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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Month: February, 2013

Day 96: Day Haiku

It seemed about time for another round of haiku (and if haiku isn’t really your thing, please go back one post and read Spring by Mary Oliver… its lovely).

As with my day of haiku-ing in the Los Angeles airport, I don’t know if these are traditionally accurate. But they do follow that beloved 5-7-5 system.

One Day:

Awake for hours, they
play in the grey morning light
as you drift and sigh.

Smooth cords and slick screens
on each wooden slat. Smells like
caffeine and laughter.

Dishes pile and things
fall to the ground. They stay, for
a long walk awaits.

Cool blue and warm white
soothe to you sleep while the Earth
spins into morning.

Day 95: A Black Bear

I’m a city girl by brain, but my heart lives in some kind of amalgamation of woods, fields, rivers and oceans. This afternoon, I stood on a street corner while cars screeched by and people laughed in coffee shops and I smelled it… nature! Spring! I know spring is still a ways away and I’ve already posted extensively on it here, here and here, but my heart is so ready for those little green buds.

In honor of the coming freshness, coolness, lightness and root-growing, here’s a poem by one of my favorite poets:

by Mary Oliver

a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.


Day 94: Not Solo Enterprises

There is an interesting American cultural phenomenon that makes each of us believe we should be entirely self-sustainable—our own support systems on our own islands.

I think that’s bunk.

In semi-tandem with Day 3: Seven Types, this post covers the things each of us can expect to source from our fellow human beings.

But first, there are some things we probably shouldn’t expect to get from others. On very deep and basic levels, we are each responsible for our own:

  • happiness
  • lifestyle
  • actions
  • money (how we get it and where it goes)
  • outlook (glass half-empty, glass half-full, glass with some water in it, etc.)

Beyond that (and possibly some things I missed), we need each other.

Whether from a philosophical or scientific perspective, human beings are not built as solo enterprises. Even on a microscopic level, we depend on a series of symbiotic relationships in order to survive (bacteria keep our systems flowing and we give bacteria warm and perfect homes). On a macro level, we have necessary relationships with other human beings.

But we can’t fulfill all of our needs with one person—best friend, partner or otherwise. That’s where a community system comes in handy. Between some kind of mix of parents, mentors, siblings, partners, friends, co-workers, kids, neighbors and awesome strangers, we can depend on each other for:

  • affirmation
  • humor
  • gut checks (also known as “that’s a bad idea” checks)
  • energy
  • ideas
  • touch (a hug is more important than its humble nomenclature suggests)
  • a hard push in one direction or another
  • fun
  • emotional support (for the horrible stuff and the great stuff)
  • intimacy
  • copyediting
  • advice
  • empathy
  • perspective
  • [insert a skill you don’t have here]
  • and a host of other really cool and important things

In short, we need each other.

Day 93: Advice for Artists

Towards the end of my graduate school career, I was well-prepared to create meaningful work, teach at the university level, articulate the vital connections between dance and societal growth, make the world a better place through art, and push the boundaries of collaboration between dance, technology, cultural studies, philosophy, science and a host of other fields.

But I didn’t know how to make a living.

Lois Welk, Director of Dance USA, came to my Producing Dance class during my final semester and gave the class some wonderful advice. I recently dug up my notes from her visit and think all artists (all humans, really) could benefit from her logic.

She drew a quadrant on the board that looked something like this:


She then told us to view every opportunity in terms of those quadrants. In gig + money terms, here’s how the opportunities shake out:

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 6.59.04 PM

What became immediately apparent to my class of uber-smart dance academics is that we should not pursue opportunities that don’t whet our artistic appetites or pay for sandwiches (in graphic terms, we should stay away from the lower left quadrant). This should have been obvious before Lois came to visit, but most of us had been saying yes to everything. Every show, every choreography request, every plea for an extra stage hand—all in the name of serving the dance community and increasing our personal visibility.

Lois addressed our misguided actions by reminding us that we continuously brand ourselves based on the decisions we make. Consistently agreeing to do mundane work for free would let the community know that we do mundane work for free (duh). Eventually, we’d all be flat broke and faced with more mundane, low-paying opportunities than we could handle.

Conversely, she gave us a life-long challenge to only consider opportunities that:

  • stimulate our brains and pay well
  • stimulate our brains but don’t pay well (or at all)
  • don’t stimulate our brains but enable us to buy food, pay bills, and rent apartments and rehearsal space

In terms of job and artistic growth, nothing else is worth pursuing.

Day 92: Tantrum

This is a sharing weekend. But there’s so much to share, I had a hard time figuring out where to land today. Then it hit me—the ground.

Courtesy of the awesome Planet Earth Phenomenon Facebook page, here’s a picture of an adolescent elephant throwing a tantrum. On the ground. In what looks like a really nice and gushy pile of mud.

elephant tantrum

Elephants experience an array of emotions, from joy and sympathy to jealousy and rage (visit PBS.org for more on the wide variety of elephant emotions). In the balance-seeking, happiness-obsessed culture of the average, yoga-taking American, seeing an elephant tantrum is a great reminder that balance requires weight on both ends. We experience peace and distress in order to know where the middle ground lies. Light needs dark. It’s natural.