Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Look Up, Look Down

I realized on my morning walk today that when I look down, my mind often starts to drift toward and stick on the nitty gritty. When I look up, I can feel my head release a bit into the clouds (or lack thereof). I've never really correlated these physicalities to their mental counterparts I experience, but I'm realizing there is definitely a connection.

I take my walks to get my head into the clouds, to cultivate wonder and an appreciation of the right now. I don't take them to plan my day and worry about things I cannot change. While I cannot deny for myself the ability of walking to generate ideas - the consistent rhythmic churn can get those mental gears churning too - I do place careful emphasis upon my desire for these walks to be more about noticing what is already than generating what is to come.

Walking away from this morning, I have a good kinesthetic tip for myself to be cognizant of when my head is hunched down into it's thoughts, and when it's on the balloon string of my neck, floating up into the here and now. They both have their purpose: it's up to me to notice when one serves me better than the other.

Look up.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

I Saw Mars Last Night

At the time, I didn't know it was Mars, it was just something near the Moon, shining brighter than everything else. It caught my eye and I couldn't look away. 

I wondered if it was a star, a satellite. Kris suggested it might be a planet, a theory I didn't prescribe to until he sent me an article about it late last night that I woke up to see in my texts.

What a magical thing! Had we not been sitting outside in our chairs in the yard after our walk, waiting for Heather and Palmer to drive by after she picked him up from daycare, I doubt I would have noticed it. There we were, sitting around and agreeing how good it felt to sit around in our yard, staring up at the sky with little else to do for a couple minutes. We agreed that we should really do more of that. Easy to think, harder to do.

I'm taken by how magical it was to really not have known until this morning what it was that drew my attention last night. I just did. It was just WORTH it to sit there and stare up at it and WONDER.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Gratitude Overwhelm

This morning, I started drifting awake thinking about all the shots we maybe 'should have taken' and didn't yesterday during my dance company Rhythmically Speaking's first-ever (and outside in MN January, mid-pandemic, 11 hour) screendance shoot. It shook me awake, starting to dream up shots I probably wouldn't have before being there, in the moment, with all the dancers and the videography team. I can't help but start post-morteming before a project is over: I just don't want to miss any chance to learn something and take note of it for an even better next time.

While I haven't seen the footage yet, I am CERTAIN it will be beautiful and more than enough to make a beautiful screendance. Knowing this does not stop me from thinking through 'woulda-shoulda-coulda's, but as long as I can keep these thought processes in the territory of 'learn from' rather than 'torture thyself,' I think they can be productive!

So how does this connect to gratitude? Pretty easily, actually. Worries about missed shots shook me awake, but very shortly after getting myself out on my morning walk - back into nature without an agenda - I started to feel the gratitude collecting within me. Looking at the trees in my neighborhood, I was shook by how incredibly fortunate we were to have such a beautiful and rare natural event - rime ice - happening on the very shoot date we'd set months head. Earlier this week, I was lamenting the forecast, thinking about how we wouldn't be able to capture a beautiful sunrise or a beautiful sunset - many of which we've seen happen while rehearsing out at the beautiful land at which we were so fortunate (there's that word again) to practice and shoot.

I got over that lament pretty quick when realizing the trees were going to be just coated in soft yet prickly snow-ice that . . . I just can't describe the beauty of this. Wow. The best I can do for a visual right now is a screen-shot of a video I grabbed at rehearsal on Friday:

Beautiful in it's own right, but unable to capture the magic of yesterday. 

I was so absorbed in simultaneously managing my producer, director, choreographer and dancer roles that I didn't capture anything! I know Kris got some shots, but he too was balancing too many jobs - the slate, the music, keeping us on time, carrying equipment - to really get much of anything to document the ABSOLUTE SPLENDOR of nature that we were so fortunate to get to make art amidst yesterday. I really don't think anything could have. The footage we captured for the screendance will have it's own magic, just like the experience as a whole, itself, has it's own. 

So, WOW. GRATITUDE. After my heart and head could process the gratitude surrounding the nature of yesterday's art-making experience, it drifted to the people. WOW, the people. I told Kris yesterday that I'm not sure how I got lucky enough to work with such talented, kind-spirited, funny, focused, TOTALLY BRILLIANT humans. From the dancers to the film folks to my ever-adaptable, willing, supportive and capable dude Kris, trying to write this sentence of gratitude has me sitting here, alone on my couch at 9:30am on the Sunday following such a crucial, long yet quick and thick day, sobbing. Just sobbing. Soundtrack of John Prine's last release "I Remember Everything." Just sobbing. I'll remember everything. At least I'll really try to.

I'd like to think that 'how I got so lucky' - really, fortunate - to get to work with such incredible folks on the regular has something to do with the work I put into being a kind, joyful and supportive person willing to dream kinda neat art dreams :)  Whatever unique circumstances and chemistry (and ok, HARD WORK) brought yesterday together, it was quite the recipe.

My heart-swell really cannot be captured in words (or visuals!) here, but I tried, and it's helping me process it all to be able to move on to other items that are calling my name. WOW. I feel how I feel after closing a show: an overwhelming sense of gratitude, a particular and familiar feeling both striking and comforting. It's weird to experience this feeling knowing there is still so much work to do (i.e. editing, color correcting, release), but I suppose the day after show-close, there is always still quite a bit of work to do (wrapping up the budget, post-mortem meetings, etc.). All the same . . . these feelings are sure to buoy me for a while, and I'll be sure to hold them dear, preserve them and check in on them when I need them.


Gratitude overwhelm.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

You'll Just Have to Believe Me

This morning, the lights from the lamp posts around my house shone columns of brassy orange: they looked like citrus-tinged space ships tipped lengthwise. I'd never seen anything like it before!

At first, I was convinced the apartment complex near us must have gotten new lamp posts, as they are different from the St. Paul city fixtures throughout the neighborhood. Then, I turned around and saw that the city fixtures looked like citrus-tinged space ships tipped lengthwise too! It was then that I noticed the dense, tiny glitter hanging in the air, swishing at the slowest pace I think I have ever witnessed. I've seen snow-glittery air before, but not like this. Without better equipment and training, I knew I couldn't catch a photo that would do it justice.

Crude attempt to capture the magic . . .

You'll just have to believe me.

It must have been thanks to the fog advisories we've had as of late. I'm surprised it took me until recently, given my obsession with them, to learn that fog is just patches of really thin and wide-spread clouds! I suppose I shouldn't be TOO shocked: clouds have always been a thing of aesthetics for me. I appreciate the science of them, it's just not the source of my curiosity.

The combo of the fog-mist-slow-glitter-clouds and the way they affected the light from the neighborhood lamp posts this morning was a bit too much for me to hold in: my body had to release some water from my eyes in order for me to process everything. Wonder in real-time.

I told Kris the other day that I couldn't imagine what it would be like to grow up in a place with no snow. Shortly after, I followed that up with the guess that there are plenty of folks that couldn't imagine what it would be like to grow up without being able to see the ocean each day. All I can say is that this fog-mist-slow-glitter-clouds got my day off to the right start.

You'll just have to believe me :)

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Musings at New Year's 2020-2021

Here they are. 

As per usual, despite having a really codified, documented process for creating my 'New Year's Intentions,' I ended up following my flow and mixing up my major annual reflection session, or what I've also taken to thinking about as my 'annual review' of sorts. Hell, as most of my work is independent contract-based, no one else gives me one, so I do it myself! This is NOT a complaint - I love it this way :). The twist this year took was feeling the push to document my major concepts I extracted from this most unusual of years. Normally, the product of this process would be really focused on how I intend to frame my upcoming year, based upon what I gathered in the previous one. This year, it felt really important to include a summation of what has been gathered.

The journals I filled this year

This process took a good ten hours (as it often does), including re-reading all of my personal writing from the past year and journalling thirteen new pages. As for the take-aways extracted from the year, I didn't simply Google "What 2020 Taught Us" or "Mantras for a Great New Year": the below is another example of consciously and carefully pouring time, energy and focus into long-form reflection. Now, more than ever, I believe so deeply in this practice. With that said, below are my major themes I extracted from this remarkable year. Most of them are far from new to my musings, but rather, an 'at this point in time' sum of them, framed in unexpected ways by the year's circumstances.


WONDER: In all its forms.

CHALLENGE: Needing to be.

MISSING v./ + DISCOVERING: Sometimes one is disguised as the other.

ADAPTATION + LIMITATION: Being flexible while creating and respecting boundaries.

CREATE <---REFLECT---> DESTROY: One isn't always better than the other. 

NOTICE, SIT WITH, BREATH THROUGH, ACT UPON: Don't stop at step one or two.

LOGIC + EMOTIONS + EMPATHY + KNOWLEDGE: One without the other three just doesn't cut it.

SEEKING TO UNDERSTAND: And in turn, being understood.

YES, AND: Multiple, simultaneous truths.

GROWTH: Despite, within, because of.

UNEXPECTED GIFTS: A pleasant side affect of expectation management.

NORMALIZING "I LOVE YOU": Self-explanatory :)

I could expound on each of the above at length, but I've already done that in my journal, and I'm keeping it all to myself: I'd rather let the above retain an air of mystery, depth, knowing . . . :)  So what will I do with all these lessons extracted from 2020? It seems we don't extract just to bottle up the precious result: next, we instill it somehow. As strange as it may sound at first . . . I wish to instill some of 2020 into 2021.

Many have hopped onto the "2020: Is It Over Yet?" bandwagon. On the other end of the spectrum, there's a lot of "Maybe this was the year we didn't know we needed" perspectives floating around too. I haven't haven't felt pulled too much either way: perhaps this is a result of coming to embrace "the grey area," as Kris conceptualizes the idea of understanding and appreciating that not everything is 'cut and dried,' as 'they' say. I think it is shortsighted to believe that '2020 being over will solve everything.' It won't: the process of 'bettering' is always ongoing. I also think it is shortsighted to think that '2020 was somehow a grand lesson we need to appreciate all of.' While I clearly believe in extracting value from my experiences, I'm not stuck behind rose-colored glasses that keep me from admitting that there were many ways that 2020 was awful. There's a third thing here. Yes + and.

That third thing, for me, must be Extract + Instill. I think I'd like to let all I extracted from 2020 be potential ingredients to instill into 2021. That said, it's quite a list, and trying to memorize and use it all, all the time, doesn't feel simple enough to me to really be effective. Another way I've never found too effective: literal, action-based intentions like "drink a gallon of water a day": to me, these sorts of directives have always felt bound to fail when not backed up by a deep understanding of why such habitual changes are important. It's that 'know your why' thing, as 'they' say. 

Nonetheless, I have two such things I'd like to give mention here so they, along with all my extractions, may spill into the 2021 soup: 1) I'd like to take larger windows of writing time on Friday, Saturday or Sunday to get deeper into the 'big things' than my typical weekday windows to allow, and 2) I'd like my self-directed movement practices to include, in this order: centering/ groove + musicality/ stretching/ strengthening/ balance.

Back to those extractions, and how they make quite a list I don't think effective to try and memorize. Rather, I'm going to choose one item to really focus on instilling into 2021: the top item, the one that felt and feels MOST important, what served/s as a baseline for the rest: WONDER.



I found this on an everyday basis in 2020, more than ever before, in all its meanings: a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable/ to desire or be curious to know something/ to feel doubt. That last meaning can seem like a bit of a downer, but I don't interpret it that way. In this case, I read 'to feel doubt' as to question, to follow curiosity (one of my carefully-defined values). While I do take the first two meanings more to heart, this third meaning feels like an apt bonus that can be used a particular way :)

In 2020, I didn't often find/ feel/ experience WONDER when I went looking for it. Rather, I had to cultivate being ready for it when it presented itself. This is much like my realization that in order to fly my kite more, I have to be ready to notice and harness when the wind presents itself. I'll admit that my ongoing high hopes to fly my kite more have not really been realized. That said, rather than believe I've failed in that way, I'm going to interpret it as 'perhaps you are just not as moved by getting your kite in the air as you wish you'd be, and that's ok.' It's there for the times it feels right. I digress.

I see the desire to instill WONDER into my 2021, and therein, my ongoing approach to life, a conscious choice to cultivate my senses of appreciation and imagination. Honestly, nothing I can think of feels more important to how I wish to work as an artist and a human. An artist-human.

So here's how I leap and bound into 2021: with a sense of wonder instilled into my beliefs and values, and they ways I manifest them - also known as my approach to life:




The above is what feels most important for me to memorize, take to heart and consider - even if subconsciously - on a daily basis. It's taken me many years to define with words my beliefs and values, and how they manifest. They continue to shift over time to ring even more true to me. Even just at the start of 2020, they sat within slightly different words that made me consider them in slightly different ways. I am grateful for this ongoing process of looking inward at the New Year that began for me in eighth grade: I believe it's a crucial part of my developing ability to understand and appreciate that things are always shifting.

With all of this, I welcome 2021. 2021, I am prepared to meet you where you are, led by my carefully-defined beliefs and values and an understanding of how they manifest for me, instilled with a sense of WONDER extracted from my past experiences. With that, I'll finish with a bit of whimsical, direct-quotation from the journalling that led up to this post, inspired by my love for and sense of WONDER surrounding clouds:

Photo taken Summer 2020 at a friends farm outside Cannon Valley

"I love oscillating between grounding myself and floating among the clouds . . . I have my breath and they have their drift . . . together."

Monday, December 21, 2020

Bleak is Beautiful: Solstice Edition

What is this season offering to us?



As always, I'm not musing anything that hasn't been thought before. Everything old is new again . . .  to me and you and anyone and everyone else every time a journey through life is happening.

Today's 'not new' is the concept that it can feel quite easy for humans to rush toward the next thing without leaving space for gratitude for what is already there. Flip the coin for another 'not new': the idea of making shift within what you wish to and can, and embracing for what it offers that which you cannot change.

I'd like to think I came across this as a Zen Buddhist idea, but I'm honestly not sure, and I won't be going to find out. At least not right now. Sometimes feeding my curiosity is the thing I'm appreciating. Giving socio-historical context to the topic at hand. Sometimes, what I'm appreciating is my own pathway to considering the topic at hand, without having to prescribe it to a particular origin beyond my own experience. Everything old is new again. Finding my own way about the world, my own compass for guiding me on the path of being a good human.

Regardless, appreciation is there. It needs to be there. If it's not there, a lot is missed.

Back to seasons. When I say 'season' in this context, I less mean leaves falling and snow dropping, and more mean sections of life. Personal seasons feel small and individual, large and societal, and everything in between, and I'd posit that all of them overlap all the time. That said, humanity as a whole is experiencing a large, long, unexpected season together right now, in the shape of a pandemic, and I feel in my bones how fruitful it is to wait. Appreciate.

What is this season offering to us?

I can appreciate that having space to process this way is not a given for everyone all the time, which in a way makes me feel more push to be sure I am doing so. Cultivating and adding this approach to the world in my own small way.



What is this season offering to us?

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Human-Made Imitates Nature


Leaf placed for dramatic affect ;)

Yesterday’s nature moment: 

Bleak is Beautiful.