13 Jul 2009, 10:53pm
leave a comment

keep making mistakes

blue ox millworks and historic park
(our venue for jason in eureka)

human-powered jigsaw! operated by eric hollenbeck, blue ox owner, creator, craftsman–

more human-powered machines–

plus, several printing presses! and many cases of type!–


(guess what??? i am learning how to set type!! we are going to try to make a letterpress poster for the play, and i am sorta taking the lead on that project. am pretty thrilled about it. more later.)

slice of 1400-year-old redwood logged 100 years ago–

the place is beautiful and rugged and dusty as heck. eric has led an incredibly full life, is full of stories, tells us about all the “mistakes” he’s made in his life, and says to us (something along the lines of) “i figure if i keep making mistakes, i’ll be all right.” lots of the machines he has he found in ditches or the woods, abandoned. he built his business out of what came to him, literally–these machines. the old-growth redwood he uses is all salvage, and he’s been involved in tons of home restoration projects (gorgeous intricate victorian detailing and the like). he also runs a school (for high schoolers) of traditional arts at blue ox–woodworking, blacksmithing, printing. it is a pretty exciting place to be. the air is full of sawdust and good vibes.

other than that–i am tired out. been listening to so many stories, some of which are not mine to tell here.

12 Jul 2009, 4:45pm
leave a comment

process

been trying to sit down and write this entry for days! and, of course, the mental version keeps getting longer and longer. last night i got this far: “ok, i am going to do this chronologically because i only have 20 minutes before dinner in which to write, and if i put this off”–and then someone came by and told me our dinner guests were beginning to arrive and let’s go over and greet them! right now i have a bit of downtime before my audition for the play. i’m not expecting or expected to be cast, but all the institute students are supposed to go through the (very quick and low-key) audition process ’cause we’re expected to basically go through EVERY PROCESS here, which is awesome, and that is what i want to write about: process. [have since auditioned; not done with this entry, of course.]

anyway, i am living in eureka, humboldt county, california, for the next month or so, to attend the cornerstone institute summer residency. cornerstone theatre is a company that’s been based in los angeles for the past seventeen years or so (before that, they traveled the country making theatre with rural communities). they make a lot of theatre with various communities within los angeles and they’re pretty much totally awesome. check out their website. anyway, every summer they travel to a small california town (or sometimes a community within a large city) and they put on a play. the institute director and the playwright started making trips up here like nine months ago to get to know the community, talk to people, collect stories, meet organizations, etc, and the playwright wrote a play based on those stories–and on the myth of jason and the golden fleece. the play we’re putting on this month is called jason in eureka: an epic adventure in search of golden fleece and other local treasures. we students get to come and learn about community-based theatre by taking classes together in the morning and working on this immense intense project in the afternoons and evenings. such divisions blur of course. so. yes.

before that i was in portland, of course, and i was feeling rough. gotta acknowledge that. felt rough here in eureka too. sort of overwhelmed and unengaged and i dunno. the other night i meditated for the first time in much too long and i saw flowers made of light growing and blossoming and dying and growing again. so there’s that. i mean, the growing again.

the institute has been great so far. amazing and scary and thought-provoking. on thursday night we sat in a circle (the first of many many many, everything is done in circles here) and shared our reasons for being here, and i said for the first time really that i don’t want to be a stage manager, i am not a stage manager, i think i’m done with that. felt weird to admit to it out loud.

on friday morning we did a “cultural mapping” exercise. we sort of assigned categories to corners of the room–like “love to win,” “hate to lose,” “just wanna play,” “don’t wanna play at all”–and then we each had to choose a corner to stand in. then each corner group had to come up with three things that everyone in that group had in common. some interesting stuff came out of that–then we were given a dichotomy, two extremes, and told to arrange ourselves in a spectrum line from one end to the other. a relative spectrum based on the people who were present, of course… the first (not necessarily real) dichotomy we were given was “mind” and “body.” we walked to where we expected to find ourselves on the spectrum and ended up with a clump of people in the middle and a similarly-sized clump at the “mind” end. i ended up at the extreme “body” end (of this particular group of people). goodness knows it’s a false dichotomy. i found it really interesting that “mind” was a more acceptable or common extreme than “body.” those of us at the body end found our position there sort of socially uncomfortable, i think. i have in my life elevated my “mind” at the expense of my “body” (and thus of my mind), but i haven’t ever elevated my body at the expense of my mind, really, because it’s much harder to do that in my cultural background, or something. but my rejection of the dichotomy made me feel closer to the body end than the mind end–as a sort of resistance to that elevation of the mind, i guess.

the next spectrum we created had “art” at one end and “social justice” at the other. my favorite part about creating these spectra was the conversations that broke out instantly as we tried to figure out our place in the line. here is part of the reason i am at the cornerstone theatre: oh you know all those venn diagrams, with your passion, your strengths/skills, and what is needed, and the “sweet spot” in the middle, what you should be doing? maybe i lived too long in my passions and then too long in my skills (?), and for months now i have been so focused on what is needed, and felt sort of useless in providing it. i felt burnt out on art! so instead of coming to this place from my theatre-making and art, i am trying to go back to theatre-making through what i see as needed. i guess. anyway, i was sorta in the middle of that spectrum.

then we added another dimension to that and made it into a sort of graph, with art and social justice on one axis and PRODUCT and PROCESS on the other axis. i walked all the way to the process end and i stopped. i talked with the people around me, and said, “product is only meaningful insofar as it comes out of process,” and “product is maybe a way of communicating process.” when people see my mandalas, they say, wow, i would never have the patience for that, and i say, i just start in the middle and work outward.

another thing that came up the first or second night, when we were talking about cornerstone’s history and mission etc etc, was some other group of theatre-makers and social-changers: a group of women who are way involved in support for women, shelters, education, etc etc. but their mission statement, or statement of purpose, or something along those lines, is very very simple: “our purpose is to make theatre.” and all the rest of their work comes out of that purpose–that PRACTICE. so i got to thinking about theatre as practice, and meditation as practice (so i went to my room and meditated), and this blog as a practice. i am all about the process and not the polished product–the product communicating the process… maybe this is something that will bounce back a little with time, but right now i am okay with the messy process of this writing.

there has also been lots of discussion about what “community-based theatre” is. i guess my conclusion for the time being is that it’s a process for which community is a product. i am thinking a lot about the role of artists in community, and what it means that we came here to this community of which we are not really a part to make this art–and, by my logic, to make this community!

i am cutting this entry a little short because it’s almost time for a meeting about our community auditions tonight. [hah! didn't actually finish it. am once again pressed for time, before the auditions themselves.] myself and another woman are trying to put together an additional little project for auditioners to participate in while they wait for their audition: answering (in words or images, on notecards) the questions “what brought you here?” and “why do you stay?” which are sort of fundamental questions asked and partially answered in the playscript. i will end with this–someone suggested the other day that one purpose of community-based theatre is community renewal–it’s a reminder and a reteller of old and new stories and issues. i just finished reading a book about mayan village culture, secrets of the talking jaguar by martin prechtel, which suggests that community is never permanent–it is in the creating itself. the process.

The secret of village togetherness and happiness has always been the generosity of its people, but the secret to that generosity was village inefficiency and decay. The House of the World, like our village huts and our human bodies, no matter how magnificent, is not built to last very long. Because of this, all life must be regularly renewed. To do this, the villagers come together once a year at least, to work on putting back together somebody’s hut, talking, laughing, feasting, and helping wherever they can in a gradual, graceful way. This way each family’s place in the village is reestablished and remembered.

If a house is built too well, so efficiently that it is permanent and refuses to fall apart, then people have no reason to come together. Though the house stays together, the people fall apart, and nothing gets renewed…

Generosity of soul and tangible effort in the face of the constant pressure of decay are what give people purpose, fertile imaginations, vitality, a feeling of usefulness, and self-worth. When decay is “cured” instead of communally addressed, a culture becomes decadent. Then generosity becomes an advertising ploy or a dirty word. Violence is close behind when people won’t come together to remake each other’s houses.

lots of love.
thanks for reading.
thanks for helping to build me up.

p.s. victor, one of the institute students and our documentarian, has been staying up late to blog, here.

5 Jul 2009, 8:14pm
leave a comment

the mad farmer’s love song

O when the world’s at peace
and every man is free
then will I go down unto my love.

O and I may go down
several times before that.

–Wendell Berry

5 Jul 2009, 4:22pm
2 comments

the beet goes on

14″x17″, with uncooperative corners held in place by a green rock i found at the ocean and a couple pieces of smooth driftwood i found in the grass at a residential street corner far from the ocean in southeast portland:

*

i finally planted a container garden:

clockwise from the bottom left: lavender; more lavender (i love lavender); strawberries; a big pot full o’ herbs with basil, oregano, parsley, chives, thyme and sage; and a mini bell pepper. my mom gave me these pretty glazed ceramic pots, which i guess were sitting in the garage unused. i still have a few more to fill! and a whole bunch of packets full of seeds. in august, when i get back from california, i’m going to plant snap peas and a lot of salad greens: kale, arugula, spinach…

more food from the garden:

blueberries, best eaten with mere inches and seconds between plant and mouth (though some palm hoarding is okay):

beets!:

i love beets lately. yesterday we made a roasted baby beet salad for lunch. i peeled the beets with my fingers and got my hands all bloody with beet flesh. tom robbins’ “most intense of vegetables.” the lines in my palms were stained pink.

*

i feel so overwhelmed by all the ways to save the world–you know? i don’t know which is for me to do. i’ve been reading so much lately, about history, community, science, spirituality, art, and everything else. a. and i have been watching joseph campbell’s the power of myth. a few days ago i went to powell’s on hawthorne and bought myself a small stack of books for my birthday. while there, i was really struck by the the assortment of books on the “new arrivals” table and the other tables in the front of the store. so much of them were about food, farming, gardening, fuel, green politics, etc. i know i live in portland and all, but i really feel like the whole world’s awareness is changing. it’s so great!, though it does make me feel sort of unoriginal. well, i may not be the seed, but i hope to be one of the gardeners.

i have friends who seem to have really clear paths, who know what they need to do to be doing what they need to be doing to be fulfilled (not an end to the path, but a way of walking it), or are already there–and i have friends who are more lost than me. i think that’s okay. it is sort of beautifully messy to be lost. i am stumbling across all kinds of things i would never notice or explore if i had any idea where the heck i was going.

one-sixth of my life ago, i went to italy. it was a family vacation, but i arrived after my parents did and had a few days in rome before meeting up with them in venice. totally coincidentally, my boyfriend at the time was in italy with his family at the same time. we met up in rome my first day there. my flight had gotten in very late the night before and my parents had paid for a hotel room for me for the night (after that, i planned to stay in a hostel). i was not a seasoned traveler at that point, and the cabbie who drove me from the airport ripped me off. i was supposed to meet my boyfriend and his family outside the vatican, but due to a transportation strike in the city, they were very, very late. we had no way of getting in touch with each other. i desperately needed a drink of water, and there was a cart selling bottled water very near where i was waiting, but i had no euros and was afraid that if i left to find an atm, they’d never find me or i them. eventually they showed up, of course, and we toured the vatican museum, the sistine chapel–lovely–all that. then my boyfriend and i left to find my hostel. with the subway closed by the strike, it was a long walk. we walked all up and down the street it was supposed to be on, until we finally matched the correct street number with an unobtrusive unmarked door. after some weird communication difficulties, we finally got buzzed in to a stairwell. we walked up the first flight. no hostel. the second. my head was throbbing from some combination of dehydration and jetlag. after the sixth, i sat down on the stairs and cried, feeling totally incapable of continuing. the hostel was on the seventh floor.

i guess my point is that i was so close to where i was going, and it felt so impossible to get there, when really i had done pretty much all of the getting there already.

my boyfriend and i broke up less than a month later. our relationship had not been doing well for awhile, but what really brought about the end of it was that he said he didn’t respect me. when i asked him why, he referenced the incident above–which i think i would otherwise have forgotten by now–said i gave up too easily. now that moment on the stairs seems like the place from which i have been walking–you know? the months that followed were rough on my self-respect. rebuilding that took a lot of work and several years. i’m probably still doing it. but it allowed for an awareness (of myself and of the people and the world around me) to blossom that i didn’t have in my life before then.

maybe if i were telling another story, i’d pinpoint some other moment as That Moment. there is no That Moment, probably. but still, what i have said is true. (”no truth can make another truth untrue”–ursula le guin.)

that boyfriend is still (peripherally) in my life, mostly (i must admit) because basically since that time, he’s been in a relationship with one of my best friends, one of my favorite people in the whole world. that’s how it goes in this funny universe. sometime–i don’t remember when–i told him that i would appreciate it if, when or if i ever “earned back his respect,” he would tell me so. he never has, and probably he has long since forgotten, because in his life it was not That Moment. i don’t need him to anymore, but even so i am not sure how i feel about writing this in my blog, now, because there’s a chance he’ll read it. que sera, sera.

he is one of those friends with the path all clear and well-lit. i am happy for him, as i stumble around in the brush of my path, pulling fat tasty blueberries off the bushes.

*

in the meantime, here’s some joy (at the rose garden with matt; photos by him):


(the frankenrose, made from fallen petals)