

Yesterday, his voice was strong, full of vigorous commitment. He's walked to the end of the block without his walker several times in the last two weeks. He visited the physical therapist yesterday and they're beginning a new physical therapy regimen:  twice a week at the rehab center and daily exercises at home. He wants to be walker-free.

He thanks me, at least in part, for the improvement in his health Something I said about how mental and spiritual and physical health are interconnected and synonymous.

I'm a little surprised. After years of estrangement, we don't know each other very well. He is religious and fearful. He resists change:  grumbles a handful of favorite complaints about how much better life used to be. He clings to painful, guilt-laden memories of his divorce from my mother (45 years ago) and the decades he suffered, cut off from "you kids."

These painful memories are cherished, familiar stories for him.

He's hearing me. He's entertaining the possibility of a new story. New stories.

With me.



The rhythm of my life these days is vastly different from the rhythm of my life two months ago.

I've noticed some recurring anxiety twitches in the backof my mind. Sometimes I even feel it physically, in my body:  tightness in the neck and lower back; or a sudden extreme thirst.

There's nothing wrong;  the rhythm of life has changed.

Every now and then I stop short. I look at my life and I am amazed
and I think I freak out for a moment. Just one intense wide as the universe shudder in the body kind of "Wow! How did I get it HERE?"

It feels like I've lost the thread, dropped the rein. Like I'm not in control.


And then

I breathe into the monster's face. I breathe into the knot in my neck. I breathe into the milling throng of thoughts that "OCCUPY ALEX's MIND".

Breath. Air moving. Exchange. Rhythm.

This is the Rhythm of Life.The main rhythm, ya know? The only rhythm...

Breathe. Dance with Life on the wings of breath.

Let go.