Infinite mercy flows continually
But you’re asleep and can’t see it.
The sleeper’s robe goes on drinking river water
While he frantically hunts mirages in dreams
And runs continually here and there shouting,
“There’ll be water further on, I know!”
It’s this false thinking that blocks him
From the path that leads to himself,
By always saying, “Further on!”
He’s become estranged from “here”:
Because of a false fantasy
He’s driven from reality.
People have said, “Don’t cry” to other people for years and years, and all it has ever meant is, “I’m too uncomfortable when you show your feelings. Don’t cry.” I’d rather have them say, “Go ahead and cry. I’m here to be with you.”
The best-trained part of us, though, is the mouth, it is always obediently and devoutly shut. And it’s only too true: an open mouth is a yawning fact, the fact that its owner is dwelling with his few thoughts in some other place than the domain and pleasure-garden of attentiveness.
―Robert Walser, Jakob von Gunten
I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations, and my obligations to society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is; I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?
―Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”
Light and Shade on the Wapiti Trail, Sugarite Canyon SP, Raton, New Mexico by Katherine McDaniel
All I know is that I’ve wasted all these years looking for something, a sort of trophy I’d get only if I really, really did enough to deserve it. But I don’t want it anymore, I want something else now, something warm and sheltering, something I can turn to, regardless of what I do, regardless of who I become. Something that will just be there, always, like tomorrow’s sky.
It is so special to be present together, connected to one another and our Earth by the gift of life.
Last Saturday, synkroniciti held the fourth Open Mic and the final one of the season, Exploring Earth. It was a fantastic time for sharing and I was so glad to see so many people who hadn’t been to our Open Mics before. Lisa Sasabuki, the synkroniciti host cat, was in her element and, for the first time, Yuri, our younger cat, stayed nearby and enjoyed the gathering, even if it was largely from behind the couch. Shy artists take heart, you are welcome here.
After enduring years of my limited skills, the piano enjoyed the pleasure of being played by the fabulous Sherry Cheng. It was a true luxury to hear her play as we waited for people to come in. She asked if I wanted to sing through anything–a dangerous question to ask a singer–and I managed to con her into reading Hugo Wolf’s song Anakreons Grab with me after folks arrived and we had mingled. We sang it through a couple of times as folks settled into my living room to share. It seemed an appropriate beginning.
Here is a performance by baritone Thomas Allen so that you can experience it too, along with a translation of the German poem by Goethe.
Here where the roses bloom,
Where vine and laurel intertwine,
Where doves coo,
Where grasshoppers rejoice,
What grave is here, that all the gods
With life have planted and adorned?
It is Anakreon’s resting place.
Spring, summer and autumn were savored
By the happy poet;
And from winter at last he was shielded by the hill.
Anacreon was an ancient Greek lyric poet born in Teos on the coast of Asia Minor, in an area which is now Turkey. His songs, for they were designed to be sung to the accompaniment of the lyre, included hymns and bacchanals and explored universal themes connected with everyday life. Here we were, ready to begin our sharing at the side of his blooming grave, thanks to the music provided by the German romantic composer Hugo Wolf, who would have appreciated the intimacy of our gathering.
I began with Exposed Roots, a poetry cycle that explores different types of root systems as metaphors for different female personalities. They deal with feelings of being uprooted and exhausted by life and with the potential for renewal. As women, we often have the push to nurture others while ignoring our own needs, and, as creative people, we sometimes feel we need to dig up our own roots to find material for our creations. It was a thrill to have an audience respond to and identify with these pieces, which seem very accessible. I really enjoyed reading to a group of active listeners that wasn’t afraid to chuckle and gasp. The poems and a little background material can be found here.
Sherry followed with a bold excerpt from “The World at a Glance,” an essay written by scientist, physician and man of letters Lewis Thomas and printed in Grand Street Magazine, Issue 36. Thomas challenged us to see the Earth as one organism, as a life form with many component parts. Behaviors that poison our living sanctuary and behaviors that wound and maim our fellow beings stand out as dreadful aberrations. We are all part of one living being.
Kelly Ledsinger shared three poems from a cycle of poetry she is writing about the countryside in West Virginia where she grew up. The working title of the cycle is Black Water. They are fresh and marvelous pieces, some full of magical wonder and love for the land and all it contains, some rife with indignation at the damage man has done in stripping the land of resources. The final poem of the group compared strip mining to breast surgery. It is a chilling piece, resounding with clinical precision. Men say we can rebuild a mountain or a breast, so what’s the big deal? This is powerful stuff that is just coming into being and it is extremely exciting to be present for its inception.
Tuba Sozudogru created her ceramic Self Portrait while a student at the University of Houston, but the piece did not finish evolving there. She spoke evocatively of the material, which has texture and grainy bits within it, of how it would remain malleable for quite some time as long as she kept it moist, and of how much she loved working in the clay. After sculpting, it was fired in a kiln to keep its shape. We all thought the journey ended there, with a likeness of our friend made from earth.
What we had all failed to notice was that the piece is held together by tape. One day her cat knocked Self Portrait over, breaking it into pieces. Tuba put it back together with a little glue and tape. Several of us had wondered how she had created the shiny surface on the neck and near the eye. What had been a finished product was broken and remade, continuing its evolution and gaining a story. Isn’t this what happens to us as we mature?
This was followed by an extremely moving poem by Leigh Tomlinson, a tribute to a dear friend who was killed in a car accident while returning from a singing audition in the early hours of the morning. A Day at the Beach tells the story of a circle of musicians who took a day off from studying and memorizing music to enjoy the day and each other. It was a special time, not because she loved the beach, but because they were all together. The chorus of “you were there” which bejeweled each stanza made me choke up with empathy.
In the spirit of synchronicity, we took a further step into the realm of memory with A Song Remembered by MaryBeth Smith. Music has a great power to recall emotions and situations. Is it any different for musicians and performers who spend so much of their life in music? You can read this thoughtful exploration here. Great stuff for empathy building!
This was followed by the Dream of the Green Lady, which I painted last fall and have already explored in a blogpost you can read here. It has much to do with the need to protect and nourish nature, but there is a side I had not completely noticed. My wonderful, active audience surprised me again. If the picture is turned upside down, the heart looks like a face. The nose suggests, very slightly, my own profile. If I am the heart, this picture can be interpreted as a need for me to protect and nurture myself as a part of nature, which relates nicely to the Lewis Thomas piece Sherry read at the beginning of the evening. The veins and the passageways in the heart can also be seen as different pathways in my life and the different journeys in my creative process, which come together to form the whole that I am. Did I mention I love these people?
In closing, Kelly shared some jewelry she had made in the early part of her creative awakening. It wasn’t the pen and paper that first brought her back to art, but working with elements from the Earth. Synchronicity teaches that our creative process is not a straight line, and that we need to change direction, course and even medium to continue our journey.
I am so grateful to Sherry, Kelly, Tuba, Leigh, MaryBeth, Chris Welsh, and Susan Thompson. Each one of you brings so much and I am touched deeply by your presence. Many of our regulars were out for this one… I can’t wait for all of you to meet and mingle next season!
Our next Open Mic, Remember, will be an exploration of the power of memory. It is currently scheduled for Saturday, August 1st at 4pm at my house. Next year will also see the beginnings of Euridice Revealed, a multi-media project, part installation, part performance. The Open Mic themes for next season will be generated from that project. I am also opening up the Open Mics to work that is on topic but not necessarily original.
Lisa Sasabuki is pondering the big questions of life and looking forward to seeing everyone next season.