My Third Novel's Conclusion, My Heartbreak

My heart begins to break when I think about completing this particular book -- because this narrative has sustained me like no other story I've known. It's both more personal and more universal than my other works. But beyond memory and archetype, it's a cri-de-coeur about needing to become the person one is destined to be. And in the writing, I have met my own life's work, my own fated journey -- having the sense all the while that the pages are suffused with a resonance, an energy, an electrified field that defies explanation. Writers hope and pray to be overtaken by a work in this way -- to be conscripted into passionate service of a profound story. To experience it even once in a lifetime seems a great privilege. I still have several months before this novel is complete, and this constitutes my reprieve. Because I'm not ready for the beauty to end.

Friday, October 12, 2018

What I Learned at the Interview

       When I was two years old, a new resident of Paris, I was accompanied by my mother to a preschool interview at "L'Ecole Maternelle," in the 7th arrondissement.  My black patent leather shoes were new, and I carried a matching purse, which, in and of itself, was a gleaming testament to beauty.
       When we arrived, a teacher gamely provided me with a set of stackable cups in order to observe my burgeoning motor skills.  And I clearly remember turning them over in my hands, thinking "These could be used for cooking!  And they would float like little boats in the bathtub!  They would make perfect molds for sand castle turrets or raspberry jello or clay!  And what a lovely home for the two caterpillars I found yesterday!"
      "The little girl, she does not know how to stack the cups?" the teacher asked my mother.
       "She's thinking about them more deeply," my mother replied.
 Somehow, I passed the remainder of the interview and was accepted to L'Ecole Maternelle on the basis of my "creativity, high language and math capability, and sweet disposition."  But afterwards, my mother admonished me about the incident with the stackable cups.
        "Sometimes it is necessary to appear more ordinary," she said.
         It's a lesson I'm still learning.  When I perceive the reality of things -- beyond their simplistic appearance -- I often say nothing.  But inside my mind, I understand the nuances, the subtleties, the potential -- and yet more -- within everyone and everything I encounter.
         It brings me joy, this understanding -- like a complex piece of music, or a beautifully woven tapestry.  I perceive every note, every thread -- but I also see the work of art in its totality.
         I can't imagine what it would be like to understand less.  This is life as I've always known it -- abundant, surprising, intricate, profound.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Winning Life's Prize: Wisdom

I came across Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If," yesterday -- and found resonant wisdom in these lines.  Are you strong enough, when being lied about, not to deal in lies -- or when being hated, not to give way to hating?  Can you "bear to hear the truth you've spoken/ Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools?"

Great words -- and they all have to do with the fundamentals of character.  We all make errors at times, but do we know how to rectify them -- how to pick ourselves up and go forward having made an honest self-reckoning?  Or do we double-down in order to deny our responsibility for our own actions?  The answers determine the true progress of our lives -- nothing less.

                                If
                   by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream-- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
and treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Rush Forward Slowly

I visited Filoli Gardens with friends recently -- and found myriad secrets within the arbors, the blossoms, the gates leading from one green room to another.  At one point, I stood in an extraordinary exterior doorway of carved oak and mahogany from the nineteenth century.  Above my head was an inset stone plaque, inscribed with the words "Avanza lentamente," which roughly translates to "Rush forward slowly."  What lay beyond these words?  Hedges and blue irises, yew trees and camelias with heads as large as cabbages, trails and jewel-like swimming pools, lush terraces and life itself.

I find myself hungering for every small miracle I find -- not wanting to miss the beauty that invests itself in each adventure I undertake.  I'm constantly rushing forward slowly -- embarking with great energy on the next outing, while expecting to be halted by the transformative, the awe-inspiring, the new.  To make such discoveries among friends I love -- well, this transforms the garden surrounding me into a personal Eden, one I don't wish to leave.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

To Welcome Company, to Embrace Seclusion

"In order to write about life, first you must live it." -- Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway often spoke about the tension between art and life -- and the fact that there is a contest between the two for the serious writer.  If a writer retreats into seclusion for too long a period of time, the work becomes limited, self-referential, irrelevant.  And if a writer gives way to too much "living" -- too much travel, experience, adventure -- there isn't time for deep reflection, for revelation, for the quiet in which the best creative insight can occur.

So, the artist must try to do both -- to do and to be -- to welcome company and to embrace seclusion -- to accept the conflict between art and life if any of the mysterious alchemy of creation is to occur.  In the best of circumstances, the writer invests the work with life, emotion, vibrancy, transformation -- and the work returns to the writer more life, emotion, vibrancy, transformation.  The creator and the creation offer breath and sustenance to one another in a miraculous circuit -- an electric current -- that brings energy and renewal to everyone who approaches it.

How does this happen?  How can life and art join together to become something greater than the sum of separate parts?  It's a mystery.  And like all enigmas, it wants to be allowed its sacred space.  The tension between art and life continues -- in a dance, a dialog, a passionate affair -- that is sustaining and enlivening to both of them.  And this writer lives with one foot in both worlds -- that of the adventurer and that of the recluse -- until the work is done.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bending the Universe

A friend of mine recently slipped a surprise into my suitcase:  a letter I had written to him two years ago.  In it, I had told him that, while I realized he was already a great success in his career, I sensed his dream for himself involved something greater -- a new venture that he himself could own, a business he could nurture and grow to full fruition.  Today, that dream has been realized -- to the extent that my friend feels he is engaged with his destined life's path for the first time.  Given that I see his robust fulfillment frequently, it's strange to look back to a time when his entrepreneurship was a mere hunch I expressed in writing -- a recognition of his true potential -- a belief.

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, used to speak often about "bending the universe" to his will.  He had a conviction that he could create the impossible with the right friends and sufficient belief.

And when the impossible has happened for me?  When the Oscar-winning producers have signed onto my current project?  When the agents have lined up to offer their support?  These events have always begun with belief, creativity and generous support from my friends.

I always like to pay forward such good fortune -- to bring my friends along with me on my outsized adventures, and to support them with dreams of their own.  It's a mysterious alchemy that allows our secret hopes to take shape in the real world.  There's a deep well of fulfillment in realizing our own dreams -- and there's an overflowing sense of joy in tangibly supporting our friends' hopes, too.

The universe truly can be "bent" to our will, it turns out.  When we understand this as the truth, all dreams become nearer to us, all ambitions live within our reach.

The German philosopher, Goethe, wrote, "Whatever you can do -- or dream you can -- begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

It's a delight to discover how right he was.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Laughter List: Adventure, Mischief, Good Friends

A few things inspire laughter in me -- a gentle, joyful waterfall of laughter I'm not conscious of creating until I hear it.  And it strikes me that our days should contain much more of this "living large," in which vibrant surprise, awakened senses, and pure delight rule over everything else.  So, what makes me laugh?

I've been contemplating my list: cantering on horseback, skiing fast in fresh powder, sailing with a 45 degree heel, dancing a dramatic tango in which smiling is forbidden, feeding a hummingbird nectar from the palm of my hand, hearing a little girl ask me if I'm a real princess while she adjusts her rhinestone tiara, being photographed by strangers while trying on evening gowns in a boutique -- because they're certain I'm "somebody," seeing a little boy stick his tongue out at me from a sense of sheer mischief, hearing Debussy's Clair de Lune the way my mother used to play it, swimming in the ocean at night, dancing to the best of rock and roll, entering a party of artists, writers and filmmakers -- where the joking is non-stop, giving or receiving a standing ovation, running into friends unexpectedly and abandoning my plans for the afternoon in order to share coffee with them, catching the very instant of sunset over the ocean, when the flame of the day surrenders.

There's more.  Much more.  Because laughter arises when the cup of one's life is so filled with adventure, it overflows its brim -- abundant, surprising, bold, artistic, true.  Each day when I awake, the cup fills itself again.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Bright Lights

To bring a great play to the stage requires the best of courage and creativity combined.  On Saturday night, I had the privilege of celebrating the remarkable work of Carey Perloff, the longtime Artistic Director of the American Conservatory Theater.  Tom Stoppard traveled from London to lend his appreciation for the remarkable acts of faith and perseverance that Carey has undertaken in the name of great art over the years.  We joined together with scores of bright creative lights at The Four Seasons in San Francisco to share champagne, dinner and dancing.  A fantastic night -- with laughter, gratitude, artistic passion, camaraderie, renewed ambitions -- and courage abounding.  My kind of celebration.

If you haven't already seen it, try to catch Carey's theatrical adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, which is currently touring around the country -- and will return to the Bay Area for two weeks in July.  I had the privilege of witnessing this work in various stages of development -- and what I can tell you is that it was thrilling to see Carey bring together musical, literary, visual and performing talents in one room to facilitate the creation of this extraordinary production.  The resulting play is evocative, resonant, moving, transformative, inspired.

https://www.broadwayworld.com/san-francisco/article/A-THOUSAND-SPLENDID-SUNS-Returns-to-ACT-for-Limited-Two-Week-Engagement-20180216