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 perhaps six months before this novel is complete, and this constitutes my reprieve. Because I'm not ready for the beauty to end.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Thoroughbreds

I rode thoroughbreds throughout my childhood.  Each one represented an impossible love affair of the sweetest apples offered in an open palm -- sun-drenched, bareback afternoons of free grazing in overgrown meadows -- intricate braiding of wild manes, both mine and theirs -- and mesmeric, cantering turns around the show ring.

My friends as I acknowledged that we were "horse crazy," passionately in love with the power of the bond with the animal, obsessed by the obsession of riding, unable to carry on with the normal ebb and flow of life without the presence of one's beloved equine partner.

I've commenced riding again recently, and I'm intrigued to discover that all the former passions come flooding back.  To ride well is to merge with the horse in some metaphysical way -- to harness their power as one's own and to re-emerge into the world as a more potent self, unconstrained by convention or expectation.  One's spirit unveils itself -- electrified, fast, fearless.

The thoroughbreds I have loved have taught me further lessons as well -- how to heighten my senses to life, so that I feel every shiver in the grass, every dimple in the wind -- how to connect to someone so closely that the sound of their voice and the grounding of their touch become as necessary and encompassing as the air -- how to open myself to gestures of kindness and guidance, mastery and flow -- because the dance of horse and rider is always choreographed magically for two.  The thoroughbred turns toward deep connection like a necessity of the soul.

But thoroughbreds have also taught me that miraculous ability to bolt suddenly, if not met by a person who is genuine and substantive and respectful.  I instinctively flee from fakery and pretense, and always from cruelty.  It's not really a choice so much as a physical mandate, a compulsion to stand with those who are protective and sustaining and true.

Thoroughbreds represent a mysterious alchemy of power and instinct, senses and spirit, grace and emotion -- and those who ride them can't help but reveal the same mysteries within themselves.  And the electric force that flows through animal and rider alike?  It's the force of life itself -- charged and overflowing, transformative and indomitable.  It's both a dream and the dream's awakening to reclaim this force as my own.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Music 7

I'm still listening to my February 12 playlist, because, well, some of those songs have no expiration date -- Fix You, Magic, Fire and Rain, Strange and Beautiful, Never Knock.  Still, I've made a few additions to my travel tracks -- so I thought I'd share them with you.  I hope to return home in a week or so, though I'll try to post before then.  In the meantime, enjoy!

Where's My Love -- Alternate Version -- by SYML

Numb -- by Carlos Vara

Never Tear Us Apart -- by Bishop Briggs

The Scientist -- by Coldplay

Dare You to Move -- Alternative Version -- by Switchfoot, The Beautiful Letdown

Supercut -- El-P Remix -- by Lorde

Make It To Me -- by Sam Smith

Retro pick:  Yesterday -- Remastered -- by The Beatles

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Boy and His Swan

This interview, between Lane and her novelist friend Nathan, was conducted on Wednesday, March 7th, and subsequently transcribed.

Nathan:  In your novel, you're writing about an unusual young woman who has led a very protected, cloistered life due to her father.

Lane:  Yes, she's very pure -- but her spirit is utterly untamed -- both of which I identify with.

Nathan:  Can you tell us something about the swan in the narrative?

Lane:  Well, without giving too much away -- imagine a boy who sees a beautiful swan out on the lake -- He can't get her beauty out of his mind -- He wants to possess that beauty as his own, so he goes out with a net to capture her.  But the swan is much more powerful than he realizes.  She can't be captured in any conventional way, actually.  She can't be owned or controlled.  The boy comes away from the encounter having been injured -- but the swan is undiminished.  In order to be healed, he has to seek out the swan again -- with a little more fortitude this time.

Nathan:  Are there any literary examples of this type of idealized conquest?

Lane:  Samuel Richardson's Clarissa comes to mind.  In the novel, Robert Lovelace abhors the notion of love in the abstract, but he becomes overwhelmed, despite himself, by Clarissa Harlowe, who is a paragon of beauty and virtue.    His callous character aside, he can't forget his encounter with Clarissa.  Her goodness and ideal femininity become the sole focus of his desire.

Nathan:  So what are we to make of our encounters with the beautiful and the virtuous?

Lane:  They're infrequent -- and transformative.  It's a wonderful and terrible event to meet someone who is a rare spirit.

Nathan:  How do you mean?

Lane:  Someone who has no falsehood in them -- someone who can't be provoked to hatred -- someone who has the power of love and creation running through their veins.  We can't forget it.

Nathan:  Has it ever happened to you?

Lane:  Oh, yes.  I know several extraordinary people who manifest these qualities.  I work very hard to keep them in my life.

Nathan:  And what about those whose characters more closely resemble the boy's or Robert Lovelace's?

Lane:  I can think of two people who fit this description in my life -- and they're both very important to me.  I love them for themselves.  I understand what's behind their public personae.  In truth, I find them extraordinary in their own ways, despite their proclivity for conquest.

Nathan:  Why?

Lane:  I'll simply say that, from a narrative perspective, the swan longs for the boy as much as the boy longs for the swan.  The swan feels sorrow when the boy is injured.  She feels a bond with him, despite his intention.  She never wishes to hurt him.  She wants him to understand her, not to try to capture her.  She will only give her companionship to someone who comprehends her worth.

Nathan:  So, when the boy first sets out, he doesn't have the knowledge that certain beings cannot be caged, really.

Lane:  No, he doesn't.

Nathan:  And if he attempts it?

Lane:  If he is approaching a creature of power and insight with the intent to cage her, his initial quest will fail.

Nathan:  And yet the boy and the swan are drawn together, aren't they?

Lane:  They're a matched pair, in a way.  They inhabit the same fairy tale.  They're set apart from the rest of the world due to their shared enchantment with one another -- their shared knowledge of one another's true identities.  Fearless hearts seek out fearless hearts -- and that's as it should be.

Nathan:  Does life require copious amounts of courage, then?

Lane:  Life is an adventure.  If you're not being brave, you're sleepwalking.  I want to make this journey while fully awake.

Nathan:  You are, Lane.  You're one of the most vibrant people I've ever met.

Lane:  Ok, now you've silenced me.

Nathan:  In that case, it would seem our interview is over, regrettably enough.


Nathan:  I'm looking forward to reading your book.

Lane:  Pressure.


Nathan:  No pressure intended!  But the chapter I saw was extraordinary, so you should be doing nothing else.  Good luck with the upcoming writing.

Lane:  Thank you so much.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The First Hero

"I am the master of my fate.  I am the captain of my soul." -- William Ernest Henley

Once, many years ago, my father wrote a love letter to my mother, even though he knew she was engaged to marry someone else.  In it, he said he knew they couldn't spend their lives together in the way he had hoped, but he wanted her to know he loved her anyway, unconditionally, irrevocably.  And if she ever needed his support, she could call on him -- at any time throughout her life -- just call on him and he would help her without question -- like a mysterious benefactor in a Charles Dickens novel -- like a mythical figure who appears in a Greek drama at the critical hour -- like a lover turning to his beloved.

Because my mother had a quality about her -- a passion for life, a purity of spirit, an ethereal beauty, a charisma -- that my father knew he would never again find in anyone else.  He might go on looking for my mother in other women, he admitted -- but he knew he would never again encounter her.  So, his life would be a pale imitation of what it would have been otherwise -- a shadow play of its potential -- a diligent exercise in going through the motions.

But fate, like all great narrative, is filled with reversals.  Love given freely is sometimes greatly rewarded.  I owe my life to the unexpectedly generous letter of a broken-hearted graduate student who was trying to figure out how to piece together his second-best destiny.  My parents were reunited a year after his letter was sent.

My father was an adventurer of the first order.  He rode camels past the pyramids in Egypt, he dove miles under the ocean in a one-man submersible; he spear-fished; he scuba dove; he raced sailboats; he rode horseback.  At 6'4", he swam the butterfly every day in the open ocean in a way that inspired open-hearted awe in those who saw it -- myself among them. He explored every continent and all seven seas by the time he was 40.  But he never showed more courage than he did in writing a simple letter, declaring an unconditional love for a woman beyond his reach -- a thousand miles and a permanent heartbreak away.

It's a remarkable risk to extend such a love.  And it's an astonishing grace to inspire it.  My parents did both, proving that sometimes the best love stories begin after their seeming end.

Thanks for being the first hero I ever met, Dad -- intrepid, brilliant, adventuresome, stoic, loyal, wise -- the strongest captain in any storm -- the first man to extend to me a love beyond all bounds.

*** Please note:  I am away on work-related adventures for the next several weeks, so please be patient when trying to reach me.  I will respond to emails, etc. as soon as I can during travel.  Thanks for your understanding, everyone.

Sunday, March 4, 2018


I'm away from home on work-related adventures!  Enjoy Oscar night, everyone!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Tall Guys

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.  You know that your name is safe in their mouth." -- Jess C. Scott

I have a cadre of talented men in my life -- CEOs, surgeons, professors, filmmakers, composers, novelists, students -- tall and handsome, always in spirit, often in form.  They are educated, kind, articulate, athletic, insightful, artistically gifted, intellectually brilliant, thoughtful fellows.

But I love best the small ways in which they show their character on a daily basis -- the way they share their breakthroughs with me, with childlike excitement, eyes shining; the way they ask what I'm currently reading, what I'm currently thinking -- with palpable interest; the way they tell me their secrets, their hopes, their fears -- because they know I'm eminently trustworthy and I'll always maintain their confidence; the way they refuse to lie, either to me or about me -- because the truth is what they choose; the way they're undaunted by setbacks, knowing there can be unexpected opportunities within them; the way they're unafraid to care about me -- to grab my hand, to lift me off the ground, to shout with delight when I've said the insightful words, whatever they may be; the way they're protective of me -- body, mind and spirit -- because they tell me I'm something rare.

In a time when much is being written about those who are cowardly and dishonest, I'd like to give recognition to the great men, the brave ones, the fellows of character and good faith, talent and strength -- the tall guys.  Thank you for sharing your lives with me, gentlemen.  My days are so enriched by knowing you.  Your kindness, your courage, your love, your confidence and your fortitude bring me joy -- hour by hour.  I'm proud to stand by your side through all the grand adventures of this life.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Prometheus Inside

"There are four questions of value in life, Don Octavio.  What is sacred?  Of what is the spirit made?  What is worth living for and what is worth dying for?  The answer to each is the same.  Only love." -- Lord Byron

I feel love for two people who don't want to love anyone -- who abhor the idea of "love" per se -- who much prefer to view life in transactional terms -- deals -- exchanges.  One of them is a relative -- and the other, a friend.  Given that love is present in my very breath, in each surge of the rivers and tributaries that map my veins, these relationships are mysterious to me -- and surprisingly powerful.  On some essential level, I possess something that these two men want and need from me -- and I feel this hunger from them almost like a magnetic pull.

I have glimpsed their suffering at times -- because I notice everything.  I know how empty their experience can be -- how detached and bored they can feel without being able to know true depth of emotion for other human beings.  It's like having their noses pressed up against the glass of life.  On the other side, they can see people experiencing love, fulfillment, gratitude, delight, pure joy.  It's quite painful to be separated from all that.  They're cut off from the kind of deep and rewarding connections to which I have unfettered access -- and this must feel prejudicial to them -- even wildly unfair.  I'm sensitive to their predicament -- and the ways in which they try to fill the internal void.  I see the terrible ennui that sometimes fills the space that love might occupy -- and the game-playing that helps them feel connected, albeit in a superficial way, to others.

The problem that occurs when we approach one another is that I can't be played or diminished in my relationships with them.  I merit something more interesting, more powerful -- a meeting of equals.  My insight is too developed -- my character is too valuable -- to become smaller on request.  Because love insists on authenticity.  It disdains deceit or retribution or trivial power gambits.  In the face of love, all detours become child's play.

In the most secret room of my soul, there's a bright fire burning -- incandescent, luminous. I don't know how it was kindled or who lit the flame -- but it can't be extinguished.  It emanates an ever-increasing amount of heat and light from one day to the next, and, despite my own desires, I'm incapable of doing anything to destroy that fire.  I'm forced to keep it burning because of my elemental connection to it.  The white light burns as the source of my spirit and it can't be diminished, by me or by anyone, really.  It renews itself from a limitless source.

If my sacrifice of myself would help these two men receive love in its entirety, I would give them everything -- even to the point of my own destruction.  That's how much I care about them.  But I know my demise wouldn't serve them.  They need to light their own fires within their own secret rooms -- to kindle their own source of love and character -- and I want more than anything else to support them.

What do I know of the feelings these men have for me?  They hate me and they love me, both -- even though they don't believe in love.  They feel I've withheld the one thing that would sustain them -- though the "one thing" is different for each of them.  I know I've deeply wounded them both by not giving them everything they've wanted from me.  By their own measure, they've lost the original game they hoped to win.  Will there be another?  We all know I have the potential to help them heal in some way.  I hope one day, in loving them generously, I will have the chance.

I long to let them know I understand everything -- the pain they have suffered, the things they've done to try to alleviate it, the shame that has followed in the wake of their choices, the blame they've cast outward, the rage over not feeling like "enough" -- and I love them anyway, in their entirety.  They are enough.  They are worthy.  They are beloved.

In the meantime, I uphold their well-being in my heart and mind.  I visit the room in which the incandescent fire is burning and I long to give them a part of it -- a white-hot torch they can carry forward -- with no cost, no strings, no deal required.  I feel such inexplicable connection to these two men -- I hope they can draw strength from that somehow -- I hope they can draw meaning -- sustenance -- even when we don't speak.  Life is short.  Deep connections are rare.  But I love these two people beyond the measurable.  And I won't desert them.  If they ever ask for my support, I'll be there to render it.  If they ever need to talk to me, I'll be there to listen.  Perhaps they'll read these words, so perhaps they'll know.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Music 6

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  In celebration of the main event this week, I'm listening to the following tracks:

Dreamer by LaPeer (a Valentine for dreamers and creative spirits everywhere)

I Can Only by JoJo, Alessia Cara

Fix You by Coldplay

Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol

Magic -- Live at the Enmore Theatre -- by Coldplay

Strange & Beautiful (I'll Put a Spell On You) by Aqualung

Never Knock by Kevin Garrett

Yellow Lights by Harry Hudson

Brighter Than Sunshine by Aqualung

Yours by Ella Henderson

Fire and Rain by Birdy (in honor of impossible reunions. . . See my Dancing With the Universe post.)

Retro pick:  Something -- Remastered -- The Beatles

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Dancing With the Universe

One of my favorite actors, Jeff Bridges, likes to refer to some of the most powerful experiences in his life as "dancing with the universe."  The coincidence that is too miraculous to be happenstance, the epiphany that retains its power over time, the transcendent feeling that accompanies the impossible reunion -- all of these are part of the dance to which he refers.  And I know just what he means.

On Friday afternoon, while getting ready for the Viennese Ball, I was overwhelmed by the presentiment that I would reunite that evening with someone important to me -- someone I hadn't seen in a long time.  I had no idea who it might be -- but I felt a profound sense of anticipation about the Ball as a result.  I chose my dress, my shoes, my jewelry with the excitement of going to meet a loved one.  It was an improbable conviction, given that one thousand people planned to attend the event  -- and the odds of running into acquaintances would be staggeringly low.

Still, at 9:00 pm, my beloved and long-lost brother materialized out of thin air.  He lives three thousand miles away -- travels the world on a hectic schedule -- and had fallen out of touch with our entire extended family.

So, the fairy tale of long gowns and tuxedos and the live orchestra was complete when I found myself dancing the Viennese waltz in the arms of my only sibling, whom I haven't seen in over a year.  We had a falling out surrounding my father's death two years ago -- and I wondered whether he was lost to me.  Would it be decades before I saw him again?  Would I ever see him again in this lifetime?  I had been speaking to friends in recent weeks about how terribly I've missed him -- about how much I've wanted to tell him I love him -- ridiculously, devotedly, unconditionally love him -- my big brother -- friend of my youth.

And then, we were together -- impossibly, redemptively spinning around the dance floor in one another's arms.  I don't know how often a magic reconciliation manifests itself in real life -- but, on Friday night, I was part of one.  I'm still airborne with euphoria over this reunion.

All of it makes me wonder -- what if we could summon our family and friends with the strength of our feelings for them?  What if our love for others were so powerful that it wouldn't allow long absence?  These are questions the answer to which is sometimes pure, inexplicable, unmitigated joy.

I love you, dear brother of mine.  I'm so grateful for your return to my life.  Take my hand, and let's dance.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

In 1812, Lady Caroline Lamb described Lord Byron as "mad, bad and dangerous to know" due to his drinking, his philandering and his generally dissolute life.  The description remains an intriguing one, whatever we now remember of the man who inspired it.

For those of us who are eminently responsible -- entrusted as legal guardian of other people's children,  executor of myriad estates, medical power of attorney for friends and family -- such an accusation would be a remarkable one.  My friends see me as trustworthy in all domains -- conscientious with their secrets, their hopes, their dreams, their progeny, their worldly possessions -- their unrealized ambitions in the realms of life and death.  They know I will move mountains to uphold their desires.

So, what is delightful about the prospect of being called "mad, bad and dangerous to know?"  It sounds a good deal more fun than being called a saint, for one thing.  And, as a writer, it implies a prodigious freedom.  What would I do if I actually were "mad, bad and dangerous to know?"

Fly to Paris tomorrow?  Begin writing all five novels I'm pondering simultaneously?  Go horseback riding?  Direct another short film?  Visit Machu Pichu?  Pick up the Italian language?  Learn to write a stage play?  The possibilities are endless, really -- and I find the exercise, alongside the laughter it provokes, to be exhilarating.

Someone who is "mad, bad and dangerous to know" is a powerful person in the world -- perhaps reckless, maybe impulsive, undoubtedly free.  I might try this on for size in the same way the infamous Lord Byron did.  I might experiment with being a force of nature in the way that he was.  I have the indomitable spirit, the high-flying creativity, the perpetual youth.

As Byron said, "The truth is always strange -- stranger than fiction."  What if being "mad, bad and dangerous to know" were not a condemnation, but rather six words on the path toward freedom from an unasked-for sainthood?  Somehow, the thought makes me smile.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Slalom Rediscovered

The best way to descend the mountain?  Performing the slalom while listening to a favorite rock playlist.  In a word:  exhilarating.  While I haven't been skiing in years due to a shoulder injury, I find that I'm skiing this weekend as though I've had no hiatus at all.  In fact, I'm better than I ever was -- faster than I ever was, somehow -- unencumbered by fear and its detours.

It occurs to me that fear needlessly distorts our path, not only on the mountain, but in life.  It twists our journey into something strenuous, harrowed, dishonest.  Plato said that "courage is knowing what not to fear."

Somehow, while skiing fast, if I don't fear falling, I don't fall.  I move with gravity, in an elegant undulating line that creates its own unique rhythm -- a personal music that gravitates toward a thrilling plumbline.

Fearfulness only leads to unforced errors -- strategic oversights -- needless crashes.  Fear unmakes us -- when all we need in its place is trust that the white slope ahead of us is a perfect canvas on which to trace our slalom line -- effortlessly, elegantly, timelessly.

If we trust and respect our own path, so, too, are we capable of trusting and respecting the paths of those traveling beside us.  There's a perfect line from the top of the mountain to the base -- which is both true to ourselves and protective of others.  We can only find that fearless path by envisioning it -- by creating it -- on the clean slope on which we write the story of our lives.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Gone Skiing

I'm escaping my four walls to go skiing with friends for a few days, as they tell me Tahoe's Mt. Rose has some passable snow.  Yes, I do realize I ought not to be fleeing the scene until my novel is complete -- but remember what Hemingway said:  "I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it."  The breaks renew me, and it's lovely to return to the work with the writer's well brimming.

If you see me on the mountain, please don't report me to the National Association for Writers in the Wild.  Art and life must make their truce somehow.  And this weekend, life wins.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Alone Together

My afternoon coffee shop jaunts give me a rather blissful escape into the alone-together sphere.  I read -- I write -- I run into friends and acquaintances -- I chat with strangers.  Art and life mix together in some seamless, aesthetic way in which writers do not need to absent themselves from the fascinating dialog of life.  I arrive at Hanahaus just when the lunch rush is departing -- and then settle myself for a couple of hours with tea and snacks and books and people.  Almost always, an intriguing conversation -- an unexpected introduction -- a fortuitous visit spring into being.  I've met painters, entrepreneurs, musicians -- I've run into a poet friend I haven't seen in years, and a documentary filmmaker friend of whom I had regretfully lost track.  I leave having steeped myself in the adventure of being alone together, a writer surrounded by people, an artist immersed in the bountiful world.

And all the while, my relationship to the page grows yet more intense.  I'm connected to it by a kind of electric charge -- an elemental force.  The words insist on themselves, passionately, indelibly -- and I bid them to come and meet me.  In mysterious answer, they do.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Music 5

"I often think in music.  I live my daydreams in music.  I see my life in terms of music.  I get most joy in life out of music."  -- Albert Einstein

Remember this track from LaLa Land last year?  It's almost time for the Oscars once more!

  • City of Stars -- Gavin James

A few new tracks I'm enjoying this week:

  • shallowman -- Taylor Mathews
  • Skipping Stones -- Claire Guerreso
  • Leading Man -- Gavin DeGraw

Because some of you messaged me requesting more Birdy -- I share the following, one of my favorites:

  • Not About Angels -- Birdy 

For those attending the Viennese Ball, this is a fantastic waltz -- Try it with double-fast spinning, with abundant centrifugal force --  heaven:

  • Iris -- Goo Goo Dolls

For those with classical tastes, I heard the Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra play Mendelssohn's Scottish symphony this week -- an outstanding performance -- and an extraordinary work -- well worth hearing again:

  • Symphony No. 3 in A minor -- Felix Mendelssohn

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Infinity Pool

"To be able under all circumstances to practice five things constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness." -- Confucius

I'm spending the weekend with friends at Post Ranch in Big Sur -- and the setting is otherworldly.  In the infinity pool at right, you feel as though you're flying above the Pacific, which sings in its rhythmic cadence hundreds of feet below.  This is a paradise for those who love to meditate -- and I count myself among them.  So, I'm contemplating Confucius and his thoughts on perfect virtue.  Assuming gravity does not preclude an abiding sense of humor, my friends tell me I do quite well with this list.  Evidently, I have chosen wisely, because my friends possess all these qualities in abundance. (In addition, they're witty, adventuresome, brilliant, loyal, passionate, erudite . . . I could go on.)

My favorite virtue is generosity of soul -- such an inexplicable and necessary thing in leading a joyful life.  Just as the infinity pool overflows its brim, so too does my love for this world pour past its edges.

Can we maintain the five virtues under all circumstances, as Confucius specifies?  Can we be generous in the face of dishonesty, or kind in response to an action that is intentionally misleading? These represent complex spiritual challenges even for the most evolved among us -- and the answers require more than a weekend of enlightenment.

In the meantime, here in Big Sur, we've met new friends from Paris, London, Chicago and Los Angeles -- a fascinating array of corporate tycoons, innovative artists and groundbreaking entrepreneurs among them.  Life is a bountiful adventure, in all its natural wonders, with all its opportunities for artistic and spiritual growth.  My cup runneth over.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Lantern Within

"We see the world not as it is, but as we are." – Talmud

As a fiction writer, this quote says it all.  Characters in fiction, just like the people we encounter in life, constantly see themselves reflected in the world around them.  Those who are fearful or angry typically see a frightening landscape, filled with imposters and enemies.  Think of King Lear, beset with paranoia, confusion, the sense of victimization.  Those who are joyful and at peace, by contrast, usually see a landscape of friends, adventure, and imminent discovery.  Think of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbevilles, whose appreciation for beauty is undiminished by anyone.  Tess is “brimful of poetry – actualized poetry . . .She lives what paper-poets only write.”

I don’t know to what extent our subjective experience is a choice.  But I do know I find it a privilege to embrace a joyful life – one replete with close friends, adoring family, transcendent literature and music, transformative travel, adventure, constant learning – and beauty – so much beauty that it reaches life’s brim and overflows it every day.

For those who know what I mean, I include a poem here from William Carlos Williams:

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Williams is seeing an “objective” reality ostensibly – and yet, “so much depends” upon the beauty he finds there – his joy, his sense of the day’s meaning, his entire experience of life.  Of course, Williams’ appreciation of the world is a reflection of the resonant beauty of his own spirit, which invests all he looks upon with its reflected light.  The poet is the poem in this sense. 

We who witness illumination carry our own lanterns within. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Music 4

Because we can never have enough music -- I'll share with you a few tracks to which I'm listening at the moment:

Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons

People Help the People by Birdy

Speeding Cars by Walking Cars

Don't Blame Me by Jonah Baker

Walk Through the Fire by Zayde Wolf

Music 3 -- The Music of Film

My favorite film composers are Thomas Newman and James Newton Howard, alongside my friend Keith Power, whom I wrote about under Visions in Cinema.  My picks from among their compositions seem exquisitely oblique, resonantly expectant.  They are somehow conscious of the evanescence of life -- the heartbreaking temporality of our days --the inevitable destiny within them -- and the bittersweet knowledge that every experience we have is both a greeting and a farewell.

All of these tracks are available on Spotify.  Enjoy!

  • "Road to Chicago" -- from Road to Perdition by Thomas Newman (available on Spotify under the album, The Essential Thomas Newman.)  I love the sense of freighted expectation within the melodic line.  Time insists on passing by, even though what appears next may change life forever.

  • "That's the Deal" -- from the Green Mile by Thomas Newman.  Catch the segment from :47 to 1:07.  There's an exquisite tension within this progression -- just the right level of discord and resolution.

  • "Weehawken Ferry" -- from Cinderella Man by Thomas Newman.  Listen to how fantastically fated the strings segments sound here.

  • "The Wreck" -- from Unbreakable by James Newton Howard.  Such fateful resonance within this piece.  The hidden man is going to find his place in the world -- and we are assured of that by the sense of emergent and requisite identity within this work.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Music 2

This week, I'm sharing the single piece that, more than any other music on the planet, reflects my spirit.  There's a clear timelessness in the progressions here -- a resonance in the breadth of sound -- and a pure compassion informing the voice of these strings.  Is it sorrow or is it joy that suffuses the crescendos within?  It's both.

Classical pick:  Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughn Williams (London Philharmonic, Bryden Thomsen)

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Viennese Ball

"Great dancers aren't great because of their technique;  they're great because of their passion." -- Martha Graham

Ordinarily, I'm dancing to rock, EDM, rap, retro, etc.  But on Friday, February 9th, I'll be attending Stanford's Viennese Ball -- an extraordinarily beautiful event -- one that feels like stepping through a portal in time to an elegant, transportive, fairy-tale-made-real.  Martha Graham describes dance as "a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening."  And what I know is that, when I'm spinning to the Viennese Waltz, the sense of speed, freedom, beauty, and exhilaration is indescribable.  It's simply a magical flight.  My feet no longer make contact with the floor, and I seem to fly in the arms of my partner -- weightless, spellbound.

All of which is to say, if you live in the Bay Area, please come join in on February 9th.  Tickets always sell out -- but you can still purchase them at this moment.  If you haven't waltzed before -- or you need a refresher -- attend Friday Night Waltz in Palo Alto. Waltzing is very, very easy to learn.  In one evening of practice, (quite a bit less if you're athletically inclined) you will be ready for the main event!

Does anyone remember the waltz between Natasha and Andrei in War and Peace or the dance between Anna and Vronsky in Anna Karenina?  Because the beauty of this evening is on a par with the romantic elevation of these masterpieces.  Say hello to me if you attend -- and save a waltz for me among the many.  It multiplies the joy to dance among friends.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Visions in Cinema

Here's a clip from a short film I directed a couple of years ago.  This piece is related to my novel-in-progress.  (A big shout-out to composer Keith Power -- an enormous talent and a terrific person.  We recorded with a 47-piece orchestra at Capitol Studios in L.A.  Looking forward to working with you again, Keith!).

Happily, three Oscar-winning producers (two based in New York, one in London) have signed on to help realize this project as a feature film -- an auspicious beginning for my dual literary and cinematic passions.  I feel very fortunate that this talented cohort is as excited about bringing this narrative to life as I am.  A tremendous adventure awaits!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Reconciliation: The Wave Breaks

A friend of mine died last week.  A pure-in-heart friend – permanently young – eminently brave and wise and true.  Her name was Mary.  I loved her with my whole heart, and friends tell me my heart is over-sized.   One of the best things I did in 2017, or ever, was to insist that Mary reconcile with someone from whom she had become estranged.  There had been an argument years ago from which no one had recovered.  Everyone was simultaneously justified and unfair.  And now Mary was dying of a wildly aggressive cancer; time had simply run out. 

So, I did what I rarely do, which was to pull rank.  I insisted that my friends meet together in the same room.  I guessed that their love for one another would overwhelm their hurt feelings – like a great wave would overtake minor pebbles on the beach.  And, in actuality, this is exactly what happened.  So Mary spent the last weeks of her life without regrets or estrangements or love gone unexpressed.  And those facts bring me some abiding comfort in a world that no longer claims her wise spirit within it.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about reconciliation over recent days, about its unexpected power, its attendant freedom, about the ways in which it is nurtured into being.  Usually, someone has to decide to free themselves of their hurt feelings –  of their wounded pride -- and to simply set them down – like a cache of stones upon the shore.

If I’ve hurt someone, I ordinarily try to apologize immediately.  Yet, this autumn I did distance myself from a friend, and I fear my understanding of the pain I caused was limited and late.  I did the wrong thing, truly, and I would make amends if I knew how.

Also, I recently spoke to friends about a private predicament, only to learn that one of them confronted, without my consent, the person they felt had wronged me. This incident, too, calls for my apology.  I’ve learned it’s best to hold to Ben Franklin’s recommendation:  “Speak ill of no man, but speak of all the good you know of everybody. “   And there is a great deal of good to be spoken.

In honor of Mary, I’m striving to remember these truths:  that I intend to always extend forgiveness if someone asks it of me sincerely – that I never want to carry anger for longer than necessary -- that instead, I would much rather set it down and walk away from the outsized burden it represents – that I can best experience this exhilarating life when I’m traveling light.

So, I say to my friends, forgive me, please, as I will freely forgive you if you ask it of me. 

As Tolstoy said, “All, everything that I understand, I only understand because I love.”

Exactly this.  Wrongs are swept away as soon as soon as I’m capable of relinquishing them.  But my passion for life remains manifest – as vast as the turning sea – in the impossible gift of these hours, in each delicious breath, with each irreplaceable friend, each transcendent piece of music, each misunderstanding undone, each new page of writing, every new sail or dive or filmmaking adventure, each act of creation, each transformative book, each gesture of reconciliation.  This joy in living represents the utmost I have to give – and I hope to give it generously, abundantly, because I can.

Music 1

Friends often ask me to share playlist recommendations, so . . . here are a few songs I’m listening to this week:

Restless Sea by Louis Futon

I Found by Amber Run

Paralyzed by NF

Four Walls by The Broods

Retro Pick:  Anytime by Journey

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Wellspring

"There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.  I have no notion of loving people by halves.  It is not my nature." -- Jane Austen

People, places, literature, life -- I've lost the ability to love all of these by halves -- by measure or reason or restraint.  I woke up one day about six months ago -- and where I'd had blood running through my veins the day before, I now had a kind of river of life, electrified in its own way, a map of the world and what coursed through it as pure energy.  And, having spent my life as an introvert, treasuring as much invisibility as I could claim -- I became something else entirely.  I met people easily, effortlessly -- waiting in line at the coffee shop, the airport, the movie theater -- and they all wanted to tell me their life's stories -- their secrets -- their most pressing worries -- their greatest regrets -- the events that changed them forever -- the realizations that broke them or granted them wisdom -- the ways in which they fell in love.  I'd tapped into something elemental -- a wellspring of being -- that overflowed with profound compassion.  And it felt ageless, boundless, transformative, eternal.

My friends noticed.  Pragmatic scientists accused me of having an "aura" -- bohemians suggested I had somehow reversed time -- and my family members began to say "use your powers for good" each time I walked out the front door.  Friends whom I'd known for years told me they had fallen in love -- and strangers wanted to touch my arms, hold my hands, stroke my hair.

And the mystery is ongoing -- with no reasonable explanation anyone can locate -- except to say, "you've changed."  It's true.  The dress rehearsal of my life seems to have ended, suddenly and without warning or reference to the hour.  And the real adventure of life has begun -- where I cannot measure the intensity of my connection to everyone I meet.  I cannot love my friends by halves, nor parcel out the joy that overruns me.

The poet Dylan Thomas wrote, "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/ Drives my green age."

It's a mysterious force, indeed -- and I hope it never leaves me.