Cold change and the warmth of friends

My tendency has been toward an academic style, because that’s what I was familiar with. You’ll see it in some of my articles. Here, I’m going to write about my experiences. I can’t predict how that will be, so let’s just see what happens.

Scary changes seem prevalent these days.  So as not to become weighed down in the heaviness, I find it helps to notice my thinking and responses, and dedicate time to being still, so there’s some rest from constant thinking and worrying, and space for something else, something fresh to come in. That’s about being inspired. Inspiration brings a lightness of being. We need it to make a difference. What inspires you?

I want to give an example of recent scary and the inspirational good. In the back yard of friends in Berkeley recently, I was sitting in the spa tub shielded on either side, but not to the sky, by bamboo plants and lush garden. The moon was rising and I was reminded of being at Tassajara Zen Centre, deep in the Californian wilderness where one can sit in the Japanese bathhouse looking out through magnificent pines all silvery with moonlight. Magical. That memory was overridden by the sound of a helicopter. Around and around it flew, since there was an event at the university that ‘needed’ surveillance.

Rumoured to have cost over sixty thousand dollars, the helicopter took precedence over the homeless people who slept out all night as usual. I saw them on my run each morning. At first I was shocked there were so many and then someone told me there were a lot of homeless people here because they’d been hunted from other cities, plus the Californian weather was kinder to them.

The weather was not so kind on the way to Santa Fe. Back in February, when I was doing a reconnaissance to Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Ghost Ranch”, the train passed through a number of missions. Snow fell on the fields, the thin horses, the beat-up cars, collapsing adobes and what appear to be small metal box-homes. Snow has a way of softening; of making beautiful, and it would have been so were it not for the forlorn state of everything else. Kind of sad-beautiful, but no, the overwhelming fact was that it was far too cold to be sleeping in a metal box.

The severe contrast and stark bones softened by the fake flower in O’Keeffe’s painting convey a sense of New Mexico in winter. Death is close by. I was blessed to be warm and passing through in a beautiful borrowed coat. Walking to my lodgings in Taos, the snow-flakes drifted so gently. Have you ever felt snowflakes on your eyelashes?!

Two friends, both named Philip evoke great warmth in my heart. Both are marvellous humans. The first Philip I met is a dancer. He’s danced internationally and rurally and probably for his dinner, bless him. Now he teaches dance to people with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and other maladies that cause frailty and slow demise. I know what he’s up to, aiming to take the ‘dis’ away from disability. Less heroic, but very special to me, P1, as I’ll fondly call him here, has remembered and celebrated my birthday every year of the twenty two I’ve known him.

When my daughter, aged three, pointed out the holes in his socks (as his feet were sticking out the end of the make-shift bed in my lounge room), P1 promptly and conspiratorially replied they were there especially to let the smells out. The entranced and complicit Rose had made a friend for life.

My second special Philip lives in Japan. P2 teaches there and performs his poetry whenever he can. The first time I met P2 was when he was performing in downtown Wagga Wagga. A genius in action, you know when a performer sees you in a crowd and sets his or her sites on you as a kind of safe place to return? Well, it was like that. Afterwards we met, and he was grateful. Mutual-fan-club, house-on-fire kind of stuff. That was my first year at art school – the year 2000 – and his awesome poem ‘This is an emergency, it’s just another day’ could have been my anthem for that year. That was the year of slipping from science to art… and how incredibly rich it was. My dear P’s were part of the rapidly unfolding adventure, and still are, helping me love my life.




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