Monday, May 19, 2008

Birthday poem

For Eric on his 50th

At the age of 13
A Jewish Male
Comes of Age
But there is NO
Ritual for achievement
Of Middle Age
A half a century
Of Experience
Hard Earned Wisdom.
In a culture
That Denies
The Very Act
Of growing Older
A people that does not
Stand and face
And get to know
Births Twin
There are no traditional greetings
No standard blessings
For five decades
Of a Beautiful Life.
In Biblical times,
Surviving so long
Was sign itself
Of God’s favor.
And so,
From one who
Is following
Shortly behind,
And a Catholic
I offer
The Sheheheyanu
Blessed are you Eternal One
Who gives us Life
Keeps us strong and
Brings us to this time

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Makes perfect
In all that you do.
You must make a space
Wear a groove
In your life
So that the
Yoga or soup
Is as thoughtless
And Essential
as Breathing
and even breathing
Needs practice.
Living is a practice.
To do it well,
You must
It every day.
Moves what
You are Trying
To Become
Who you are.
So you can
Just Be
And even
Just Being
Takes Practice.

When I was a chipper young dancer with big ambitions, in New York, just off the bus from Chicago, I marched myself in to the Alwin Nikolais dance studio and paid my money and started Advanced Dance Class. There stood the man himself, a piece of American theatrical history before me and I awaited his genius. To my shock and disappointment, we began one hour of

I thought, I did not uproot my entire life to come live in New York City to learn to friggin WALK. I am here to DANCE.

Was I a silly little girl. In the beginning level classes, which I should have started in, they only make you walk as a warm up. You see, beginning students don’t do it very well.

It is only when you master your craft that you can walk across a room and MEAN something.

When a truly great dance artist walks across a stage, it can move you to tears.

It would not be for another two decades that I would learn how to do this, and I am still trying to master standing still.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Aging Well

Last week, for work, I had to go to a mini conference for senior citizens. I usually hang out with the other end of the spectrum and am far more likely to be dealing with teething than osteoarthritis, but hell, I am not getting any younger, and my boss did not want to go, and I thought I might learn a thing or two. Having had to diaper my daughter and my grandmother at the same time several years ago, I have a pretty good idea of the circularity of human existence.

But as I sat in a room full of my elders, I was pulled up short by the contrast of our current national obsession with birthing and the absolute silence about the other end. I have read poetry and literature and comedy about mothering and babies. Who is asking the questions:
How will I grow old?
What is the process of dying?
Who is writing the literature of THAT?

It’s a universal experience and no one really talks about it, except as it shows up in the service of other narratives. I am sure we will get around to it when we stop denying that its going to happen. There is a lot more money to be made by denying that something that happens to everyone is going to happen. By staunchly trying to defeat the process of dying we spend gazillions on research and panaceas and snake oil and afterlife. But sooner or later they will figure out a way to market aging and dying and then we will hear a lot more about it. But cynicism aside—how will I grow old? Will I rage rage against the dying of the light, against the wrinkles and sags and pouches, or will I settle in to my well worn self and become the person I am supposed to be? Since we have spent so much time denying or avoiding the fact that folks get old, we haven’t figured out what to do with the millions who are inconveniently not staying young. We don’t really have the social structures and webs of community these days meant to weave them into our fast paced life. If you never got on to the information superhighway, what backwater are you left in? When our history is still walking around talking to us, how to we curl up and read it? Contemplate the lessons, reflect on how if affects us?

How will I grow old?