Wednesday, October 31, 2007

As October Wanes

I find myself feeling attached to October tonight. I'm not quite ready to let it go. But it will go, and all the acts I've missed in this grand, extended show which we call Autumn in New England cannot be recovered. The display continues of course, the undressing, and will very soon give way to the bare-bones sculpture of oak and maple and beech and more. Before that happens, and before these last hours of this golden month, my birth month, have
slipped away, I wanted to take pause (before the witches and goblins start ringing my bell) to thank everyone who came out for the Open Studios weekends. They were both spectacular weekends in every way, but mostly for the warm and extremely enthusiastic reception that Love's Freeway received. Many of you took something home from the tables and are right this minute keeping the Love alive wherever you are: how the thought of that thrills me! Thank you Thank you THANK you all for sharing the Love, and spreading the Love.
As I've already said in an earlier entry, it was a whirlwind of a month that I'm still absorbing, complete with the writing and publishing of Love's Way--a month that had me flying on the kind of high you've just got to come down from at some point. Yes, I have been crashing, restoring, and am almost restored. But at no point have I been anything less than deeply grateful for all the parts of this adventure.

I shared the calendar, book, bookmarks, cards and more with two gentlemen at Whole Foods in Cambridge, MA (thank you, Noah!) two weeks ago because they are considering stocking them. And as Noah pored over the calendar, oooing and ahhhing at the images there, I gushed, "How can I be surrounded by all this every day and
not be inspired?!?" --a rhetorical question of course.

It is nothing less than a grace and a privilege to be midwife to everything that is Love's Freeway, and all that it is becoming. I say that from the bottom of my heart.

There. That feels better. Bring on the goblins. And the chill winds. I am ready for it all. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Afternoon at Symphony

Ah....the graces and gifts of this rich and abundant time just keep on coming. Thursday night, out of the blue, I was handed a free ticket (thank you, Carol!) to the symphony. I had missed my (at minimum) annual visit to Tanglewood this summer, so I was especially delighted to be given the spontaneous gift of an afternoon with the BSO in Symphony Hall. I was excited to take my seat the next day, front and center in the first balcony, and ready to soak in a wonderful concert.

I do love cello, and the program notes further piqued my interest in the Shostakovich concerto, but as I listened, I found my thoughts and attention wandering. I studied the musicians, their excellence apparent. I watched the percussionists in particular: amazing, to be able to subtly shake that tambourine at just barely a 'simmer' for minutes on end--first with one hand and then a seamless pass to the other and then back again, and repeat and repeat. Amazing. I found myself wishing I'd brought binoculars in lieu of opera glasses--to better see the plucks of the harpists, for example. The soloist was impressive. But still, I found myself wondering: why do we do this? Why do we play these classical pieces again and again, decade upon decade? Why do we attend concerts to hear them? Why do we spend 60 or 70 or 80 dollars a pop to do so: why?

Looking around the Hall, I wondered: are these people engaged, enthralled, the way I am in front of say a Patty Griffin or a Brandi Carlile performing live? Does this transport them? They didn't seem to be transported. And these musicians: they are professionals. They make sacrifices, they dedicate their lives to this. Why? Is it transporting for them? I imagine it is wonderful, uplifting to be surrounded by all that music brought to life in their very midst and with such expertise. I've been steeping myself lately in the music of independent singers/songwriters. That I understand, that force which erupts in an artist and results in a created work. And yes, I don't think I would ever tire of hearing Patty perform "Mary" or Cris Williamson belt out "The Changer and the Changed" live. But these are the music makers themselves sallying forth with their own creations for our enjoyment. Those songs I've grown so familiar with and enamored of via recordings are brought newly to life before my very eyes and ears: marvelous! Is it this way for those intimate with the works of the great classical composers too? Perhaps. I don't know. I do know that when the BSO and the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra, all crammed together and using every last quarter inch of the stage of that Koussevitzky Music Shed out in Lenox, put their violins and flutes and horns and drums and all the rest to the score of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, they never fail to bring me to my knees.

I also know this: Shostakovich ended, and on the other end of an intermission, Bruckner's Ninth began, and by the third and last movement of this unfinished symphony, I wasn't asking any questions. I was "taken" by the music--transported, yes. In part I'm sure because I had read the program notes. I knew of his struggles with this work, triggered by Hermann Levi's rejection of his Eighth. According to the notes, "Levi had truly loved the Seventh but found himself, to his great embarrassment, unable to comprehend the Eighth." That blow cast Bruckner and all his recent works under a shadow of doubt. He began second guessing himself. He began revising previously finished works, and continued to do so until the end of his life. He spent his last three years trying to create a finale for the Ninth: there was to be a fourth movement that would have tied up all the elements of the first three.

My ears (or is it intellect? heart?) are not trained sufficiently to recognize those elements to such an extent that I would be left after the third movement feeling incomplete, feeling as unfinished as the work itself. Yet on the other hand, maybe the work is finished, is perfectly whole as is. It sounded so to my ear. Maybe Bruckner's doubt blinded him to the wholeness, the exquisiteness, the brilliance of what he had made. After all, here was a stage full of skilled musicians about 120 years later working at rendering it to the best of their ability, and a Symphony Hall full of patrons paying handsomely to hear it, and here was this one listener at the least, in Row C, Seat 31, moved to tears as its final notes were played.

Would Bruckner ever have guessed this, let alone expected it?

We give our Love truly, is all. Ideally, we bring forth what is ours to bring forth as purely as possible, and the rest, I say, takes care of itself. The force that gave rise in Bruckner to his Ninth, as written, deserved to be trusted. But it would appear that Bruckner died without confidence in that, without enjoying the fruits and satisfaction--and peace--of that certainty. How many of us are at risk to doing the same?

By the concert's end, I realized: so I wasn't crazy about the Shosta-
kovich. But the Bruckner was another story. In any event, the answer to all my Whys was clear to me. We do it all because of their (the works' and the composers') brilliance. We do it because Love was given Its way with these composers, and their works of art are the result.

We do it, I see now, to be closer to Love.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Clear, Alive, In Love

Whew! What a whirlwind, is all I can say. It's been weeks now pondering where to begin to share it all, and I still don't know quite where to begin.

I think of the I Ching, the "book of changes," to which one ideally brings questions of some complexity, questions without yes or no answers. Sometimes my preferred way then of putting words to an inquiry is to ask, "Where is the Change with...?" - fill in the blank. The cornerstone of this bountiful and aged oracle is the understanding that all is constantly changing, that nothing is fixed. With everything in motion, it is not so useful then to ask, "What will be the outcome of...?" - fill in the blank. It would be like trying to stop an ocean wave--where, where it gathers? mounts? crests? falls and foams upon the shore?--to identify its outcome, when a wave is more about a process than an outcome, when a wave is a motion, incessant, comprised of many moments within that motion, each perfect and integral and complete and deserving of its place. Each essential to the rest.

Perhaps the truest and simplest words I can use to represent this moment in time, to say where the Change is with me and Love's Freeway as an extension of me (or is it the other way around??) are these: I have never been more clear. I have never been more alive. I have never been more in Love.

Speaking of the L word, I do believe I reached Epiphany #197 (smile) a week or so ago on this subject. I have said it before: I understand being in Love is akin to being in the kitchen or the garden or the bedroom or the parlor. And I have said that the being "out of Love" that people talk about (lament) is really more about leaving that Room than it is about one's (former) lover. It was a number of the earlier epiphanies that resulted collectively in this clarity of understanding. This latest epiphany is the big sugary rose if you will on the icing of that cake. It relates to those moments when we say (or want to say) "I am in love with you." I feel like I've just been given the code to that statement, that I fully understand it for the first time. I would state it this way, though: "I am in Love with you."

Why the capital L? You know why, if you've been following these notes from the Freeway. Suffice it to say, the capital letter is eminently significant. To say "I am in Love with you," is absolutely akin to saying "I am in the kitchen with you" when you are in the kitchen with someone, or saying "I am in the car with you," when in the car together.

Surely you have received the great gift of such a moment, of being so moved that these words "I am in love with you" rush to your lips, whether or not they are given voice. I say it is a moment of grace. I say it is a moment of reunion. I say it is a moment of truth, of re-membering: of remembering who one is. It is evoked, elicited by that special person in your midst, but it is not about the person. What I mean is, I think we get confused. I think that routinely we get confused. The experience of "I am in Love with you" actually translates like so:

"With you (alongside you, as I am inspired by you, touched by you: your words, your mind, your thoughts and values, your quirks, your voice, your laugh, your smile, the wrinkles around your eyes, your deep deep eyes...) I am in (in the mist/midst/experience/room/
milieu/realm) Love" (the Life Force, the Energy that
powers all life, the Stuff of the earth and sun and moon and stars, the Every-
thing). No wonder it feels so BIG! No wonder we speak of being swept off our feet. No wonder we say we are "falling..." And speaking of falling, there's a pitfall.

Pitfall #1: We identify that Love with the other: "Because I am in love with you, it must be you who is my love." We even say that: "My love." The person gets mixed up with, collapsed into the Love. And what follows that? Fear, inevitably (and often sooner than later). Sometimes jealousy. Often, expectation and the earmarks of ownership, possession. If you are my Love, if you bring that into my experience, my heart, then I am vulnerable to you. I am at risk to your taking it away. I can lose this love, according to your whims or wishes. If you have a change of mind or a change of heart, what have I got? A lost love.

Love capital L can never be lost, is never lost. It is not lost or found at the goings and comings of our loved ones. Love cannot ever be lost or found. It can, however, be remembered or forgotten. It can be recognized or ignored. It is the substance of which we are made, but we forget that.

Remembering is a physical experience, not an intellectual one. The heart blooms, simple as that. A warmth, a "glow" spreads across the chest, that warm fuzzy, yummy sort of glow spreads across the chest. Sometimes it even spreads to other parts of the body. In some circumstances, we call this "chemistry" or "sexual chemistry"--a wonderful thing. In both cases, and because that blooming feels so tremendous and enlivening, we want more. Not unlike when we've finished an exceptional meal, but we take another serving because it's just so delicious. It's the feeling, the experience of "I could never have too much of this." We naturally (excepting the masochists among us) avoid or attempt to avert what is unpleasant or distasteful. We spit it out. But it is natural, no?, to want more of what dazzles us. We want it close and often.

Pitfall #2: Because we have identified the Love with the person, we think the bloom is automatic in his or her presence. Keep that person around, and I am guaranteed to be intoxicated by the sweet, heady fragrance of that bloom, or that is what comes to be expected. All is well until a few months pass and/or the beloved reveals some detestable trait or habit. Contraction begins. The bloom retracts. The heart closes as surely as the tulip folds up come dusk. It opens again in the next day's sun, sure. But then shed a little more dark and cool upon it, and it will wrap its petals up once more. The warmth and light of that morning sun is glorious though for the tulip. It spreads wide in that environment. It gives everything of itself, all of it. You might say it surrenders. It exposes its very core, its deepest most intimate parts. It is just like that, our "falling in love" as we call it. We think our love is a consequence of the other, but it is simply a consequence of our being open. Splaying ourselves, like the tulip. And when a cool blast comes through, that's another story. Should the cool blast linger, we remain retracted, closed. There is no warm fuzzy bloom. There might even be anger or resentment, or a feeling of betrayal. We call this "falling out of love."

The terms are accurate, useful. It's our understanding of them that's askew. When we retract or "fall out of love," it is simply because we have stopped being open. Stopped generating love. We have stopped being in Love, simple as that.

"Fall in Love every day" is my friend Jackson's philosophy--a good one, I say! What triggers that bloom in you? Is it the soft milky breath of your infant at your cheek? Is it the fathomless depth or heat in the eyes of your beloved? Is it a perfume? A bouquet? A romantic dinner or sunset or walk by the bay? Is it the sensation of warm sand under the length of your body, the metronomic wash of waves across the pebbled shore utter music in your ears? Is it capturing your passions, devotions, celebrations, epiphanies in the lines of poem or the strokes of a brush? Is it snuggling with your dog or ferret or bunny? Is it live music that opens you?

What opens you? What returns you to Love? What are the graces that help you remember yourself?

And do you need others to experience romance? No. You create it, you open to it. You court it--with or without another--or you don't. Am I suggesting that the beloved is extraneous, unnecessary, redundant? Am I advocating a living in the moment, disposable sort of recklessness? Am I anti-commitment or opposed to the "LTR"? No! I am not denouncing marriage or longevity, any more than I am proposing sustaining a relationship that has lived its life. I am not implying we should allow ourselves to be tossed by the whims of the wind. As I write that, k.d. lang (covering Jane Siberry) sings some of the most beautiful words I can imagine exchanging with my beloved:

"I love the best of you, you love the best of me, though it's not always easy...We will walk in good company."

In the words, and between them, I hear something like this:

I see you, all of you; you see me, all of me, and we choose to stay, not in spite of this. I will not be daunted when it's hard because there is Love here present, because we choose to live in Love, together. Because we are the Love we say we are.

It's no mystery, no surprise: novelty is always (yes?) more captivating, more inspirational than that to which we've grown accustomed over a span of time. It takes something (a lot!) to keep something longstanding fresh and alive. Even roses need a fresh cut and new water every day to live out a full life in the vase. But because I love the rose, because it blesses me with the satin of its petals, sobers me with the fierceness of its thorns, seduces me with its scent, it is easy to give it the care required for its full expression. The work is not work any longer. It is a devotion then. It is something done in an "of course" sort of way--something gladly given.

I don't think it is common in this part of the world for couples to approach their relationship from the standpoint of choice--daily choice, as in 'I choose you today, and I will choose to choose you every day for as long as we continue to grow in Love ensemble."

Where am I going with this? Somewhere that can't be finished in one writing, I suspect. But for this moment, I don't want to end without saying that I think we ought to be able to spill with our "I am in Love with you"s, every one of them, from day one, for what a gift, what a cause for celebration this is, to open to be opened to Love! This would work, would do only good, if it weren't for the pitfalls, for the inevitable (yes?) misinterpretations that would result. But in fact, that I am "in Love with you" doesn't obligate you any more than it entitles me--not at all! I do believe we forget that participation in any relationship is voluntary. The time, the adoration or esteem or cherishment of another is a grace, a gift, and entitlement has no part in that. We give gifts (ideally) because we are moved to do so. Think of how different it feels to receive a gift given out of obligation, versus one given out of inspiration.

How do we fall in Love every day--even multiple times a day?

We put ourselves in the way of inspiration. We create, invite occasions of passion and inspiration. We put ourselves in Love's way. We keep a commitment to fall in Love every day: we wake up and declare it when we rise--and mean it. We open ears, nose, eyes, hearts, hands, pores to the Love that is in our midst always. Simply put, we welcome Love. And yes, if you make the acquaintance of someone who opens--beg your pardon: if you make the acquaintance of someone in whose presence you open, keep company with that someone! It is always a very good idea to say Yes to such gifts, such graces. Just as it is a good idea to meet them newly each time, in a posture of gratitude for what was bestowed yesterday, and without expectation that it will be offered again today. To be ever surprised when someone chooses to give you the gift of their love is to keep that love alive and always new, even over long stretches of time (what time? there is now and now and now, and that is all).

"I owe you nothing, but I choose to give you everything, this day, now."

Try that posture with your loved one, with one another, moment by moment, and report back to me in 10 or 20 or 30 years. This is being in Love. This is living a lifetime in Love. And there is so much more to say, but not tonight.