‘They are only words.’
Years ago, when I was living in New Mexico, I experienced one of those moments. Do you remember? Did you ever have a meal (and the circumstances around it) that was so perfect, so scrumptious, that you remember it years later? Can you recall a conversation, or something you heard that came into you like a letter from another country (Do you remember airmail)? It was strange and profound, and it lodged into a place in your mind, where it waited for you to read it?
I won’t go into the details, except to say that a friend was bitching about something in her life, bitching and complaining and calling people ‘names.’ I was shocked to hear her talk like that. I believed her to be a person who practiced a fair amount of self-awareness. Feeling comfortable with my fried, I questioned her word use, suggesting that she might choose lighter and more specific ways of talking about her experience. She turned to me, and said, “Karen, they are only words.”
In that moment, I realized that she and I saw things differently. In that moment I did not have the tools or skills to respond. Her five words lodged somewhere just over my diaphragm and have been there since. Now I live in a place where people agree to believe that food has little to no bearing on personal health and well being. Again, I see things differently, and do not yet have the skills to respond. Something sharp in my chest calls my name.
As I enter the world of the play, “Creation Myth in A Minor,” I sit in its themes, like I used to sit in the mud baths of Ojo Caliente. Feeling the sun heat my head and this fertile reddish bog, the wet earth draw toxins and weariness from my body, I enter a time-space. This is a thing I do, and have always done. As I enter “Karen, they are only words,” swirling thoughts offer me the opportunity to 1) take a roller coaster journey into chaos and contradiction;
2) abort the mission, grab for the first delicious distraction; and 3) sit with this little seed, water it and watch it grow. Usually, I do all of the above.
In my journey as a writer and singer, I seek knowledge of what I call ‘magical music’. This is where language, set to flight on rhythm and melody vibrates an intention so clearly that the physical space is transformed. I have witnessed this in myriad ways, in excellent performances, in rituals, in chance meetings with helpful strangers and in little moments of intimacy. I train myself to look everywhere for this magic, not only in grand public moments or from famous or extraordinary people. Not easy, I’ll admit, but it is my intention. So, you see, it is difficult for me to digest, “Karen, they are only words.”
Many years have passed. Many times the phrase has been silent, or I have not been listening. Yet, as I explore the world of ‘Creation’ and discipline myself to look at the big and the small, this phrase is an aria echoing through me. I find myself moving to the melody throughout the day.
Today I wish to share that the seed has grown into a little sprout. Do you remember what this looks like? The seed releases itself to the ground (another type of letting go). Its surrender ushers the way for roots, from these roots, a shoot pierces dark earth and rises up. The outer shell of the original seed protects the first uncurling leaf, and sits on it, like a little dunce cap.
This is one of my favorite parts of starting a new work. I call it the blastula phase. Possibilities are nearly endless and I am in love with my new baby, as I nurture her in the womb.
There are moments when I recognize the magic. Sometimes it is sweet and strokes, comforts, helps us to see. Other times it is acid and strikes. It agitates, deters us and calls us names.
The magic was here all along! Sacre bleu!
January 8, 2013
Theatre, Dance, Music, Film Productions