Saturday, March 04, 2006

Whirled Jazz

This isn't a very good photo, but this was the group Whirled Jazz performing at Simpson University in Redding, CA last night during their first set. Typically I'd post music-related stuff on my main blog, but it occurred to me that what I wanted to say about last night's gig was all about creativity, so I thought I'd share it here instead.

They performed all original music--many tunes by the trombonist, Keller Coker; several by the bandleader/saxophonist, Tom Bergeron; one by the guitarist, John Albano. (All three are college music educators.) And that's Rob Lemas, who plays with Jeffrey on Sunday nights in Sacramento, on bass.

It was great to hear original music--I really enjoyed it. Jazz is one of my favorite musical genres, but it can grow tiresome when you've been an avid live jazz listener for decades and go to gigs only to realize that all you're going to hear is well-known standards. There are certain jazz tunes I could hear a thousand times and never grow tired of them, and of course the whole idea is to make any standard sound fresh and alive and interesting. But how refreshing when an artist/performer cares so deeply about their musical selves that they create music, and put some thought behind it. Personally, I get tired of hearing songs in certain genres that are always about the same thing--love, relationships, heartbreak. Those songs have their place in our American musical canon--in fact, they're innately American. But it was a delight last night to hear the inspiration behind their original compositions--everything from a PBS documentary on string a science fiction pulp an original North American people who slayed woolly a trip to Poland that inspired, surprisingly, a tango.

I had taken a seat right before the show started (I'd been hanging out 'backstage' with J.) Most of the seats that were left were on the far sides of the gym. Because the chairs were set up in semi-circled rows, sitting at the front on the far left I could turn to my right and see the entire audience. At first I wondered if they were enjoying the music. I didn't see a lot of the typical head bobbing and swaying that I see in jazz clubs, but they responded with enthusiastic applause after each selection, and at the end of the night (during the second set I sat right in front of the stage) they got a standing ovation. The head of the Music Department told them afterwards that performers there typically never get standing ovations, so it seemed that their music was a hit. And that got me thinking...

We don't give people enough credit. We hesitate to take them out of their comfort zones. The crap that finds its way onto our TV and movie screens (and I'm as guilty as the next person of watching it) and radio airwaves doesn't often inspire us--it numbs us with familiarity. Everything has become about formula--find a formula that works and copy it. But do we gravitate toward the familiar by nature? Or have we been lulled into that pattern by our culture? Because deep down I don't think it's in our nature to avoid the unfamiliar. There's no wonder in the familiar. We gasp with wonder when we encounter something so unique and beautiful that it catches us off guard...because it was unexpected.

So as we continue on our artist's journey, in whatever form our art will reveal itself, let's remember that. Just like the name of this band--let's go for the unexpected. Let's mix things up and surprise people. The worst that could happen is we end up embarrassed. And I've yet to hear of a single death that was caused by embarrassment, no matter how much we wished it to be true. :) The best thing that could happen is that we could end up inspiring...not just others, but ourselves, too.

For a few video snippets, go to my vlog, Moovies.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

American Darling Valve

Okay, here it is: the absolute embarrassing truth. I didn't do SQUAT this week on AW. Zip. Zero. A big fat enchi-nada. Didn't write a single morning page (for the second week in a row). Didn't get caught up on my chapters in the AW book (I'm still on Week 5). Didn't do any exercises. Didn't do an artist date.

I had good intentions when I rose early this morning. I planned to break out my spiral notebook and fountain pen and get down to business. And then I planned to catch up on the chapter reading--weeks 5 through 8. Oh...but let me just check email first. And maybe I'll read just a few blogs, since I'm a couple of days behind due to work overload. Next thing I knew, hours had gone by. Crap.

But the sun is shining and it's warm outside. So when Jeffrey got home (after only half a day's work...yay!) I walked around the corner to get us some Japanese take-out for lunch. And after we ate I grabbed the camera and said I was going out for an artist date. While waiting for our food, it occurred to me to challenge myself to take photos of only things I could find on our block. So I circled the block twice, slowly, and let my eyes wander. I saw things I've seen many times before (we've lived here 10 months) and things I'd never noticed before (including an adorable little house on the opposite side of the block that I've walked and ridden by a gazillion times and never noticed--it's tucked back from the street a bit). The result was what you see here. Nothing exciting, except that I paid attention. Or maybe I should say that I walked with intention. Speaking of which...

I really do intend to stay in the AW mix. My lack of involvement has a lot to do with being super-busy at work the past few weeks. I'm regularly working overtime, but it's a good kind of busy. But I come home feeling a bit fried, like I don't want to do anything other than grab some dinner and lie like a slug on the couch watching TV, reading the newspapers and dozing. And maybe I just hit that spot that Cameron talks about--where you begin to develop a love/hate relationship with AW. I noticed a few weeks ago that I went from really enjoying writing morning pages to absolutely dreading them, and feeling unable to focus for more than a page. Life is full of rhythms...I'll eventually find mine again in AW.

One thing's for sure...even though I might not be feeling inspired by the process right now, I'm incredibly inspired by the AW group. Y'all rock!!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

inspiration share

This is an "A" blog in the AW group, and weeks ago we A's and B's were asked to share something that inspires us. I didn't have a chance to do that without my computer, but I wanted to tell you something I did that I found fulfilling. One night while Jeffrey was at a gig, I was reading some of SARK's Succulent Wild Woman. It's been a good companion book for this process for me. I enjoyed the passage I'd just read, so I began to re-read it...and then it occurred to me to read it aloud. So I started reading aloud, but not in a monotone...I started reading it as if you were all sitting here with me, as if I were performing The Vagina Monologues or something. I started breathing differently and reading with feeling and emotion and projection. And it felt really powerful to do that. It really gave life to the words. (I know that sounds corny, but it did.)

Here's the passage I 'performed' in my living room that night:

Once we've rambled through our dry and tame places, we can begin to explore succulence. Succulent wild woman is a process, and an adventure. To discover, and recover, your own succulence is a voyage of the interior and exterior. Succulence comes from your center--the sweet, true part of you--your essence--that belongs to no one else.

Wildness is relative. Wild is a state of mind that relates directly to succulence. We are each in a process of being and becoming a succulent wild woman!

I am sharing my own journey so that you can be a part of my exploration.

I am very real--deeply human, partly human, splendidly and horribly imperfect, bent, disguised, loud, ever-changing, thought-full and thought-less, wildly narcisstic in certain spots.

How are you most human? What would a map of you look like? There are so many ways to be named and defined, yet we are ultimately a mystery. What a glorious thing!

~SARK, Succulent Wild Woman

So after 'performing' this bit two or three times that night, I had a thought: I wonder if SARK would allow her material to be pulled together into a play? What a powerful, women-centric performance piece that could be!

What would a map of YOU look like?

Try this with a passage from one of your favorite books. But do it when you're alone--its power lies in the freedom that comes from not being inhibited by the presence of others. After all, weren't we all fabulous rock stars in the privacy of our bedrooms, 'singing' in front of our mirrors with our hairbrushes as mic's? ;)

Recapping Week 6

Anyone home?? I'd gone from "I really should be writing morning pages" to blithely going about my mornings after J'd leave for work having coffee and reading the paper. I forgot morning pages even existed. And my bookmark was still firmly planted in the early pages of Week 5. But, I was pouring a lot of time and energy and effort into the Black History Assembly production at school, and it was giving me a big creative payoff. Friday's performances were so rewarding to witness--to see how far the kids had come and to see them so excited to be performing. So even though week 6 was completely lost in terms of AW group parameters, it was found in terms of feeding me personally.

The theme for Week 6 was recovering a sense of abundance, and having our PC finally arrive certainly helped with that. I even had one day last week where I put on a jacket I hadn't worn in about 6 months and found a five-dollar bill in the pocket...I walked to the bus stop, boarded the empty bus and the driver stopped me from depositing my $1 fare, saying "Don't worry about it"...I took my seat and found a shiny dime on the seat next to me. So I guess the universe was letting me know that there really is abundance everywhere...sometimes when I least expect it. ;)

Recapping Week 5

Here's where I fell almost completely off the AW wagon. I've still only read a couple pages of the Week 5 chapter. I only wrote morning pages three days that week, and two of those days I only wrote half a page. I simply couldn't stay focused on the task when I'd sit down to write. I was barely hanging onto the idea of AW by my cuticles. Artist date? What's that?? Although, in my defense, this was the week when I got really involved with working on the Black History Assembly at school. I'd pulled the band together for the assembly, but this was the week when I started working with the kids at the rehearsals and really jumping in with both feet. I was growing more and more down not having access to my blog and my blogging buddies and the AW group, but working on the assembly was my saving grace. So even though I wasn't following the book and the guidelines, I was doing something I really loved and felt passionate about...for the first time in a very long time. So I was feeding my artist.

Recapping Week 4

I didn't even know this was the week of reading deprivation until Sam mentioned it on the phone that Sunday night. I hadn't read the chapter yet, even though it was the second day of that AW week. Oops...I'd already plowed through two Sunday papers. I gave the reading deprivation a moment's thought, but I was growing depressed over losing my internet 'life,' so giving up reading (one of the very few pleasures and comforts I have) seemed too much to ask. I did cut back though. I did continue to read the two daily newspapers I have delivered (the Davis and San Francisco papers), but grew selective in my book reading. Mostly that week I savored small passages from Deepak Choprah's The Book of Secrets. I was in need of something to inspire and nourish me, and it filled the bill. (I'm still reading it...I'm savoring it slowly.) I continued reading a chapter a week from SARK's Succulent Wild Woman, which I'd bought as a companion piece for this AW journey. My morning pages dropped way off--I only wrote them 3 days that week, and each time I only wrote about a page-and-a-half. I completely forgot about doing an artist date. And although I read all of the exercises and did them in my head, I didn't write them out.

Recapping Week 3

Our laptop died during Week 2. I was feeling quite high when we lost our internet connection. I'd just had a fabulous solo day in Portland...and then internet connection...and no funds to immediately buy another laptop or PC. I was devastated because I felt so engaged with my writing and my blogging and the AW group. I tried to psych myself up and remind myself that I'd done AW more than a decade before when I hadn't needed an internet connection. I thought surely without being able to check email or read blogs I'd have LOADS of time to devote to AW. I realized at the end of Week 3 how ironic it was that the week's theme had been recovering a sense of power, because I'd spent week 3 feeling mostly power-less...over the money situation, over not having internet access (I have it at work, but the school's 'safe search' function blocks all blogs and web-based email), over my job situation (my nasty coworker was bad-vibing me as usual and being particularly passive-aggressive), etc. I did write my morning pages every day that week, even if a couple of times I wrote less than 3 pages. I had liked the "Detective Work" exercise from previous AW attempts, I so did that. In fact, I did most of the exercises that week. My artist date that week was a watching a day-long marathon of "Project Runway" while Jeffrey was at work. I love that show.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Recapping Week 2

This'll be quick--I'm on a library PC. I did morning pages five out of seven days, and had some great insights at least two or three of those days. Read through the chapter and all of the exercises. Did some of the exercises in my head, but haven't written any of them down yet. Still plan to do that. My full day in Portland on Tuesday was a total solo artist date all day long. I'll post photos later if I can (when we're back online). I didn't walk this week (not any distance, anyway), but did ride my bike to work on Thursday, which felt GREAT. Also started that day out with an hour at Starbucks before work, where I read Week 2.

Sorry I'm unable to get around to your AW blogs and check-in right now. I'll get caught up as soon as I can.

I know as an "A" blog, I was supposed to post a share this week. I'm late doing that--it's been kind of a crazy week, but I'll think of something to share.

Wish I could be in more contact right now, but I am doing the work...and I know all of you are, too. Being part of this group is helping me cope with being without the laptop...just knowing you're all out there doing AW right with me. xoxo

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I have to be quick because I'm posting this at the library and there's supposed to be a 15-minute limit on this computer. Just wanted to check in and say that although we've been laptop-less for the last 24 hours, life is very good right now. I had a fabulous couple of days in Portland. Tuesday was a day-long artist date. I took a gazillion photos and will post some of them if I can get back into the laptop soon.

I didn't write morning pages on Monday or Tuesday, and didn't get to them until after work on Wednesday (waiting for J. to pick me up from work). But I did write them this morning. We were both still wiped out from our trip last night, so we turned in early which meant we were also up VERY early. After Jeffrey left for work, I dressed and hopped on my bike. Six thirty this morning found me pedaling my way through the foggy darkness to a Starbucks. I'd barely made a dent in the reading for Week 2. I got my grande decaf latte and a bran muffin and sat down to read the chapter. I read the week's reading plus the exercises and was reminded that some of my favorite AW exercies are in week 2. I plan to do some of them tonight.

Here's what I realized this morning while writing my MP's... Last week's 5 imaginary lives exercise was very revealing, because the 5 I chose weren't far-fetched. And I realized on Tuesday that I'm basically doing them--writing, photographing, self-publishing, traveling. And also just how much I like doing all of those things. So when the laptop froze up last night, I really didn't freak out. Not because I don't want to keep using it, but because I realized when I couldn't use it just how much I've come to love what I use it for.

I love reading your blogs and commenting and the connection and interchange that goes on...but what crystallized for me losing the use of the laptop is just how much I love creating with it. It might not seem creative to some people, but I find it very gratifying to write and publish my blog. I learn a lot about myself in the process. There was a time in my life when I would have freaked out over losing my internet connection because I was feverishly addicted to blogging for blogging's sake. But this isn't that. This is me realizing that I'm not so far away from what I want to do. In fact, I'm doing it...I'm just not getting paid for it...yet.

Sorry I'm not able to stop by all of your blogs right now, but know that I'm with you in spirit. I'm so loving being a part of this group--it's already giving me big payoffs...and we're only in week 2.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I read an AW post on someone’s blog yesterday where the writer mentioned that all of Julia Cameron’s focus on recovery wasn’t resonating with her. (I’m sorry I’m not linking to the post, but I surfed through all 100 AW blogs yesterday and I can’t remember now where I read it.) I would tend to agree.

When I began this AW blog, I didn’t know what to call it (which is obvious when you look at the generic URL: artistswayblog). I settled on the name “A Creative Pilgrimage” when I read the opening paragraph of the Introduction to the 10th Anniversary Edition of the book where Cameron writes: “Art is an act of faith, and we practice practicing it. Sometimes we are called on pilgrimages on its behalf and, like many pilgrims, we doubt the call even as we answer it. But answer we do.”

My dictionary defines a pilgrim as a person who travels to a sacred or revered place as an act of devotion, and a pilgrimage as a journey made to a place as a mark of respect. I like those connotations.

I’ve been in recovery. Almost 16 years ago, I walked into my first A.A. meeting. Now that felt like recovery. This does not to me. The AW journey (at least this time around) feels to me more like a pilgrimage. It feels like I’m finding the path that will allow me to travel to my sacred creative place. And what could be more self-respecting than to have the faith to travel that path in spite of my doubts--all with the intention of honoring my creative self?

Last night I began the reading for Week 2, and right off the bat Cameron was describing “recovery symptoms.” This is a very subjective, individual experience, so I can only speak for myself. I associate recovery with trying to get back to a place where I once was--to return to a former self, but a healthier version of it. This doesn’t feel like that for me. This feels like discovering facets of my self that have long been buried. It's a process, for me, that calls for archaeological skills of the first order, since entire cities have been built over parts of my creative self.

So I’m on a pilgrimage and I have to do some excavating along the way. Maybe you’re in recovery. We each have our own path, and I’m not here to judge anyone’s journey. All roads lead to (creative) Mecca. I’d just like to say to the other members of the AW group that however you define your journey, I’m glad we’re on it together.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


I just read a post at Kara's blog that really resonated with me and brought some stuff gurgling to the surface. (Picture a big pot of sludge that begins bubbling as a kernel of truth suddenly lifts off the murky bottom...)

She wrote of a fear of expressing a truth (or her truth) for fear that others would ostracize her...and that her enemy is the silencer. Although the experience she relates doesn't exactly match mine, reading about it brought my experience into more focus for me.

I think my enemy is the 'dimmer.' I have spent virtually my entire adult life feeling like others wanted me to tone down my wattage. There's that old cliche about 'don't hide your light under a bushel.' I always thought that the next part was: 'unless you're Marilyn...because we WANT you to hide your light.' I know it makes no sense to surround yourself with people (friends) who would encourage you to do something so insane. But I have a pattern of doing that, although I never know initially that it's going to pan out that way.

I've had friends who made me feel very loved and supported and encouraged and would cheer on my creative endeavors and ideas and inspirations...until... Until I get brave enough with the support of their encouragement to begin to expose myself a bit more creatively. If others begin to recognize a certain talent in me or if I begin to share that part of myself more publicly, the end result has almost always been the same--rejection by my biggest supporter.

I really do believe that there's enough to go around for everyone. Enough talent and success and prosperity and creativity...all of it. For me to feel fulfilled should not diminish you and vice versa.

I was having a conversation with another Cara (friend) the other day about humility, and I was telling her how deeply intuitive Jeffrey's humility is. We were specifically speaking of arrogance and I told her that one of the biggest things I love about Jeffrey is his humility--he never talks about his talent. Ever. He just lets it speak for itself. She said, "But you're like that." But I begged to differ. I'm not innately humble. I don't go around hiding who I really am out of humility--I do it out of fear. It hurts when friends reject me--especially when they do an about face and cut me out of their life with no explanation. Every time it's happened (and it's happened many times), I've hit the dimmer switch. (Jeez, I can hardly see in here and it's still too bright for these people.) I start feeling smaller and smaller, until I feel like just a speck of my 'real' self.

The nadir probably occurred in the tropics. Thank god for the beach and the surrounding beauty for helping me to maintain my sanity during that time. And then I discovered blogging. Now maybe you can understand why it's not an overstatement when I say that blogging was a lifesaver for me when it arrived in my life (September '03).

That's what I love so much about the blogosphere--you're not threatened (and if you are, it's your issue, not mine). You swat my hand away when you see me reaching for the dimmer switch. In fact, I'm not so sure that some of you didn't sneak inside when I wasn't looking and replace those dim bulbs with a higher watt.

To diminish someone can mean to belittle them. I don't want to be little and small, and I don't want you to be either. Let's not be-little each other anymore. Let's be-big one another. Let's BE BIG together.

Recapping Week 1

Morning pages: I skipped one day (the morning I was at the conference); only wrote 1 page on one day; only wrote 2 pages on one day. But I also did 3 pages of them two days leading up to week 1, so I figure it all evens out. Plus, I'm using Natalie Goldberg's method of writing in a spiral notebook and filling the entire page including margins. (And it's a college ruled notebook.) So I may be writing 8 or 10 more lines on each of my pages than some others. I say that not to compare, but to let you know that when I say I wrote 3 pages...I wrote THREE PAGES. ;)

Artist Date #1: I had a lovely date last Saturday morning as I recapped here. Done, and I enjoyed it.

Reading: Read through the chapter. It was probably the 4th or 5th time I'd read it (since this isn't my first go-round with AW).

Exercises: This was my weakness this week. I had planned to sit down and write some of them out last night, but then I realized why I was sort of dreading it. I've done them several times before and simply didn't feel like rehashing old crap. I know who my monsters are and know who my champions are. I just didn't feel inspired to write it all down again. I did do the 5 lives exercise (posted here). Didn't work with blurts or affirmations. Didn't even get around to writing out the contract as so many of you did this past week. So I'll write it here my own language:

I, Marilyn, commit to immersing myself once again in AW. I know from past experience with AW that all sorts of feelings and emotions and thoughts and insights might arise. That can feel scary, and that fear can lead to resistance. I commit to tackling that resistance head-on. I want to know what's buried in there--I want to excavate my best creative self. I commit to doing this process with gentleness and kindness. I will push myself where it feels appropriate and I will do what I can as time allows. I will not beat myself up or feel guilty if I don't complete all of the exercises in any given week. I will not compare my work to that of other AW participants; I will not feel less than nor better than any of the other group participants. I will remember that each of us is on a unique journey. AW is here to serve me--I am not here to serve it. I will do my part in allowing it to serve me during these 12 weeks. Signed, Marilyn, January 14, 2006