Monday, July 10, 2017

This morning brought another day of filming ... but with a twist ... .

... which required trying to build an information bridge between 30 Rosie's Girls -- a park-sponsored group where the youngest was 10 and the eldest, 14 -- and an elderly woman fast-approaching 96 years of age.  Challenging?  You betcha!  I was terrified at the prospect, the fear that I didn't have the ability to bring their generation together with mine in a coherent way in the sharing of the Home Front history.  How on earth can one do that?  Yet it seemed to work despite the fear.

We gathered at Kennedy High School in a room that probably housed classes in social studies or civics because every available space on the walls was covered with photographs and posters of past national leaders.  Images of Presidents Clinton and Obama dominated the room.  Our sitting president was not represented on these walls, an interesting observation as noted by one of the cameramen.  It would have been interesting to learn whether we'd simply overlooked that image, or, if there were political debates among the students that ended with a conscious decision to allow the omission.  Interesting?

After a brief opening statement about my personal history -- based on a conversation in the car while on the way -- we did a Q&A.  The girls seemed so woefully young, and unknowing, but open and willing to participate as we gathered in chairs that formed a semi-circle with me in the middle.

By the time I felt fully engaged -- about 30-minutes later -- the lights behind their eyes began to slowly shine on, and the room started to come alive for me.

The conversation at times felt far afield from where I thought we should be going, but by the end my feelings of awkwardness had all but vanished, and when our director, Carl, stepped in to remind me that the spread of history that lay between my great-grandmother, Leontine Breaux Allen, and me, might be of interest to these kids.  In the telling of that history, a pathway opens up where the most meaningful part of my story enters, and I'm "at home."

Oddly enough, it is in the telling of that narrative that I feel most "American," because that story places me in the context of one of the nation's most perilous and life-changing times; that of slavery and emancipation.  My enslaved great-grandmother's role in our history may have been involuntary, but the fact that she survived those painful years at a time when education was forbidden meant that she was illiterate.  Schooling was far beyond her reach as both a slave and as a woman.  Yet only one generation later one of her daughters, Alice, would create the first school for colored children in St. James Parish, Louisiana.  Alice served as its principal until her death.  One generation later, a grandson, George Allen, would serve as president of Texas Southern University, one of the nation's historically Black colleges. This surely speaks to her participation as a strong guiding force in her family -- in a fast-changing nation of imperfect folks trying to "get it right."

Through her long lifetime -- she lived to be 102 -- she was able to instill in her 13 children enough ambition, dedication to principle, idealism, and ethical standards that her great-grandchildren, of whom I'm now among the eldest, are still among the nation-builders, in a nation of extraordinary ordinary folks still trying to get it right.

I touched on none of that, but just being reminded of the full story of how much later generations (mine) were enabled by those who lost almost 300 years to the evil institution of slavery in this country continues to allow me to feel the full weight of my citizenship in this still-striving young country ... in my role as a passionate interpreter, a truth-teller, serving in a federal agency, the National Park Service.

This morning gave an indication of just how important my ranger role is in these continuing chaotic times as we continue the process of forming that "... more perfect Union."

As I looked out into those upturned young faces, I could see tomorrow -- though innocence abounds -- but also I could see the openness that is an essential element in creating the future that they will live into ... .

It is such a privilege to be in a position to be able to influence their choices in even these small ways ... like sitting around in a semi-circle sharing history at Kennedy High School in Richmond, California, on this day, July 10, 2017.

We ended with a pledge.

Repeat after me:

"Every day in every way what I am to be I am now becoming!"
In an odd way, these simple words speak not only to the state of adolescence, but to a young country in progress, as well.

And that, my friends, is an example of the simplicity that comes after complexity!

It felt right.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Maybe it was the Fourth of July that created the climate ... .

... or the questions that come up in the Q&A following my talks, but for whatever reason I'm bringing those conversations home at the end of the day, and lingering over them for hours into the night.

My audiences are visibly depressed and are looking for a reason to hope at a time when our nation appears to have lost its way ... or, found new pathways forward in which at least half the country is faltering -- too unsure to trust our institutions for guidance more than for a few hours at a time, or until the next newscast.

Whether by intent or by accident, unlike those audiences, I find myself more hopeful than the headlines might justify.  It's hard to explain, but let me try:

The Revolutionary War of 1776 brought into being our "One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all (some?), and pressed this young country forward into what has become cyclical periods of chaos.  Democracy is not static, but dynamic.  My 95 years have provided enough time to enable me to look back and see the patterns.  I'm now seeing such periods as the times when our democracy is being re-defined; when we're making necessary adjustments in our collective decisions and institutions that will give us a way forward.  It's at such times as these that the reset buttons are revealed, and another round of "the work" can begin.  These are the times of the greatest chance to take whatever steps we must "... in order to form that more perfect Union." Time to "... promote the general welfare". These opportunities rarely occur in times of calm and serenity, if such have ever existed.  These cycles of change are invariably dramatic and fraught with risk.

We're in another of those chaotic periods now, and it's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work building the next platform upon which a new generation of Americans will stand to continue this grand experiment.  Maybe the greatest threat to our governance is the fact that only 17% of those between 18 and 24 turned up to participate in our last election -- when we elected a president with a bit more than 25% of those voting.  Fifty one percent of that vote came from those over 51, presenting an imbalance in governance tilted toward yesterday rather than tomorrow.

This country started out with those long-revered and imperfect slave-owning Old Dead White Men who probably did the best they could in establishing our Democracy.  From where I find myself these days -- Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, the Adamses, Madison, Franklin, Paine, et al, --  created out of their chaos of 1776 -- the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution with its durable Bill of Rights that founded this nation-- and given the systemic limitations that gave birth to some fatal flaws -- that brilliant work was probably the best we could get out of the bold leadership of their day.  We're still trying to overcome the contradictions embedded in them, but at least two important questions were answered by the last administration.  Never again will we ask if a woman would ever be allowed to run for the highest office in the land, or, if an African American is capable of being President of this country and Leader of the Free World.  Those discussions are over for all time.  In less than 7 years, a generation of children who lived through the Obama administration and know no other will become voters.  The changes we've been working toward and waiting for have already taken place.

Ever since 1776, each generation has had the responsibility of re-creating the Democracy in its time.  A tall order, that, but necessary if our system of participatory governance is to survive in our day.  We cannot continue to sustain ourselves with a 40% turnout in general elections.  Whether we explain that to ourselves as the result of voter apathy or voter suppression, the result is the same; loss of control of our institutions, and the resulting concentration of power within a chosen few of the privileged. That is  antithetical to the intent so eloquently spelled out in our founding documents.

The Great Experiment is on-going.  Democracy will never stay fixed.  Fortunately for us, there was enough resilience built into the system by those imperfect men that the adjustments needed in light of an ever-changing nation are and have been achieved, but only the dynamism emanating from a passionate and caring electorate will sustain us.

Ultimately, it all depends upon We, the People, and we, too, are imperfect.

I see citizen involvement rising daily among the current electorate with the help of unprecedented access to information, a proven and dependable body of media despite the sensationalists, and many ethical and caring State and National representatives peopling our Halls of Congress. Technological advances are light years beyond where the fertile imaginations of those courageous Fathers of our Country might have taken them.   They could hardly have imagined a nation where their ideas would forever influence a world still yearning to be free in this, the 21st Century.

Why on earth would one not be hopeful?

We need only to look to the upward spiral that defines America to see, albeit dimly, the next steps in our most recent cycle of creative chaos!

This is who we are.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

My Editor asked a question yesterday that may need to be answered ... .

"Do you recall what caused you to create this blog, Betty?"

He's been working with this journal for months now in the process of constructing the book, and nowhere have I ever mentioned how it came to be, apparently.  I thought for a few minutes, and then realized that I'd never anticipated needing to explain its origins since this was always a conversation I was having with myself, and therefore never needed explanation.  Though in the beginning the intended audience was my children and theirs, and those yet unborn.  I'm not certain that I'd ever thought to inform them of its existence, or that anyone beyond the family would have any interest in its contents.

Back in the late Nineties I'd been working on our family history for months through visits to the Mormon Family History Center, and to the genealogy websites then developing online  at the time and were increasingly intriguing.  It slowly began to dawn that the women got lost or were nearly impossible to follow.  It was frustrating when an interesting ancestor would unceremoniously drop out of sight as names changed through marriage, or, they simply ceased to exist in the records through changing and unexplained relationships. Everything rested with the males in the lineage, though there were obviously many colorful and fascinating women down through the ages, people I hungered to know more about.

I've lived through some tumultuous history during my lifetime, and how an ordinary woman survived those times surely should be as fascinating to those unknown future historians as it would have been for me to be able to know how our ancestors got through those perilous periods of slavery and reconstruction, yet survived to produce my generation.  It felt as if a debt might be owed to those who preceded me in life, a debt that I could assume because I, and my generation, were that legacy that their pain and suffering made possible.

Those years of research had changed unalterably my perceptions of my own place in history and the world, and has given me a strong sense of the continuity of Life.  Technological advances have enabled present generations to make linkages with the past that were only accessible to professionals not that long ago.

East Bay Center for the Performing Arts Map
(Click to enlarge)
At some point there rose a need to leave footprints of my own life for the family historians of the future to follow.  I would not be lost.  The experience of reconstructing our  history had given me a deep sense of having a foundation upon which to build, and that those few bricks that I was contributing to that family foundation would help to erect the platform upon which the next generation of our young women would stand.

Owning my first computer opened up possibilities undreamed of, but -- untrained in the field -- that first post in September of 2003 was just a stab at finding a place to stand while I figured out the parameters and how to "make it up as it went along."

I had little sense of anyone actually reading it.  I didn't dream of the possibility of an unseen and unrelated readership having any interest in its contents.

After some months of sitting with my own thoughts, alone, this blog began to slowly become the mechanism by which I could hold conversations with myself as I processed life.  There was never an outside presence standing in judgment.  I cannot recall any time when it ever came up in conversation with any family members.  I'd list the links to it among the other assets in my Will, but that it would surely hold little interest among the young until after my death.

Oddly enough, neither did I ever become aware of or write to a public audience.  I've never invited criticism, permission, arguments for or against anything, it just became a method of ordering my life as it was being lived; processing fears and resentments, concerns -- both public and private.  Opining about everything large and small, so that I might leave at least an impression of my having shared life on the planet, and that I'd contributed in tiny increments either by what I did or failed to do toward creating the future, along with everybody else on the planet.  No more, no less.

At Telluride, Colorado, presenting, Summer 2016
Now that I'm aware that this personal journal has developed a worldwide following over time, I still tend to be writing without being consciously aware of whoever is out there reading my words.  I'm usually sitting at my computer, alone at the end of my day, generally in my pajamas and slipper socks with a single library lamp at my elbow dimly-lit, and in conversation with myself while letting you listen.

There has never been any particular order to any of it, no rhyme or reason, just a way of explaining Life to myself while in the process of living it.  I rarely go back to re-read anything I've written, but find that I've expended all of the energy (sense?) of it in the original documenting of the thoughts, though -- once written -- I find those thoughts committed to memory for all time, as with all of the songs that I've ever composed, despite the fact that they were rarely written down nor published anywhere.  Because there are few stated rights or wrongs there is little reason for making corrections.  The magic, the power, appears to be embedded in the act of creation for me, whatever the form.

In a strange way, this journal appears to be propelling me forward into an unknown future with intentionality.  It brings a sense of order to my life -- though never with a conscious awareness of the unfolding process ... only in the sense that -- for me, for this hour, in this moment,  and though it is always subject to revision in the light of new realities --

this is my Truth.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

New considerations, maybe ... ?

A request to participate October 4th in a one-on-one interview in New York for the Atlantic has stirred up some random,  though not very focused, thoughts about the need to face the fact that -- despite the lateness of the hour -- I may need to begin to plan the next phase of being Betty.

Since I'm in the uncharted waters of Life, I don't think I can be blamed for not seeing this need before now.  The maps with which to navigate these next few years do not exist.  Facing the fact that there are so few of us left to carve out the pathway forward is sobering.  I'm quite literally living into times where there are few models, and those that do exist are as limited in their outlook as I am in mine since we really don't have much to go on, much less to plan for.

Everyone around me seems to be surprised that I'm not only still here, but am still functioning at an acceptable level, with few signs of diminishing capacities.

Who knew?

I've been figuring on just staying on until I'd outgrown my usefulness to the Parks -- assuming that I'd recognize that state when it arrived -- and then go straight to the cemetery.  That seemed a workable plan as long as all on board were in agreement, and there are still no signs that I've reached a maximum level of productivity, and our audiences are still filling the little theater for each of my talks.  Little  need for much thought about the inevitable.  Time would surely take care of that.

However, there has been a growing change in requests for my involvement, and it's quite specific:  While I'm still sought out for off-site presentations around interpretation, history, environmentalism, etc., there is another issue creeping into the mix; aging as an important issue in a time where that surge of Boomers are approaching these later years, and may be seeking an alternative to the Adoration of Youth model of aging.

Those of us -- and there are an increasing number -- who have somehow found ways to continue active lives with a purpose; have perhaps escaped the lure of plastic surgery; have pretty well embraced these years without fear and as natural to be enjoyed for what they uniquely bring; a period of summation and completion.

Perhaps, without intent, I've become a model for that alternative, or for something like it, and requests for public appearances are becoming less related to my National Park role as to that of being a representative of my generation, a generation now reaching into their mid-Nineties.

Do you suppose I'm needing to begin to look into that more closely?

Has the time arrived when I should be leaving the park service for this new role in these final years, as an Ambassador for Old?  That book that I've finally written will be published in February, and I'm guessing that it will push me closer to that new career as spokeswoman for the PolyGrip Crowd!

Did I just hear someone utter that word that I've rarely allowed into my consciousness until now?


Maybe not that, but a more fitting word -- Transition.

Now to figure out how to blend roles:

Speaking last week at the David Brower Center in Berkeley for PGN-ONE (People of the Global Majority), to about 200 young People of Color at their second annual national conference -- young adults of every conceivable racial mixture; people like me.  I was looking into the future; contrasting their world with that of my generation in a ten minute talk that brought enough excitement to me as anything I've ever done through all my years with the Park Service!  They've finally sorted themselves out from the rest of the world, and identified themselves as"Other", and proudly!  These were my peers, if age were not a consideration.  Here was the WE of ME!

Given the power of unprecedented communication, unlimited ability to travel, the Internet, technology, mobility in general, this is what the world's population will look like in the not too distant future.  And any notion that miscegenation befouls the human gene pool proves to be totally absurd.  We may even enhance it!  It was a moment that resembled my presentation on  the Google campus in Silicon Valley last spring when I was privileged to have a chance to step into our technological future for an afternoon.  This was the equivalence in world demographics, and through my work I get to be a willing witness to and participant in -- all of it!

Lots to think about, right?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Gearing up for another season of rangering ... .

And, for one who is no longer buying green bananas ... it's more than a notion to be even considering requests for October, yet that's the new reality.  We just booked September 28th to participate in a campus-wide Teach-in on Diversity at the University of San Francisco, and another for mid-October.

Wondering if I'll still remember how to tie my own shoes by then?

All systems continue to be "Go!", but I'm losing my sense of future.  Is this what is meant by being on borrowed time?

Yet the sense that I'm continuing to do good work; that these years of summation are delivering meaning -- not only to me -- but to those with whom I'm lucky enough to share these deceptively simple insights -- as they continue to unfold.

It brings to mind that wonderful little box-in-the-middle-of-the-page in a long ago edition of Reader's Digest:  "There are two simplicities, the one that comes before and one that comes after, complexity."  The quote was credited to the Benedictine Monk David Steindl-Rast.  It was profoundly important to me on first reading, and now it accurately describes the stage in life that I've reached in this final decade.  I'm in that place of the simplicity that comes after complexity.  This is the place where life has taken me after the long process of testing, probing, accepting, rejecting, questioning, etc., and now it feels as though I've known all along; Truth.  And as the peeling back of the onion continues, I'm more and more certain that the greater truths were all known by the time I was about six.  Truth was embedded in the senses, intuition, empathy, compassion, curiosity, etc., and would be revealed in bits and pieces over the accumulating years as nuance and sophistication folded in.  It seems to be simply a matter of remembering what was intuitively known, and trusting that despite all.

In re-discovering this photo of these two world renown "6 year-olds" with whom I shared a few meaningful moments long ago, I may have stumbled upon "essential Truth" without realizing it.  Wish I'd had the good sense to pay attention when the opportunity presented itself quite by happenstance.  I should have guessed that it would be in the process of peeling back that I might discover the meaning of it all.  Never in the "piling on and discarding" -- time after time -- on into the absurdities that I'm finally learning to ignore.  

I've met both these great men, the Dalai Lama
and Monk David Steinl-Rast -- both were life-changing events.
Both these beings were humility personified.

Everything I needed to live a life was "in there" from childhood.  It was the triggers and tools that would be acquired through youth and young adulthood that would provide the education that would continue throughout life.  And schooling must not be confused with education.  Schooling provides those tools that are used throughout life -- and it is in the laboratory of life where education occurs.  It was a very wise middle school teacher, John Hughes, who planted that gem when I was barely in my teens.  Hughes was that enabling elder (probably in his thirties) who served as a temporary guide in those critical years.  In looking back, it is clear that the Avatars have turned up as needed throughout the years.

There is a familiar ring to each new insight these days, as though from a deep well of experience garnered over decades of confusion and occasional revelation.

... the deeper the learning, the greater the reservoir of that which is still to be known!

One day I'll try to speak of the experiences of meeting them both, but not just yet.  I've never felt comfortable in sharing the details of those two separate but equally moving encounters.  In a peculiar way, speaking of them always felt reductive somehow, and didn't match the level of intimacy and humility that characterized both experiences.  There was a kind of magic in their presence, a magic that was unforgettable, even as I remind myself of how rare this was/is, and how amazing to have touched lives with them both.

And, no, I was never a student of either, regrettably, but just to be in their powerful presences allowed one to gain a sense of connectedness that left me awestruck for months and years afterwards.  In both instances I was one of many, in a public situation, yet their abilities to cut through --- soul-to-soul -- is indisputable.

Bill Soskin, my husband of ten years before his death, was a devout student of Tibetan Buddhism, and his Holiness, the Dalai Lama, visited Padma Ling, the Temple in Berkeley, where the refugee Lama Tarthang Tulku, Rinpoche, conducted classes for Western scholars interested in exploring the interface between Eastern religions and Western social sciences.  Many hours were spent being exposed to a system of belief that I was content to be a spectator to.  We had the honor of being in the Dalai Lama's presence on more than one occasion.

Wish I hadn't outlived my peer group!  Now that I'm needing to compare notes with other elders, I'm looking into the faces of the young ... .

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Great flood of 1927 - New Orleans
Wish I could remember to whom it was that I spoke of my fears of traveling to New Orleans ... .

This is the weekend that my son, David, had gone to elaborate lengths to try to organize a Charbonnet family reunion in our ancestral home of New Orleans.  It was to coincide with the return of his two daughters, Alyana and Tamaya, to the US after several weeks of travel as students through Europe.  They were to meet us in New Orleans on June 21st (tomorrow).  We would spend several days of celebration with the relatives gathered there.  We would visit St. Louis cemetery where so many of our ancestors have been interred over centuries.  There would be a gathering at Corpus Cristi church in the Tremé, the Catholic church that was built by Louis Charbonnet, my paternal grandfather, and in whose name there was so much family pride and honor invested.

Though we learned of it after the reunion plans were made but unknown at that time, our cousin Municipal Judge Desiree Charbonnet would be announcing her candidacy for the Mayor's race in New Orleans!  This was the summer to celebrate, and  Desiree's time had come -- she would be the first woman of this historic city to seek this high office, and a Charbonnet to boot!

Grave of Voodoo Priestess Marie LaVeau

 St. Louis Cemetery
Weeks ago, as the date approached, for nameless reasons, I began to experience a sense of unease.  A kind of disquiet.  I was torn because -- given the fact that my 96th birthday comes in September -- this might well be the last chance to visit the city of our origin.  I was fairly certain of that, and at a point where David's plans seemed to be falling apart, had written a general message to the family supporting those plans, and gently pleading that alternative plans to postpone to next summer be tossed.

I may not be here.

It was decided that this weekend's arrangements would go forth, and then the fears set in.

I kept postponing making reservations, and -- unable to give a reason -- started to try to justify my reluctance because of frailty, of "aging," though I was continuing my 5-day work week with no difficulty.

I finally admitted to someone (and I can't for the life of me recall who that was), that it was fear, that I'd had a dream that brought that 1927 Great Flood back to reality, and given that June was the beginning of hurricane season in the Gulf -- I became consumed by a disabling fear that lasted for several weeks and could not be shaken.

It made no sense since this was the same weekend during which we'd -- only a year ago -- spent a week in New Orleans for the honoring at the WWII Museum.  There had been no such feelings of dread at that time, and that, too, was the beginning of hurricane season.  Why this sense of prescience now?  But it was undeniable, and persistent.

A few weeks ago, I finally found the courage to call David to tell him that I was not going to be able to make the trip after all.  I could hear the crushing disappointment in his voice, and -- in a day or so -- learned that he, too, cancelled, making the trip impossible for my granddaughters to end their travel summer at the reunion in New Orleans.  I felt profoundly guilty of bringing this important reunion to a halt by my inability to shake the unreasoning fear ... .

Heard just a few moments ago by radio that there is a flood warning reaching from Houston, Texas, to the Florida Panhandle over the next few days.  It is expected to bring 12 inches of rain through New Orleans over the next 24 hours, with serious flood warnings.
A senseless foreboding?

I'm not so sure ...

Monday, June 12, 2017

I sang at my own wedding, no guests, just
another secret ... .

Late Sunday afternoon brought another aspect of filmmaking ... 

... this time adding to the voice-over thread to be filled in behind related images of the other documentary (90-minute) of Bryan Gibel, filmmaker/producer.

For a second day-in-a-row (unusual) I found myself seated in a quickly created "bunker" formed of quilted blankets hooked together to make a kind of sound booth, going over old history, but not of the kind that deals with the WWII Home Front, but of "Betty" history, which turns out to be far deeper and with an emotional content that is only hinted at in the national stories, or of a different kind, at least.

In the aftermath, I've found myself today going back over that interview, and finding places where there are glaring contradictions and inconsistencies:

Where much of the interview was taken up with how thoroughly I'd discounted the artist part of myself in running away from the brief encounter with the entertainment industry, nonetheless I've certainly written about that side of myself in this journal, and rather unsparingly.  In fact, she holds a prominent place in my personal narrative, even while I'm denying her existence.

I wonder if the fact that -- over time she has evolved as a third person -- somehow severed from the whole, a "she." Though there is clearly some recent movement occurring, at integrating into a more complex Betty at a time when I'm being forced under the scrutiny of filmmaking to incorporate all of me into coherence.  But is that consistent with real life? Am I not, alternately, all of those splintered pieces, and does the weaving together of all of those divergent bits and pieces not present the next  challenge in this final decade?

Maybe that younger creative artist Betty, was never "disappeared" at all, but has been dormant; waiting patiently in the wings to reappear at some auspicious time when the barriers were lowered, and this final integration was even possible.  At a time when there was no marriage to save nor children to raise, no aging parents to caretake, no business to reclaim as legacy for our kids, no handicapped daughter to prepare for my exit, just maybe ... .

It's beginning to feel that way as I sit behind that west gallery exhibit at the bayside windows of the Visitor Center, waiting to present my two o'clock program.  That perch allows me to become disconnected from those gathering at the front desk for their tickets long enough to find the quiet offered by idly watching the incoming bands of fog silently drift in over the water, the changing light, the wind playing capriciously in the branches of that giant eucalyptus, the rising and lowering of the tides, that ever-changing vista of Brooks Island, the East Bay hills, the San Francisco skyline, the moody panoramic Bay view, shore birds in constant and ever-graceful flight, wind-surfers skating over the waters precariously, the occasional leisurely passage of a sailboat... .

Often of late, I draw my cell phone out of the pocket of my uniform, press the button for music, and holding it to my ear so that voice won't bleed out into the west gallery -- listen secretly to my younger self of 40 years ago -- singing the life I was living at the time my songs were birthed ... and that life returns with all of the affect it carried at the time they were written.  There are times when it takes more than a moment to bring myself back into the present.

10 years ago.  Age 85
But then it's time to creep down the back stairs to enter our little theater where I, alone, sit on that kitchen stool and watch as those inquiring strangers begin to enter my space in twos and threes until the room is full, and the stories begin and a quite different past becomes alive again, once more, and we're sharing that other journey back through time ... .

And as complicated as it sounds, it is I who serves as the connecting link to what is on the surface a set of conflicting realities, but equally authentic and equally true.

What happens to, "I rarely spend time regretting the past or anticipating the future; there is only NOW"?  That's a fine example of conflicting truths, a concept that arrived unannounced shortly after my 90th birthday; an axiom that I stubbornly believe to be not only possible but an important fact of life.

Yet, it is all of a piece, is it not?

It is in these moments that I am beginning to feel all the parts of myself beginning to come together, and the distances between lessening ... and the hope that, in time, over continuing days, weeks, and months, under the scrutiny necessary for meaningful filmmaking ... I will become whole, perhaps for the very first time, like metal shavings attracted irresistibly to a magnate.

Meanwhile, I'm fairly certain that I'm in for some highly emotional moments as that integration process takes over.

The prize is that somehow I've developed the ability to place myself somewhere out of range and watch that process as it unfolds.  I suspect that it is this ability that allows me to learn from it all, and to use it in my work.  I'm able to become a spectator to myself. To see myself in context.

There is the sense that -- in these final years, I'm being all of the women that I've become over time, and using everything that I've ever experienced in reaching this remarkable time of life.  It's all incorporated into that aging women sitting on that kitchen stool before those audiences of 48 friendly strangers every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday on into infinity.

I suspect that it may be time to pull those curtains back and let the sun in; and let the music play ... as I live all of the complex layers of my existence, simultaneously ... .

... and wherever did I get the idea that life was linear?

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