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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Hypnotist

It's fascinating to me to perceive the extent to which an artist's relationship to the work conveys itself to the audience.  When imagining my characters' lives, I try intuitively to feel them, see them, witness them up close.  As with all lives, their experience reaches me in eminently subjective ways.  And great art, I would argue, thrives with a measure of uncontained subjectivity.

Van Gogh didn't paint a vase of sunflowers so much as he painted a vase containing the beauty that informed, enriched and redeemed his life -- a sort of euphoric view of those outsized blossoms, splashing the canvas in pieces of amber and gold and the hope the carried him forward in 1888.

How do I imagine the lives of my characters fully?  With my current novel, I listen to music that parallels the narrative -- I read literature that lays bare the elements of transformation -- and when I'm working in my library, I burn candles scented like honeysuckle and the sea.  The process feels a bit like meditation or even self-hypnosis.  If I manage to open a door to the fictional world, I can slip through it into a fully-realized universe of my characters' days.  Then, I'm just writing down what unfolds, rather miraculously, in front of me.  It's similar to what athletes refer to as "flow," an effortless engagement with the art, a day of creation that feels as fluid and seamless as breathing.

Later, when I meet with my professional writers' group to hear their impressions, I'm immensely pleased when they feel the same magic I felt while I was writing the words.

"How are you doing this?" they ask, as if I were levitating in front of them.  "Tell us your secrets."

But there's a mystery at the heart of beauty.  I don't like to question it too much.  When I'm fortunate enough to bring my characters to full and resplendent life, I would rather accept the inexplicable gift -- day after exquisite day -- until the story is told.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Unspoken Secrets

"As usual, there was a story behind the story, and that is where the truth was hidden." -- Kenneth Eade

People trust me, I know, which is why they tell me the secrets they share with no one else.  The banker recounts to me that his daughter is battling leukemia.  The entrepreneur at the coffee shop tells me that he survived a brain aneurism eleven months ago.  My seatmate on a plane explains to me that the 40-year-long love affair she shared with an extraordinary man has just ended with his death -- and because their relationship was secret, she cannot cry with anyone she knows.  Yet she cries with me, silently, while I hold both her hands.

I've come to the conclusion that, despite outward appearances, we know almost nothing of the private hopes and griefs of others.  Their internal lives, hidden from us, provide the narrative of their days.  Yet their family members, their co-workers, their best friends and neighbors -- may never know the truth of this silent story.  It often remains buried, like a diamond, in the vast rocky landscape of the mind.  But it's the stone of greatest value in that territory.  It's where the spirit returns again and again, checking, worrying -- is the diamond still where it was so carefully placed?

I don't know why people have begun to tell me their deepest longings, their most profound regrets, their unspoken truths.  I just know that I feel abundant compassion toward everyone I meet.  I love them, mysteriously enough.  And somehow they realize this mystery -- and begin to confide in me about love and death, joy and heartbreak, passion and loneliness.  And I listen -- honored to be the one they've chosen -- privileged to stand by them while they unearth their most hidden, most treasured truths.  Like diamonds cupped in their gentle hands, their secrets shine brightly indeed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Beautiful Illusion

"We travel initially to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. . . We travel, in essence, to become young fools again -- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more." -- Pico Iyer

In Bolivia, at 12,000 feet elevation, near the crest of the Andes, there's a magical salt flat called the Salar de Uyuni.  In the winter, with an infrequent desert rain, a mirrored surface is created all the way to the horizon -- rendering a miraculous doubling of the sky.  So at night, we feel as if we're standing at the center of the universe somehow, with all the stars of the galaxy revolving around us -- like diamonds unstrung.

It reminds me of meeting someone who mirrors our own identity.  Their constitution reveals itself, like a magic trick, to reflect our own qualities back to us -- our kindness, our openness, our creativity, our internal fire.  Only perhaps the most astute among us can see what lies beyond the reflection -- the more complex, almost liquid identity that has given shape to the beautiful illusion.

I enjoy perceiving both -- the David-Copperfield magic -- and the mind that has created it.  Being a fiction writer, I'm fascinated by every detail -- by the mirror and by what lies beyond it -- by the art and by the artist.  It's my talent to notice every nuance, no matter how slight.  And so I see everything within those I meet, on the surface and at depth, simultaneously.  I don't do it voluntarily, this x-ray of the psyche.  It just happens -- like seeing beyond the normal spectrum of light.  Whether my abilities are a talent or a curse, I don't know -- but I'm often accused of knowing too much about the secret universes within the minds of others.

In creating my fictional world, I, too, arrange its universe with infinite care -- placing each star in its firmament as if I were arranging the first and last constellation that would ever matter again.  I'm telling a story with an intent to unveil a truth we've always known -- about identity, about transformation, about the connections between people that are unexplained and mysterious and necessary.  Without them, life would become dull and diminished.  The sky would only be half-full.  And who would choose a life lessened by this kind of want?  Everyone hopes to be truly understood, to be wholly loved, don't they?  Even those who consider themselves enigmatic and unfathomable.

"We travel to find ourselves" . . . Yes.  And finding ourselves, we must return home once more.  My books are scattered about me -- my Tolstoy and my two bright apples and a single silver pen.  In three days' time, I'll gather it all in my backpack and wend my way home as well.


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 and 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 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

Adventuring

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 choose the truth; 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.

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.

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
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

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

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.

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.  vienneseball.stanford.edu  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.  http://fridaynightwaltz.com/ 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!

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.