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.

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.

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.