Tuesday, February 10, 2004

One might think that being unemployed would allow for more free time than before ...

Not working out that way. Looking for another position before I default on my mortgage or lose my insurance coverage keeps me not only busy but with a sense of urgency that surpasses even that which comes with the natural course of aging. This is something else. It probably equals the disquiet that everyone feels -- regardless of age -- when living from paycheck to paycheck. Any interruption in that process brings a sense of sheer terror. I'm beginning to experience shallow breathing -- now clearly noticeable because of the absence of the normal sense of power enjoyed for so many years. Always believed that I was facing the world with honesty and directness, and ever conscious of my ability to handle almost anything, given the time and the energy. Have rarely felt helpless and have climbed a respectable number of mountains in my day and made a hell of a lot of lemonade!

Let's get to the good stuff:

Kevin Cooper's execution has been set aside, and the anti-death penalty movement can stop and catch its breath. Turned out to be a celebration instead of a wake at the prison gates last night. Wonderful! The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals turns out to be the factor that turned the march toward death into a dance of victory. That panel is still deliberating the fate of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, but did the unprecedented thing of recommending that the governor give full consideration to clemency when handing down their last response to his case. That decision is still pending.

The film, "Redemption" is continuing to cause a great stir in festival circles with invitations to several more. Sundance gave it buzz that has excited the public far beyond the anti-death penalty movement. C.H. Pounder plays Winnie Mandela in the movie. Mandela called Barbara as she was leaving LA/Ex for home. A friend of Winnie's was in the audience and called South Africa to rave about the film. What resulted was an invitation to Barbara to bring it to South Africa for a showing before the Parliament. Channel FX is thrilled and is already working on it.

Spent Sunday lazing under the tallest eucalyptus forest imaginable (a monarch butterfly migration site), within reasonable rock-tossing distance to the ocean. This is the A-Frame home of an artist friend on whose board I'm serving. I so love interacting with these creative minds. There was a stage-lighting specialist, a grants-writer-capacity-building woman of the arts, a dancer-aerialist and one of her dancers, the beautiful black-eyed 4-year old son of Joanna, and a choreographer called "Baby Jose." Jose (the stage-lighting specialist) is from Argentina whose ultimate life plan is to purchase an old castle in central Mexico for a Bed and Breakfast. His specialty is cooking. He created a fine dinner for us all while we huddled before the fireplace and sipped tea that Joanna had brought back from South Africa ... they talked of Paris, the time they'd spent together in Peru ... Jose's upcoming trip to Brazil (we're all invited to go along, of course), and his most recent trip to Italy.

Jennifer and I spent last Sunday at a dance concert at the Yerba Buena Center where we'd accidentally run into Jose (who stage-manages the Center) and out of that came the invitation to Joanna's on Sunday. It was instantly clear that life grows out of life, and that I must continue to move about in the world in whatever way life presents itself. To not do so is to begin the slow and inevitable surrender to death. This may be one of the unstated but driving life forces ... maybe. Also, in a flash this very obvious truth rose out of nothing into full bloom while looking at the moon out of the car window as the others chatted comfortably about things I knew little or nothing about. It felt warm and right, and like one of those obvious truths that was more like a memory than an epiphany. There's a kind of elegance about that ... like something that rose at some elemental level from the experience of 6 year-old Betty long before she had the language to describe it ...

For the thousandth time in my life, on Sunday someone asked if I'd been a dancer at some earlier time in life. I said (again) "no." But silently -- with no future plans at the moment -- I decided then and there that it's not one minute too late. Will save some time in my new (non)schedule to enter a dance class. My body is lithe and moves well. The fact that I've led a relatively active life suggests that my bones can still take some stress without disintegrating. I've no sign of bone loss, yet, and my energy level is still high. But bonuses will surely begin to ebb if I find myself wasting away in front of the TV. Since I'm still a member of the board of the East Bay Center for Performing Arts -- and, since there are no age barriers -- why not? Maybe no one has yet tested the upper edges of the age levels for dance.

Phone just rang: It was a dear friend from Dion's staff inquiring about how I'm feeling, whether I've found work, (checking on signs of depression in my voice, I'm sure). Fortunately, since she didn't reach me when I was writing those first two paragraphs, she caught me contemplating dance lessons. The mind is oddly mercurial, isn't it? Another important truth? Maybe depression comes in short bursts, and can be dispensed with in quixotic ways. Think I'll set aside my job search for today and create for myself a new reality -- one that includes dancing. (Felt such a deep response on Sunday -- to the sound of a concertina in the background of conversation -- of something on CD -- a tango! Wouldn't that be a hoot!) Think I'll come out from behind this screen and pick up a leotard and maybe some maracas -- in case I can find flamenco dancing somewhere. That, too, stirs something deep inside... .

I'm beginning to know that -- whenever it comes -- death will be a rude interruption in a lifelong search for experiences. If only birth came with a built-in rehearsal feature and a place to Slo-Mo the best parts! Other than that small flaw, life's a bargain at any price, even when times are uncertain and the future only dimly lit... .