Magical Music: “Karen, They Are Only Words!”

‘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

MYTHS are the genes we live by.

For a long time (I can now say decades) I have been exploring rituals, many kinds. It is one reason that I became a clown, which led me to study healing arts, which drew me to become a minister, which called me to form a deeper commitment to the arts.

I was writing an ensemble piece a while back, “At Thebes.” I traveled deep into our mythic history. This piece took me to the world of Oedipus and Jocasta. If you don’t know who they were, read the play, “Oedipus Rex.”

As I poured over literature and scholarly papers, I was struck by what a slippery slope is history. Like many plays, this story was based on a myth, a story that may or may not have happened, at least not with the details that got passed down and embellished by the storytellers. In some accounts Jocasta did not die, Oedipus did, he was exiled, he was not…etc. As I filled my notebook with these contradictory facts, the themes of my play came out of the smoke and mirrors.

The storyteller is the story.

Those who control the stories, control our ‘reality.’

The third major theme is intimately related to my larger purpose and it has to do with transforming the nature of the feminine in our lifetime. In Greek mythology, there is a hero. Let it suffice to say, this individual is a man.

Basically, I believe myself to be as valuable and heroic as all beings. Myths are the memes of our social agreements: our cultural ‘DNA.’ (Meme: a cultural item transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes) Jocasta is the heroine in my retelling of the myth. The third theme, of this piece

We all must face the call of our destiny.

Of course, there are twists and turns along the way-

It is a good time to create new myths and reclaim old ones. I think, on some level, most of us are feeling this, or some form of psychic indigestion. In the past weeks I have released myself from old ideas about artists being freaks or needing to suffer. This is why I am making a commitment to share some of my creative process to you, my friends and family.