Sunday, March 11, 2007

Opening myself up to life, which is warm, which is scary, which is full, and moist, and smells good. Opening myself up slowly because it's been a long time. Going to hear music, letting the music in, feeling it inside my own body. Holding hands in the dark. Opening my body up to food, opening up to more and more light, trying not to hide, hiding anyway, trying not to procrastinate or distract, procrastinating and distracting anyway, creating among the hiding and procrastinating, showing and hiding, working, writing, teaching, walking, dancing dreaming, meandering.

Remembering to swim, remembering to lead my life, paying a few bills, feeding Julie's cat, washing the dishes and worrying about the slow drains in the sink, eating sugar again, falling off the wagon and resolving to get back on.

Playing phone tag with friends, drinking coffee strong enough to stand a fork up in, eating bread and cheese on a bench by the lake, people-watching. Noticing the six foot three transsexual with what look like real breasts under his thin white undershirt, walking proudly, everyone out in force on this most beautiful spring day, first day that the light stays late, old couples holding hands and leaning on each other, two gay men also holding hands, skate-boarders, bike riders, a crazy man trying to fondle women, baby strollers, dogs on leashes, 10,000,000 geese, coots, cormorants, pelicans, sparrows, seagulls. Joggers and ipod listeners.

I haven't seen the woman with the pink hula hoop for years now. Where did she go? Did she move away, does she still walk, with or without her hoop?

Talking and dreaming, talking with my classes about dreams and writing them down, how people are afraid to write down even simple desires like "I'd like to have something published." Encouraging them to do it. Knowing what a difference it has made in my life to list the desires, persistently, for years and years now. Witnessing.

I went and heard my friends Carla Zilbersmith and Mike Zilber and Allen Taylor play and sing jazz Friday night at Anna's Jazz Island. The music so tight and real and raw it was a revelation that opened my mind and flooded me with a weird kind of peace. I wish I could remember the names of the bass player and the drummer. They played "balls out," as my friend Michael would say, risking everything, like letting go in meditation, like flying. I could hear notes bend and twist and rasp and wail. And no neat resolutions. Beware anyone who tries to tie things up neatly with a bow.

Then, Saturday night Ntozake Shange and Jimmy Santiago Baca's joint new theatre project called A Place to Stand, at Intersection for the Arts in the Mission. I remember what a revelation Shange's "for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf" was for me when I was still a girl myself. Seeing that production thrity years ago planted a seed in me which is bearing a great fruit now, the production of See How We Almost Fly, which will go up in early May.

This show A Place to Stand was powerful, if uneven. The actors were great, especially the wman who played the mother of the prisoner, a radiantly beautiful older woman whose love and strength and pain and thwarted desire were in every gesture. She brought me to tears.

The script revisited familiar themes. After thirty years Shange seems to be still working the same themes of domestic abuse, black women driven to madness by intolerable cruelty on the part of their men; healing and survival through dance and music and other women. Is this because she is still faithfully recording the reality of black women as she sees it/experiences it, or because she is just stuck in a groove with her own story?

Baca's work was strong too; a prison saga, the story of men labelled and stamped and slotted for prison from the time they are boys, the stories of the corners with no escape routes they are painted into. I wonder if Shange and Baca combined efforts to write the story of the mother, the most powerful aspect of the play for me, a woman trapped and liberated by her own infinite capacity to love? She carried the story for me.

I loved being in the Mission, filthy and alive, and the air surprisingly balmy for a San Francisco night. Spring flowers are out in abundance--you can smell them even in the Mission (along with all the other things you smell in the Mission.)

I taught a good class tonight, making up, in my own mind at last, for a somewhat bumpy one last week. Personal essay, personal memoir. My students write about dancing, and dead fathers, sex, and survival and ritual, about the countries they come from and what they left behind there, about food and family and war. To say I am "critiquing" these stories is wrong, I don't want to critique anything, I want to help each story, like a tributary, find its truest course to the sea. I am trying to remove dead leaves and mud and debris and clutter and whatever impedes each story, even if that is the ego of the writer. Is that so hard? All it takes is 10,000 revisions.

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