Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Wonderful Time of the Year

Yes, the goldenrod are out. I am not allergic so I find them beautiful as many people do not.  With the equinox we immediately began to have very cool nights and beautiful sunny, warm days.  This is autumn as we all love it. After a summer that seemed to pack some of every kind of weather in at random--cool, hot, humid, rainy, foggy, cloudy--now we have what is to me perfect autumn weather.  Only the youngest and tenderest trees have given in to the chill and begun to turn red or orange or gold,  The show of color, here on Cape Cod, usually comes much later -- well into October. 

I walk past this stand of goldenrod down to the beach (you can just see some of the horizon line behind them) early in the morning as I did during the summer when the sun was out. I have the conservation area called Long Beach almost entirely to myself. Perhaps I see a runner or two, a dog walker or two but quite often I can look up and down the mile-long bow of beach and see no one -- oh, the occasional gull and sometimes a few ducks resting on their way somewhere southerly.

Quite a few shells of horseshoe crabs litter the water's edge and I feel a certain awe inspired by these ancient beings who were already ancient when the dinosaurs took over ruling the wetter parts of the earth.  I usually turn the shells over  so they don't seem to be laying on their backs exposing their innards to the sky.  And I sometimes make groups of them to keep one another company.  I feel, on one hand, as if I'm doing some housekeeping--neatening the shore--and on the other, as if it's some archetypal rite of respect for the tenacious ancestors. I've noticed others are doing the same, as if there are gatherings of the elders there on the sand.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Meeting place, with good food

I think this house has gone through several incarnations but I love its current life as the Chat House in Dennis, Massachusetts. A thoughtful young couple have turned it into a restaurant and kind of community center.  First came the restaurant idea (I think) -- a smallish menu of unexpected variety, pastries for the coffee and breakfast eaters, and a variety of intersting foods for the lunch and dinner group -- not a sit down and be served place but an order and settle in one of the variety of rooms, or the patio (in good weather) and enjoy.  Lately wine and beer have been added, definitely a plus!

Art shows by local artists -- good ones, often youngish, cover the walls and tend to sell (as the prices are usually reasonable).  Groups are encouraged to come, meet and talk. Many nights there is music  by local artists. They  have a story slam once a month and have instituted a poetry open mike night.  I, and various members of my family, have been going to the story slam and telling our stories. A new group, as of today named Creative Chatters, has met four times (every two weeks).  A very eclectic group of women brought together by a cheerful "communicator" as she defines herself, to come up with something creative inspired by a random word, drawn from a group of words brainstormed a couple of meetings ago. There are painters, writers, teachers, jewelry makers, crafts makers -- eight people today with two absentees. 

Today's prompt was "sky", in the past it has been sunset, maintenance, and yellow, for the next meeting it will be farm. What can will people come up with? There's no telling, being a born and bred farm girl, I'll think of something. The others are not farmers' daughters, I'll be curious what they do. We were mostly strangers to one another two months ago. As women do, we erupt into personal stories every so often, we are becoming friends as we become acquainted. I think this is always true of groups of women and it probably begins way back in grade school.

Women "of a certain age" have an advantage over men in this respect.  Men seem to have learned to bond only over sports, and later career/work or, still, sports watching. But women usually trust other women, rarely are competitive in the physical way men are and rarely have a single interest.  Especially after the age of 55 or 60 we have weathered many similar storms, most of us have been divorced, most have children, most have had one or sometimes many careers. 

We find it wonderful that we can spent two hours sitting in one of the rooms of the Chat House chatting and "showing and telling" having coffee and/or something for lunch depending on the time we arrive. This is better than a coffee shop, it's a living room away from home. Such a good idea. I hope the couple feel their hard work is paying off.  I am happy to have extended my acquaintances to women I would not have met otherwise and I am inspired by the unexpected prompts.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Out Of Africa, redux

 The Tuesday afternoon series of free film at the college has begun. They are usually foreign films but yesterday's was the wonderful 1985  Out of Africa with the oh-so-young and soulful Robert Redford and the incredibly pretty and strong Meryl Streep.  I had forgotten, or perhaps didn't realize before, how really fine looking they were at that age. Of course I see the photos today and see how they have aged. 

The movie is full of wonderful scenes of Kenya which have become almost cliches now, especially the aerial shots -- herds of wildebeasts running across the savannah!

I had forgotten the particulars of the story, the matching independence of the two stars in their own way and the wonderful love affair.  The great loss Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dineson) endured and survived, both the farm and Finch-Hadden 

By the end of the film was was reminded strongly of age -- for they are almost my contemporaries and because they are celebrities they are photographed often.  Redford is not in many movies; he's pursuing his other interests. Streep is in ever stronger roles. Her "Iron Lady" looks nothing like this soft young woman albeit there's the determined set of her mouth, the steady gaze even there.

And I am reminded of romantic losses. Between age and memories, I left the movie in a far more profoundly thoughtful state than I had been the first time I saw it -- then the lions, the Kikuyu, the marriage of convenience and the colonial way of life struck me.  It's a very moving thing to revisit something as strong as this movie in the light of both political and personal history.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Iliad -- Cotuit, Massachusetts

I was in despair the first few times I went to the Cotuit Center for the Arts about four years ago.  I had left New York and landed in a dramatic wasteland. Okay, I thought sadly, a part of my life like the immediate availability of the Metropolitan Museum, I've given up forever.

But a new director, new enthusiasm, higher standards have arrived at that community theatre which has expanded in many, many ways, including a black box theatre seating only about 25 in a tiny ex-farmhouse where mostly one-person shows are produced.  And they have been GOOD. Not just good, EXCELLENT.  I thought it unlikely a one-man telling of The Iliad could begin to compare to a one-man play about Burbage.  But I was wrong.  Different, yes! But good, good theatre. Who could imagine?  Well, the playwright's, Lisa Peterson an Denis O'Hare first of all and then the actor, Kevin Quill, all supported by the new Artistic Director, David Kuehn.  An Iliad is not THE  Iliad; it is a modern play with a modern Homer far distant from the days when he was able to sing the epic in several days before an audience of Greeks. 

I went expecting to be disappointed. I have made myself familiar with the Odyssey and  the Oresterai for my own  playwrighting about Clytemnestera, the reviled murderer of Agamemnon, leader of the Greek army. The story of Achilles and Hector was of fringe interest to me; but the epic, the complexity of fighting for the "heroic" purpose of rescuing a kidnapped wife, when, in fact, many wars were fought at Troy for domination of trade routes -- it's always money! How could they compress this epic and include modern references as the review in the paper suggested?

I was not disappointed -- only a little sad that that the size of the ambition was beyond the grasp of writers and actor... but not much.  If I were a dramaturg I'd have made cuts to shorten the play, but not many.  Quill is a very talented actor but he is a young man. He has not had the in-depth training of some of the older actors I saw and knew personally in New York. He delivered a long, complex monologue with only very brief bobbles, but when he stopped being the story teller, Homer, and became Achilles, Hector, Priam his youth and lack of voice training, lack of exploration of his emotional mechanism were obvious. I know actors who could make the audience cower at the wrath of Achilles. Rage far beyond road rage was needed.

But between actor and writers a magnificent two or three minutes occurred when "Homer" listed wars, from the Trojan, to Peloponesian, Alexandrine, and on and on all over the world, chronological order, 60, maybe 75 wars up to Iraq and Afghanistan -- the horrible continuity of war -- so brilliantly enunciated I felt I had heard Callas singing an aria. I was so excited by the accomplishment (not just the wars most in the room would name but many, many more) I had to applaud -- and others joined me.  Then I was a little sorry because I think it broke Quill's concentration for a bit. But he deserved it. He delivered that (still only partial) listing with clarity and passion.

This is an anti-war play at a time our country is debating involving itself in another "war" (or intervention).  It was so much better than I expected that I am excited and eager to tell friends to to go see it. God! I love the theatre!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Opposites don't always attract

I've been surfing blogs.  Oh-oh, dangerous! Yes.  I read one that says 17.5 million people in America are hungry.  They do not have enough food, they sometimes eat only one meal a day. They pick up road kill and cook it, they are malnourished. The number includes many children.

Another say that 69% of Americans are overweight and 32% are obese.  We've been hearing about the divide between the 99% of normal people and the 1% of super rich.  Most of us live in the middle (and are overweight ourselves to some extent)  and we actually don't see those who are hungry. They don't go where we go, they can't afford gas, they don't have jobs, they are ashamed they don't have decent clothes.  But we DO see the obese.  We cringe even if they are relatives or good friends. 

This stock picture raises so many questions for me although I don't see the bikini-ed woman as being one of the hungry 17.5 million.  As a writer a lot of potential story lines come to mind, a lot of character analysis is suggested.  As a  social observer I have to think something is wrong here. 
This is part of the society we are living in. We can say they share many interests, they see one another's best side.  Could be. So, okay, the first question that comes to mind: what happens when they try to make love?  Sleep in the same bed?

Obesity, or at last what we would consider "fat" was a mark of beauty during Ruben's time -- because only the wealthy could be fat, most people were among the hungry, or certainly not among the overfed. But today many who are living at the poverty level are obese--because of the abundance of sugar and fat in relatively inexpensive food.  The artist Botero give us obese people and animals -- always solid and firm, rounded not squishy.  Is he ironic or satiric or actually trying to beautiful obesity? He's immensely popular. I can't figure out why. I also can't figure out just what's wrong with our complex society when 17.5 people are actually hungry -- actually trying hard to make a living, actually not succeeding, not resorting to  robbery or other illegal activities, but struggling, truly struggling while others are eating themselves to serious disease and early death. And as they do so burdening our medical services with myriad illnesses that come with their weight. They do not hurt only themselves; they hurt everyone else.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Don't stop doing what you want to do

For years and years, it seems, I've read, at intervals, stories in the paper about Diane Nyad trying to swim between Cuba and Florida -- freely, not in a shark proof cage.  She is now in her 60s and SHE DID IT! I felt a thrill when I saw the picture of a decidedly older woman  surrounded by reporters and photographers, obviously rejoicing in her victory.

Hers was a physical triumph and one of will.  Most of us don't struggle to attain a physical goal as she did -- that adds a dimension to the impressiveness of her accomplishment.   But many of us who have had dreams of attaining this or that goal all our lives reach a point of being worn out by the struggle.  We question the importance of what we want to do. We are entirely right to question ourselves, to assess our desires in the light of what we've learned in our lives and sometimes we are right to let a dream fade away, to realize that it was never attainable or is no longer necessary to fulfill our lives. But others will find that, yes, whether or not the goal is attained, the struggle toward it is satisfying, is reward in itself -- it might be a sheaf of poems, a meditation practice, teaching others some skill that we've attained. 

I cannot swim across a small pool; I find long distance swimming amazing. I've written all my life and had some successes but nothing big, maybe that will never happen. But writing is how I think, how I express myself and something I can share. It gives me great pleasure and comes as naturally as brushing my hair and teeth.  I'll keep on keeping on.