Whoosh! Do you ever have those weeks of things coming together, times when you can actually see and feel confluence, synchronicity, the divine pattern in the way things constellate? I'm in one of those windows right now. Don't know how long it will last--my life has been like that song by Ferron "Ain't Life a Brook," whose chorus goes, "It comes together and it comes apart." Right now is a moment of it coming together. No doubt it will all come apart in another moment, only to reconfigure anew.
We've had house-guests for the last few days, my friend Suzanne and her youngest daughter who is entering U.C. Berkeley in the fall. They were here for a student-parent orientation, and stayed with us. Suzanne is married to my friend Ted who was a VISTA volunteer with me back in 1981-82. Ted worked with Cubans, I worked with Haitians; we lived in separate tiny stiflingly hot houses with roommates and shared (and still share) a kind of Conan the Barbarian sensibility. When he slept over my house we would drag a mattress into the backyard (this was hard-core inner city Miami) and sleep under the stars. When I slept over his house I would lay down a sleeping bag on the floor between him and his roommate Jeremy, while they played a furious game of catch with a small hard rubber ball which always landed perilously close to my head. This was done to help cure me of my insomnia, which Ted also felt would be ameliorated if only I would take up drinking.
Ted is a big bluff New Englander whose family settled Connecticut. I also remember skinny-dipping with him on Miami Beach, within sight of the big fancy tourist hotels, and I remember him doing cannon ball dives from the third floor balcony of another tiny stifling VISTA apartment. We all lived on $75.00 a week, and ate a lot of rice and beans. You can't afford much in the way of entertainment on that kind of salary, so we just hung out and talked for hours. He drove a VW bug that was held together with spit and chewing gum.
So now it's almost thirty years later and Ted married a wonderful grounded funny woman who can hold her own with him, and they have three amazing kids. Suzanne is a nurse, and their whole family has been raised with service work, building homes through Habitat for Humanity. Their oldest daughter has a relationship with an orphanage in Uganda where she has worked several different stints, and their youngest daughter wants to be a doctor with Doctors Without Borders.
I've been in communication with Whirlwind Wheelchairs, and after I dropped Suzanne and their daughter off at the airport I drove out to SFSU to meet with people there and see if I could find a way to go to Haiti with them. As the 8-all would say, "Signs are promising." I met some great people who work in the office, and we talked about how I could serve in several capacities, as interpreter, and as a journalist. I connected with a physical therapist who is planning on going over there this summer; she wants me to tutor her in Creole. It all felt very "meant to be", in the way things do sometimes, where you can just feel the door opening.
I had had a big crazy idea a little while back about bringing Interplayers to Haiti and doing some playing and dancing and healing with survivors, especially kids. When I met the founder of Whirlwind Wheelchairs, who has been in a chair himself, for decades, I felt embarrassed to even mention it to him, as the "office" where we met was filled with different wheelchairs, from every era, and smelled of axle grease like an auto shop. I thought his emphasis was all technical, and that my idea about dance was way too hippie fou-fou. But when I mentioned Axis dance Company and Megan, who is a member of Wing It! who has worked with Axis for years, his face lit up and he said, "She was my teacher." He himself danced with Axis for a year.
It was one of those great moments when I could feel the connections circling round. He hadn't been involved with Axis for years, but he still had a glow when he talked about it. And of course no one who ever meets Megan can help but be transformed by the experience. She is so radiant that everyone always falls in love with her. He and his assistant started talking about my diea as if it were feasible, as if it were going to happen. they said I should start thinking about some other Interplayers to bring. Immediately I thought of Masankho, who only sleeps four hours a night, lives on airplanes, eats whatever is put in front of him, communicates through dance and the drum, and is generally the most adaptable adept leader I know, and of Enver, my Turkman brother, who would be such a joy to work with.
I need physically hardy, low-maintenance colleagues who travel well, and can improvise in intense situations. Both those guys fit the bill. I'll see if there are any women who would like to go also; a French-speaker would be good. But I can share a room with either of those guys and feel as comfortable as with a girlfriend. We're family.
They asked me what I would charge for this and I felt abashed and said my plane fare over and food and board. Then afterward I thought, Wait a minute. I've hardly earned any money this year. I need to start figuring out how to get myself subsidized. I have to get some kind of sponsor or something.
Meanwhile the other thing that's happening is a very tiny theatre group in New York --not in the heart of the city but about half an hour outside of it--is interested in Glitter and Spew and Hot Water. Nothing's definite yet, but I think I'll get at least a staged reading and maybe a small production out of it. The artistic director loves both plays. Again, the financial end of it is liable to be slim to none. I'll be very lucky if I get plane fare out of it. But this is the way things start to happen.
I talked over all of this with Christopher, and his response was completely supportive: "Go for it! I'm happy for you." I was so touched, especially as, if the situation were reversed, I might be feeling clingy and scared in his shoes. And I know that if/when I go to Haiti he'll be concerned for me. But he'll also be excited and interested. Truthfully, one of our issues has been that he's much more independent than I am. I am, as my friend Susan says, "a recovering barnacle." Only I'm not sure that I'm actually in recovery or not. Sometimes I wished for a partner who was more barnacle-like himself so we could nest in and be all inseparable and joned at the hp the way Alan and I were during the first years of our relationship.
But Christopher's response shows me how good I've got it to be with a partner who can handle being on his own (with the cat of course), and who has his own interests and passions separate from me. That gives me so much freedom, and for the first time in a while I feel like I have a good project on which to exercise it. I'll need his help in becoming a better photographer before I go, and perhaps in future we can collaborate on photo-journalistic assignments--in places where the health and sanitary conditions are more stable. He has to be a little more careful about his health than I do.
"You're tough," he encouraged me as we lay on separate couches and talked. "You can handle yourself." Precious words. Exactly what I needed to hear.
And I hope he's right. Although if this trip to Haiti happens, it won't be because of any of my vaunted "toughness" or braggadocio. It will be in the spirit of something bigger than me that is drawing these disparate elements together through me for some larger purpose. I myself am a big frazzled marshmallow who was challenged finding the parking garage. But I do appreciate his vote of confidence. And I believe with all my heart in the power of improvisation.