Thursday, December 24, 2009

preparing for the new year

as i was composting today, i realized that the new year would come soon. i wasn't sure what my resolution would be.

i usually don't like resolutions, i find that they are often self-indulgent and strange performances of mixed virtue and vice. but something about the smell of the compost made me pursue the thought deeper.

seriously, it was the compost.

because on my left was a beautiful pile of black gold--fertile and supple, ready to be returned to the earth to grow new things. on my left and in my hands was a stinking heap of decay--refuse from meals past. the stink was the metaphor of larger things. of cycles, of death, of birth.

i'm a buddhist, see. if yer not interested in that, you might wanna stop reading here.

it's nothing new, the buddhism. growing up, it was the only form of organized religion i ever took part in, usually through sporadic visits to temple when our family visited my mother's family. really, though, i came to know my buddhism through funerals. now, lovely partner, a born catholic, is converting to buddhism.

she shares with me the precepts and concepts and ideas behind what i have been practicing all along. at first, there was a bit of disconnect. her sources were theravada (my mother was part of a vajrayana sect, and most japanese buddhisms are mahayana), and filtered through american sources. what lovely partner said actually meant something, whereas what i knew made no "sense." but i've been listening. and i've been moved. and i've slowly come to a place where what she talks about and what i have known my whole life are beginning to make sense together.

and so, while smelling the compost, i came upon an idea. i'm still feeling it out, but i think it might take.

i will begin 2010 as a meditation on the noble eightfold path. each year, i will dedicate to one aspect of the path. at the end of the eight years, i will re-assess and perhaps begin the cycle again. 2010 will be my year of "Right View."

incidentally, the noble eightfold path consists of the following:
1. Right View (wisdom)
2. Right Intention (wisdom)
3. Right Speech (ethical conduct)
4. Right Action (ethical conduct)
5. Right Livelihood (ethical conduct)
6. Right Effort (mental development)
7. Right Mindfulness (mental development)
8. Right Concentration (mental development)

i recognize that the eightfold path is not a series of steps, to be done in succession. but i wanted to see what would happen if i pay particular attention to one aspect of the path for an extended period of time. i'm choosing this order because, well, that's how it's always presented.

in thinking about this journey, i'm particularly influenced by linda montano and her seven years of living art, based on the chakras. my exploration will be less public, i think, and being that i'm a theatre artist, and less of a performance/conceptual artist these days, i hesitate to call this endeavor a "piece" anymore than i would call living my life a "piece," which i don't often do. even though i think it sometimes.

i've come to a place where i accept that my creative process is undeniably linked to my spiritual practice. in the past year, i have met several creators who practice their craft as an extension of their spirituality. i've been humbled by observing their rigor and general posture toward life. perhaps this eight-year journey is my attempt to join them.

i share this here to hail, to incorporate. maybe you can help me with my meditation on "Right View." or maybe you can join me. i will see the world for what it is: nothing more, nothing less. neither better nor worse than it actually is. so i leave this post with a short note on what right view is from here.

Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truth. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.
and so, on 01/01/2010, it begins.

Friday, December 11, 2009


i wanted to tell you that this was not the end that this was not the last time i would see you that somehow we would find each other and you would be well and i would feel whole and the things that surround us and keep us far apart would go away that the secret you needed to tell me could stay a secret rather than spill out into the summer ohio air on a green metal bench after a day spent wandering in hopes that we could forget that the end was probably even closer than we thought that even when you began to tell me what you needed to confess that even when i had offered absolution that even when your anger and confusion had transformed into resignation and then wisdom that i wanted to tell you the end would never come and i would make a room in the house i had just bought put your name on a wooden plaque and hang it in above the bed where you would stay when you would come visit on some whirlwind trip that would include every city and country you had ever dreamt of seeing but never got to see that even though everything had said end and end and end this was really and truly and nothing other than the beginning.

the question i wanted to ask you as you lay there in that beanie that you wore after chemo but that i couldn’t because i saw where i was the question after all those nights we talked about things that you can’t tell many people those nights where you were the straight one and i was the queer one and you were the black one and i was the asian one and we had too many reasons why we were never meant to care but then we did anyway because that’s what people do after all those nights where i knew we saw the wholeness in one another i wanted to ask you if this was the redemption you wanted and wished for and did that redemption include or exclude me and peace is something that i knew you would find and did you find it at a cost or a gain because when you went to see the father of all and the father of you at the same time i wanted to ask you does your heaven allow visitors from mine because i will try to find you again in the lightness and darkness and the after glow of the once and if there’s a bouncer i don’t wanna be rude because even though the beginning was an end it doesn’t meant i wont keep looking.

dog-eared books of richly colored heroines
this line was crossed so many times
and in the warmth of solitude
we could hear each other’s breath
the relief of sleep
only i wish to rise

Monday, November 23, 2009


this is a fragment of writing i started to write almost a year ago today. it helps me remember that this time of year is always layered with solemn thoughts, fear, and melancholia:
somewhere in the breath between autumn and winter, i learned to fear from the core of my bones. earlier that i wish to remember, but late enough that i do, i began to find myself in open waters without a buoy, and there they were, each thing that i had pushed out of pre-pubescent dreams, finding their way from slumber to wakefulness.
may i one day find solace in the depths of november.

Friday, November 20, 2009


we were always hungry never full trying to nourish and the belly always slender when we traveled taking junk food and remembering the days when we'd queue up beside a fry pan next to arm-chair activists and queer girls who only flirted with girls but really slept with men whose last words were you need to read more books always hungry until we stopped tasting stopped chewing not knowing when to stop or pause or wipe our mouth or say excuse me after a burp or take a sip of water going back up the line for one more plate we were always hungry so that when she couldn't eat so thin and pale and peering through crusted lashes saying i can't oh no i can't not today will you bring me what you've made not this stuff you eat it so it can't go to waste please it will just be thrown away we can't help but pick up the beige tray start to chew the food that never seems to fail to make the whole ward smell more like sick like our appetite can't be turned like we were never fed properly like eating with our mouth will somehow feed her spirit.

and that week she first started to bleed without stopping when the fluid would leak and leak into her cranial cavity when she was diagnosed with meningitis that we distinctly thought was an incurable disease reserved only for unhygenic college kids when she developed bruises just from sitting when her blood would secretly gush just not where it could be seen we stopped bleeding entirely like a stone setting right next to jesus but unnoticed and neglected into silence we stopped bleeding as women bodies do as the moon waxes red as the tide becomes still as the night invites those that must drink blood to have it flow through them the font of life flowing only through a dying body but not through the surviving one when the blood carried revived love spilling out to all around her despite the stoicism and the denial and the queer lover brought home on holiday flowing just because it was impossible to stop all while her daughter's blood ran stiller and stiller perhaps in hopes that if it just stopped altogether it could hide from the feelings of chaos and lividity could stop time in its tracks from moving forward to the inevitable stopping of blood that could not be stopped because really it ran dry too dry to live that months after her blood and the vessel carrying it had been transformed to ash her daughter had to visit a doctor just to have her blood flow once more.

the man who saw her in new york said to us she is connected to god in heaven so she needn't fear and if you want i can do a special healing for her from afar but that will take $3000 and that's very expensive isn't it that we looked at her and told her the news and seriously considered withdrawing the $3000 from our money we were never to touch but $3000 is a bargain if it means her getting up and walking but she looks through bleary eyes in that way that says it's confirmed he's a quack and besides i'm ready to die because i cried through it all these months and i've made sure to tell you the important stuff and i know it will take you long to cry through it yourself because i had to cry through the same thing at age seven but you'll do alright let's practice now so we lie down on her sterile bed and curl up with our head right next to her hand and she comforts us even though she's the sick one stroking our hair and telling us stories through dreams we share as she falls into a bleeding-brain-induced slumber and we fall into a grief-induced one.

we sleep. we walk together, with a purple horizon warm at our backs. her hair is thick and long. she puts her arm through mine. she wears white shoes. i look at her face. she looks at mine. she nods forward and i see a bright reflection of yellow light in her eyes. i look forward. i see no light. she smiles. she's a pixie. she knows more than the rest of us, even though she has always played the part of the family dunce. i understand this at last. she nods.

i wake up.

Monday, November 2, 2009

10/12 freewrite--koi

she told me to look at her pictures, that they actually came out pretty good. they did. i clicked through them and waited for my slow connection. then, it's there. a tight shot of a bright orange koi, peaking through a reflection of the sky.

"remind me to tell you about the mythology when you call," i write in the comments.

every may--less now than before, and always more in the countryside than in the city--childbearing homes will fly flags. tubular ones, shaped like the bright orange wind detectors at airports. the homes erect flag poles lined with three or five flags, each one but the bottom-most printed in the image of a koi.

the myth goes, a highly determined koi swam upstream continuously, underwent much hardship. finally, the koi swam up a gigantic waterfall and upon reaching the top, it turned into a dragon.

that's why koi are so auspicious. they represent pure potential. something so humble as a bottom-feeding, water forager could eventually transform into a mighty and mystical dragon.

it was no accident that she took that picture. she needed that koi.

in many ways, we were meant to be a scholar. high school was filled with music teachers who wanted me to just stop. i took ear-training classes with eight year olds and i couldn't seem to make it through a piano lesson without my piano teacher laughing at me. i know now, without malace, that my piano teacher was not very gifted. the problem was, i am. just not at playing the piano. but even though my piano teacher laughed at me, and i stayed in the elementary school ear-training class, the head of the prep school loved me. she always got me free tickets for concerts, arranged for me to take off-the-books composition training, asked me philosophical questions abaout performance and new music. she always wrote back to me and insisted i call her periodically. she knew my thinking was way ahead of my playing.

first semester of conservatory, i was utterly confused. but my piano-playing had improved immensely. some piano performance majors were trying to get me to audition to join a studio supervised by a faculty member. i remember that fondly--i might have studied with lydia rutstein.

eight years later, in waterloo records, i was staring at lydia's face on the cover of a used LP. i didn't have the heart not to buy it. i have never listened to it.

i sometimes wonder whether i was the last one admitted into my cohort. but it didn't end up mattering. i caught on. i wasn't the best, but i was better than average. i was a good thinker. that made up for my lack in musicality, talent, or whimsy. in hinsight, it was really only one professor who didn't treat me like he thought i could go far. he was a drunk who hated undergrads. and his music was boring.

i left music, for my own good, really. and the thing is, i have perfect pitch now. it's not very fast, and not so flashy. but if you hum a note, i can usually tell what it is. and if i hear a song, i can sing it back, several days later, in the same key and with the same precision as the original. if i went back to ear-training school, i would kill on their exams.

the one thing conservatory taught me was: talent helps, but you can really make up for in in old-fashioned hard work.

it's been a blessing and a curse, this realization. i left music just as i matered it enough to take elite classes but tnot enough to make a career of it. i could have stayed. i'd have a phd in music composition by now and would be collecting occasional checks from ascap for my obscure compositions that would get aired on local npr or college radio stations. gross.

teachers often love me. because i go from just acceptable to pretty damn good in a short amount of time. it's after that where i run into problems.

i was an academic for a bit. my writing was only so-so. and i hated reading. but i showed up and listened and pretty soon, faculty kept trying to convince me to get a phd, telling me i'm writing dissertation-quality work, that academia needed "people like me."

that was nice.

i took a production cllass and the professor told me i had made one of the best pieces of book art she had seen in a long time.

i'm a little more settled now. but still thoroughly confused. i only recently realized that i want to work on theatre that is physical, that treats the text as no more important than the movement or the set or the sound or the lights. and i'm taking a writing class?

did i mention i was once a crappy writer? not crappy--humble, but crappy--why should words even matter?

i don't really know why i'm writing. there are plenty of things that need to get written. but it feels like a distraction. i don't even know what theatre is like, really. the fact is, when i don't write, i become depressed, then nothing else happens well. i kept myself alive at SITI writing morning pages, taking copious notes, blogging about each revelation.

when i was about eight, mom told me a story. i was playing outside and obaachama watched. suddenly, she turned to my mother and said, "be careful of that one, she's smart."

10/5 freewrite--"i miss her so much every day"

second year of college, during the experimental composition module, corey wrote a piece called "closing statement." the score was just: "Improvise music and song using the following text, 'i miss her so much every day.'" a handful of us played it together--green chalkboards as witness, randy's prune-eyes shut in feigned interest.

a year later, at a composition recital, corey took the same piece but set it to five chords he scrawled with crayon--his counter-tenor pushing into the grey stone of fairchild chapel. playing the chords on the decrepit upright, rather than the well-tuned steinway grand, with his back to us singing up rather than forward--stretching out the prosody as far as possible. "i... i... i miss... i miss her..."

that might have been 1998. kim would have been living in chicago at that point. my parents still lived in tokyo. i was dating--probably--becky. or was it 1999? kim would have been in baltimore, my parents would have just moved to groton, and i would have been dating clara-who-had-not-yet-changed-her-name-to-hiroshi.

chicago and baltimore or tokyo and groton. it's hard to tell whether they would have been departures or returns.

when i first performed "closing statement," i thought i knew what it was about. corey probably thought he knew what it was about, too. i was most likely very indulgent. 20/21-year-olds often are. of course, 31/32-year-olds can be, too. i forgot about that piece. probably on purpose, like how you forget the water is cold when you've been swimming in it long enough.

corey wrote another song. he used yvan's words. "your absence has done my hands a favor. i now know every fold and wrinkle of my body." i think that song used toy pianos and accordions.


when i played my thesis for mom, she gasped. it was for full orchestra. a full semester's worth of meetings with the only faculty member who could bare to look at me. she said, "wow. it's real music." i guess she didn't think any of the other recordings i brought home were. that's what four years of conservatory training are meant to do--create real music. i didn't tell her about the mathematical charts i taped to my wall. or the fact that i really had no idea what it would sound like until the day the chamber orchestra played it. the string players hated it--no vibrato and notes sustained over several measures. they don't like counting measures. i hated string players.

mom was always confused about my admission to a conservatory. "i never thought you were very... well... i knew you LIKED music."

i remember standing up from the table and spitting, "but you put it in my head! 'be the first female conductor, you have such careful hands. you're so sensitive.'"

i was the one who took a hobby too far.

kim still has much of my music in her itunes. every time the one recording of me singing plays, she says, "kt's on the radio!" i still blush.

it was one of my first gifts to her. a cd of corey's music with a guest appearance by me. it wasn't even a gift, really. she saw a stack of them and said, "can i have one?" and even though i barely knew her, i couldn't think of a reason why not. she was being so nice and attentive. i told her, "i wrote the song and words for my mom." she looked at her shoes. i'm still glad she has that song.

eight years later, on a stage in saratoga springs, i squinted at the limelights and looked down at julieta sitting on the edge of the thrust. the only words that came from my mouth were:
let me hold your small hand
let me hold stroke your thin hair
let me carry you in my arms
let me see you
julieta's abuela had died a couple weeks before. and most of our conversations were about our filipino american girlfriends. julieta looked up at me dewy-eyed and we fled to the wings as the viewpoints session moved on.

kim and i had been coming off a fight that day. the training was coming to a close. i was reluctant to part with my new friends. but i couldn't wait to come home.

that last thanksgiving, kim came up to groton to visit. mom had pulled me aside and said, "thank you for coming up separately, leaving me time to have with just you." it was a week after my birthday. we were in the living room when mom decided to give me my belated present. it was a men's dress shirt from land's end and a red tie. kim and mom sat close to each other on the couch, both beaming as i modeled my new duds.

kim said, "doesn't she look so pretty?"
and mom replied, "she does. yes, she does."

9/20 freewrite--spring

i had forgotten what spring was like
water flowing from a mouth
somewhere, in the twilight
an eleven-year-old girl-boy
eats ding-dongs for dinner

so the blossoms never bloomed
and the air stayed metal
smelling like
licking the jungle gym
in sub-zero weather

grass the color of
goose shit
not dewy
just vague

once, on a morning meant for flight
just six months after getting my license
i tried to turn a slushy corner
and skid into a ditch

dad got out of the car in front of me
said: don't brake in the snow
guess i'll wait another day to go back
to ohio

someone lent us a cell phone
it was before i had one
before dad used mine so much
to update us from the hospital
before he said:

i think i'll get your mom a cell phone for christmas
and i said: you really think
that's waht she wants? sounds
more like what you want

what would mom do with
a cell phone anyway?
she's always at home
or the hospital
or if she's out, she's with you

the tow-truck came
and so did the cops
nothing damaged
but my northeast ego
exiled in midwest doldrums

is when you live now
i means you're never bored
because you just
don't know any better

every march, the whole city
would sit in a palpable tension
we'd watch the news
and the branches
jealously peeking at
clips from southwesterly climes

often overnight
they would burst in pink and magenta
foaming with colors
so indiscreet, you couldn't
walk the street without at least once
wondering if you, yourself, were a street walker

this was spring

for three years
i actually knew what it was
she had talked about it
all through my childhood
held it with such anticipation

i'll buy you a new doll set
for spring
i'll buy you a kimono
for spring
we'll make sakura mochi
for spring
you'll start new school
in spring

how have we sprung from spring?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

on discipline

i return to the work force in just under an hour. i'm ambivalent. i worry that returning to the workforce, a relatively steady income, and that crazy place called the university of texas will undo me, will somehow take away all the progress, soul-searching, and craft-building i have done both in this past summer and over the last two years.

despite this ambivalence, i know i can actually continue, maybe even accelerate my work. the key is discipline.

discipline has been on the mind a lot. sometimes, i'll find myself saying, "when i start earning this much," or "when i get this resource." but this is just an excuse to put off discipline. anne bogart talks said during a podcast, "work the way you want to work now." she also wrote in her chapter on "resistance" that we must always commit to where we are now, or else what we need will never come.

excuses. that's what makes us avoid discipline. it's not easy to pursue discipline, that's why it's called discipline--it's hard.

sometimes, conditions will foster discipline, sometimes discipline comes at extreme cost. and sometimes, it's important to let go of discipline. we also need to be gentle when we fall off-punishing ourselves and therefore taking the joy out of what we do. being too disciplined--inhuman, in many ways--makes the discipline rigid, totalitarian, and dead.

the thing is, discipline is a gift. it is a way we tell ourselves: this is the time to do that thing that is what we want. it is a vehicle for joy, even if we need convincing every time.

i have a friend who wakes early every morning to take care of his orchids. i've heard his partner tease him about this, and i would giggle at his hobby. even though this daily care would drive me crazy with its idiosyncracies and pretty demanding schedule, the occasional parasites, my friend makes it look so easy. the teasing rolls off his back. but i imagine, it's not easy all the time. i imagine, he must undergo constant negotiation. but it's so clear by the way he goes about his morning chores: it gives him absolute joy. what a gift that is, to wake up every morning to joy, even if the extent of that joy might fluctuate daily.

this friend of mine has always struck me as very disciplined. thinking back on what i've known about him for over a decade, his discipline seems to be at the core of him. and he's far from a robot--there are many things he is not so disciplined about. and he is generally pretty laid back.

i think that part of my difficulty is that i'm too ambitious about my discipline. i want to be disciplined about everything all at once--my creative production, my creative consumption, my relationships, my politics, my economic wealth, my physical fitness, my public persona, my spiritual growth. i try to turn over too many new leaves at once.

i can hold that kind of discipline for everything for maybe 10 days, tops. then, inevitably, my discipline will falter--i'll oversleep or miscalculate. then i throw up my hands and give up, at least for a little while. so i get things done in emotionally taxing jags of 10 days followed by weeks of procrastination.

when i was at siti, i only needed to be disciplined about a few things. i let go of my looks, my "life style, food preparation. but i spent a full four weeks extremely disciplined about my creative production and consumption, my relationship to the world, my physicality and my spiritual growth. then, a curious thing happened. i found that i felt attractive, i began to be careful about the food i ate, and my political compass was becoming clearer and brighter. because i focused on certain types of discipline, i became more disciplined in other ways, too.

i must commit to what and where i am right now. and that happens to be someone who is returning to being an administrator. but more importantly, an artist who now has access to a new resource.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

on SITI summer-part nine OR reflections

i'm now back in austin, lying in the bed i've missed for four weeks, petting my dog and remembering the smells of my own house. i've yearned for this. i've missed this. i've needed this.

all is changed, though. my body is very different. i didn't notice it morphing while i was in training, but being around familiar objects now has shown me how i've become denser and faster. and the connection between my body and my mind has become so much clearer. my body tells my mind more things, and my body listens, too.

i am melancholy. i am worried i will forget.

the last few days happened at breakneck pace. i was directing while also training. we were sewing performative "buttons" on all the work we did. it felt like we were all thinking: pack in the last of the information and hope to god it will stick. and now on this side, i'm nervous.

will i lose it? what will happen if i do? how do we integrate our undeniably changed selves back into the life that we worked so hard to forge?

lovely partner had to remind me that rest requires it own rigor. i need to reflect seriously, give space to my transition, recognize that i'm more prepared than i thought for many, many things. and still be gentle with my fears, my insecurities, my obstacles.

today, though, my body is strange. it wants to train. and i am not quite sure how to assuage it. it's 107 degrees and our AC barely works. and then the every day things that i had forgotten about: dishes, sweeping, driving, the post office--they all return. i am a bit confused about who i am, what to do with myself. i still haven't sat down with a good half hour to write out my thoughts for myself. i'm too busy adjusting to actively notice my adjustments.

and i'm also a bit loath to finish this post right now. it's been sitting open on my computer screen for over a day. i'm sure it's no surprise why. because this is my last SITI post. and that gives me profound pains and fears. just as i had to remember to take pieces of my community here to SITI with me--just so i could make it through the solitude, i am remembering to take pieces of people and lessons i learned while training, back into my home, with the fervor and passion i finally learned was always within me.

it's confusing, yes. but i realize that it's more than just my own brow that becomes knit in this process. i am now the suture that connects one space to another, and though those spaces serve different purposes and functions in the larger sense of the world, they are interdependent and woven together. how completely messy. how completely complicated. how completely delightful.

and now, we begin.

on SITI summer-part eight OR our bodies, our selves

on wednesday, i had yet another breakthrough about my body. i realized that the reason i "don't dance" is not because i'm afraid to look the fool (i look the fool all the time!), but because i have fundamentally hated the body i was given at birth. it's beyond "body issues" of wanting to be thin or attractive or sexy. somehow, since a very very early age, i learned that to have a girl body meant weakness, meant danger, meant potential violation. when barney o'hanlon said to me during a movement class, "kt, you're so good at folding, try more extending," i knew the reason i had so much trouble was because of my body hatred. extending my limbs meant showing my female body; showing my female body has always made me very, very afraid.

so i wept. and wept. and wept. and freaked out. and wept. and rehearsed. and freaked out again.

it's no small problem to deal with. afterall, i have hated being a girl since i was about four years old. yes, part of this is just my own gender identity and expression. and it's murky water around the line between gender expression and body image. the fact is, i have had a chance--many, in fact--to change my body. to take hormones, to do surgery. but i haven't. i respect those who do. but i resolved to keep my body as i was born with--vulnerable, flawed, and unmistakeably female. now i know why.

i see on the horizon the hope that one day, i will recognize my body as my own and as a finely-honed tool of expression and creativity. as something wholly connected to my mind and soul. as with any gender expression, i will continue containing it, pushing it, pulling it. but i will also choose to expose it. and revel in that vulnerability. someday, i will be that butch who loves her body as part of herself, rather than as something that could go nice on someone else.

the days after i wept, many things happened to reinforce my resolve around my body. all these different people kept calling me "gorgeous." and ellen lauren told me i "know how to move." i just need to continue exploring my limits and my possibilities, and embrace that fear as best i can.

Friday, June 19, 2009

on SITI summer-part seven OR depression, doubt and determination

they warned us last friday that this would be the week. the week when everyone would break down. when the entropy of fatigue would hit the wall of impossibility. when almost everyone would sit and say to themselves, "what the FUCK do i think i'm doing?"

actually, though, i was euphoric for the first half of the week. because i realized that the thing i semi-wrote about last post was actually acute depression trying to take away my life. and by realizing i was teetering on the edge of depression, i made the decision to fight it. i was the bouncer outside the door to the interior of my mind, stiff palm outstretched and telling depression that it couldn't come in. sadness, i let pass. loneliness, i let pass. confusion, i let pass. but i dug in deep to get depression out of my mind. i've had low-level depression since i was about 8 years old. it wasn't diagnosed until the year my mother died. up until february, i had been on anti-depressants for five years. it's been a struggle, especially off the meds.

on top of my decision to fight depression, rather than let it take over, i received several compliments in rapid succession. anne bogart said that i have a certain charisma that makes people trust me ("and i don't say that to many people..."), a fabulous new york director seems almost hell-bent on casting me in one of her productions, and i was receiving general affection from people i have begun to respect very deeply. i tried to give back. i listened and witnessed some of the most confident seeming people go through intense moments of self-doubt. i held people as they wept. i radiated warmth whenever i encountered anyone from the program. really, i did.

that was great. and lovely partner wisely told me to write down things people told me and sensations i experienced in these days of euphoria: "people here have begun to show a deep respect for me. people have said that they want to work with me. other actors and siti company members have said i have a 'great voice.' anne seems to enjoy me. people wish me well." i actually thought i was done with my "breakdown."

not quite.

the doubt began creeping in on wednesday. and thursday, after a very grueling viewpoints session, i actually heard myself saying, "what the fuck are you doing?!" today, it intensified. i kept shaking my head after every exercise i stood up to do. i felt ashamed that i couldn't do suzuki with full energy because my foot was in pain. and after i sat down from a short viewpoints exercise, a siti company member very gently reminded me release tension in my shoulders. i felt so discouraged that during the next exercise, i was completely terrified to be performing in front of my peers. the afternoon was a grueling suzuki session followed by a viewpoints session that i had been looking forward to: doing viewpoints in the big theater, with the sounds and light designers improvising with us. but all i could do was think "i'm such a shit actor. i'm such a self-indulgent sonovabitch." so i spent my whole time actually trying to dodge the light.

when i left the theater, i cried in silent wails slouched over a chair. embarrassed and hoping no one would find me.

it sucks. it really sucks. thing is. i know this doubt is temporary. and that's the difference. that is what tells me that i am keeping depression out of the interiors of my mind. after this week, i have a renewed determination toward the future. i decided to practice something anne talks about: speaking something into existence. the act of saying something makes it true, even if you have doubts.

and this is what i've been saying: i have a talent for directing and a strong presence on stage. i am not a dilettante. i am in this and good at it. i will find funding. this will be how i live.

i have begun sharing my work with the people here. my solo work as well as the work i've done with stamp lab. i feel like i'm speaking that into existence, too. by talking about "una corda," it will happen, and it will happen well. and by talking about my work with stamp lab, i will continue finding community around performance and theatre. even as i write this, the doubt creeps into the peripheries of my consciousness. and i think of advice i would give to someone saying the same things: that the doubt is a sign of change, and that we must have faith that the change goes in the right direction. i have to keep believing that.

i am determined.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

on SITI summer-part six OR tension and balance

sometimes flight takes strange forms.

we flee for survival when we are in imminent danger. we flee awkward interactions. we flee things that push deep and specific buttons in our psyche. we flee the exciting. we even flee from precisely what we desire.

on wednesday, at the weekly symposium, i asked anne bogart: as artists and human beings, how do we prioritize the ethereal/creative/phantasmic aspects of making theatre along side the concrete/materialist realities of everyday life?

her response was: exactly.

i've been thinking about the question a lot. and thought that the act of thinking about it was in itself enough. i have been catching myself from fleeing many things: the limitations of my body, my insecurities as a performer, the solitude of spending this length of time with strangers. i've been hyper-sensitive to reigning in my instinct of flight--for "the work"--trying to somehow see the ethereal and concrete alongside one another.

but then, i fucked up. i was too preoccupied about tending to "the work," that i was missing a key element in my flight response: my real life.

i'm still having trouble processing what happened to articulate it very well. i know that ideally, what happens in the work directly relates to "real life." the practice of that is difficult. even as i have been entering closer and closer into certain emotional vulnerabilities, i've also allowed for detachment and distance. detachment and distance can be healthy--sure. but these acts of detachment were hurtful. and i can't even account for them fully.

i just keep running away.

some might say it's the human condition to continuously repeat folly, despite full knowledge of it. but i don't believe that. i won't allow it. so how come i keep encountering this vicious repetition? how come i keep running away when all i want to do is go closer? even as i keep searching, the answer eludes me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

on SITI summer-part five OR why the fuck am i so weepy?

saw the paul taylor dance company this evening. i honestly had no idea what to expect. but the siti company folks highly recommended it, so i got a ticket and went.

i realized midway through that i really have very little context for dance. i haven't seen ballet in decades, and the dance that i do see is usually politically or ethnically or site specific. so i watched the first two pieces with detached interest, trying to appreciate the composition or the lines or the very articulate bodies of the dancers.

but then it happened. i was suddenly moved. the music was poulenc's gloria. i, of course, knew all the words since i'm setting that mass text myself. the movement--it's so difficult to put into words--was formalistically pretty standard. but it told a story. a story of death and joy and fight and resignation. and as i watched, i again felt a heat well up from deep inside me run up my body and out my eyes. i was shocked. but i couldn't stop crying. i actually became frustrated with myself, "why am i crying?!" i struggled until i realized that this is what art does. it invokes feelings that cannot be articulated otherwise.

perhaps it is because i am exhausted all the time. or perhaps it is because i had a touching conversation just before the show. or perhaps it is because i've been thinking so much about the community i miss in austin right now. but the cause doesn't matter. what matters is that i was overcome with emotions that reside in my core that i might not have excavated otherwise.

i looked at the program afterwards. it was accompanied by excerpts from walt whitman's leaves of grass--the poem cycle that has the line, "i sing the body electric." the excerpts read as a joyous eulogy. and so did the dance.

anne bogart talks about how innovation and originality in the arts is overrated. that trying to do something totally new often misses the point. it's not whether it's new, it's how we approach it. and i think this show hit that home for me. even though paul taylor was part of that generation of choreographers who radically changed dance as we know it, his style seems almost classical in this historical moment. i think many of my compatriots were disillusioned because of that. and yet, even though the form itself was not new--even to me who knows little about dance--something about it deeply touched me.

i've been thinking about that this week, how to let go of "originality." i've been pairing that idea with the burden of representation. because i think about both a lot, and often in tandem. in my place of community accountability, i can't help but bare that burden of representation. but how does that intertwine with "originality?" if i'm trying to rewrite images of "my people," of whom there are so many stereotypes, how can i not strive for newness? and where does "authenticity," both culturally and creatively, lie in all this? i think they key is, in fact, in the approach, but i need to work out the details. i think that's why i'm here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

on SITI summer-part four OR the young man talking polemics in the cafeteria

let's face it: theatre tends to breed hyperbole.

there is a young man in the program who is, well, young. he's very sweet, and seems to have a lot of knowledge. but one thing he does is go around talking in polemics. most of the time, he get's a laugh or someone talks around it or over it. today, i witnessed someone call him out on it.

it was fascinating to watch. at first. but then i found myself engaging in the discussion despite the fact that i didn't really care about the subject (it was about musical theatre, which i really don't care about at all). what ended up happening was basically four of us were giving him a bit of a tongue lashing. i felt bad for a second, but it made me think a bit.

i still talk in polemics sometimes. as a breed, us shorbs tend toward debate. and going to oberlin just pushed that gene a little further into outright huge general arguments. but i've learned about them. a shit load of people have called me out on the polemics, and i've grown to be a bit careful.

because polemics are potentially destructive. at the core, they can divide communities, cause hurt, or break down safe-havens. and because of this potential destruction, they are highly powerful. and that power requires responsibility.

i realize in hindsight that i engaged in this discussion not because i cared about musical theatre, or even whether or not this young man did anything about it. but more because i wanted to say: you can't do polemics casually. you need to account for it and commit to whatever outcome ensues. it needs to be specific. a polemic that doesn't lead to eventual construction or reconstruction is no more than another way to be witty.

commitment to construction, redefining, and creating new structures and communities has made me think of why i'm here. about my place in this community here and my place in my community back in austin and diasporically. i spoke with lovely partner last night about how i come from a very specific subject position, and my path is paved with the love and support of many individuals and a cohesive *community* of active supporters. training here does me much personal good, yes. and, of course, it will enrich my abstract future audience, yes. but ultimately my training here is not mine to keep. i have a long list of people for whom i am learning. people who might not have access to this information otherwise, or at least that access would be heavily impeded. so when i move through a certain solitude of training with strangers who have very different politics, aesthetics, individual purpose and life experiences from me, i think of the faces of specific people who gave me ten, twenty bucks. or who said, "hey, i can't spare any money right now, but i think it's really important you are going." not only do they believe in me as an artist, but they need me to bring back what i learn. i am a vessel. and after i've begun sharing with those folks what i've learned, we will regroup and reforge into the future.

this specificity gives me purpose and keeps me quite far from the casual. the first couple days, i was strangely needy and over-sharey with other participants here. in some ways, i wanted to "recast" the people in my life with the ones here. but that's not gonna happen. it can't happen. i don't want it to happen. because i remain accountable to what and who awaits my return. that accountability drives my work, and that accountability lead me here. i am careful. i have purpose. i was chosen to be here just as much by siti as by the people i've worked with over the years. and as much as i have chose them.

i am thankful for this reminder. and perhaps that's why i am trying to speak in hyperbole a little bit less.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

on SITI summer-intro redux

for our first viewpoints class, we just did introductions. we were asked to answer the following questions:
1. what is your first and last name?
2. what is your cultural background?
3. what do you do?
4. why are you here?

my answers:
1. my name is kt shorb. 2. i come from a ruling-class japanese mother, a middle-class white father, and an adoptive family of queer people of color [note: this last one confused many folks--especially international students--who seemed to believe i was legally adopted by two black lesbians.] 3. i make the invisible visible. 4. i am here to learn how to begin work in the body.

on SITI summer-part three OR collaborative revelations

in the past year, i have worked almost exclusively with female-bodied people. all the stamp lab productions i've been in were female save for one gay man. and working at alma de mujer meant very little interactions with men regularly except for talking with contractors. so when i found myself standing with four men when we decided groups during compositions class, i was both apprehensive and excited. "this will be good for you," said a couple folks, including myself.

it's been fascinating. not only are they all men, they are all white men. two american college boys, one canadian and one from portugal. save for the one time when i firmly confronted one of them when he ran out of rehearsal to talk with someone in the hallway ("you drive me crazy! i feel really disrespected when you do that!"-- "oh, i am so sorry!"), most of my fighting has been within myself.

because working with men has brought many of my personal insecurities to the fore. partly because i've been battling those insecurities all along (i keep thinking, why did they accept ME?), but also because men (at least these men) don't really work to make sure everyone is okay, because they think that everyone SHOULD be okay. and i know that if i were to show specifically that i'm not okay, as i did for one discussion, they would meet it head on. i also have been working against an insecurity that what i have to say is fundamentally insignificant, but everything i've said has been met with openness and attention.

there are many reasons why i tend to work with female-bodied people. sometimes it's that our politics are aligned. or that, as a dyke, i tend to favor the company of other dykes and work out of that. but a lot of it is about degrees of comfort. and there is a certain shorthand that i can rely upon when working with female-bodied folks, especially female-bodied people of color.

but as productive as that comfort can be, it can lead to assumptions and misunderstandings and all-out conflict, just like anywhere else. sometimes the initial closeness makes the eventual conflict that much more painful.

what i'm learning on a very fundamental level is that really i can collaborate with anyone. and that anyone can collaborate with anyone. but what insures the collaboration actually happening is when the group decides to commit to the work and commit to each other. i've loved stamp lab because of that dual commitment. when we decide a narrative arch, casting, or aesthetic details, everyone thinks about "the work." when someone has an idea or a problem, we commit to believing that she does it for "the work" and to seeing her approach, even if we don't agree.

and even though the looks and shapes of the work i'm doing here is radically different, at the core, i still feel that commitment to the work and commitment to each other, and so i'm warmed and inspired--as slow-going and frustrating as it can be.

since i decided i wanted to be in performance for the remainder of my life, i have endeavored to pursue the frightening, the awkward, the uncomfortable. and this intensive is just pushing me to even more extreme levels of fear, awkwardness and discomfort than i had imagined. it is impossible to remain unchanged.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

on SITI summer-part two OR revelations on my body being of this world

today, i cried during morning warm-ups.

i woke at 7, ate breakfast and then did morning pages. i was sore and had very little sleep. i'm coming down with a cold. i was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. so when i arrived to the studio, i was in a place of feeling beaten down. like it took every fiber of my being to get out of bed and do some type of ritual. i was super vigilant and disciplined because if i hadn't been, i would not have made it to class. but i was fine.

or so i thought. i had just started stretching when barney (a SITI company member, and the teacher for that class) started playing bach's well-tempered clavier. i smiled and mumbled, "ah, bach." but then i felt this welling come from the pit of my stomach up my throat and out my eyes. before i knew it, tears were streaming down my face and one of the lovely australian women in the program was coming up to me and asking me if i was okay.

it was a cognitive glitch. i always listen to bach when i'm feeling on the verge of depression or frightened. arriving at class, i was hard and closed, trying to maintain my discipline and ignore my pain. but the bach sparked an emotional trigger of comfort and self-care that was too visceral and overwhelming to ignore. in short, i was confused. my mind was telling me that everything was fine (and it was, in a way), but my body and spirit and emotions were telling me that things were far from right (and they were). so i cried. and the only thing that i kept hearing in my head was: this is so hard.

and weeping helped me see that fact. by letting the pain and the doubt flow through me, i moved past it. whole and intact albeit exhausted and spent.

a lot about our training is about fear, pain, and even mortality. there is a moment when we stomp during suzuki class--every time i do it, in fact--when i literally feel like i am going to die. i actually believe that i will somehow cease living. the muscle pain and intensity is so strong that all i can do is concentrate on not letting myself die. and then--quite miraculously--that exercise ends, and i am alive and whole. often, i'm euphoric from somehow escaping the jaws of death.

this is what SITI summer seems to be about. moments in suzuki where the legs are trembling from physical limitations, viewpoints sessions where keeping up feels impossible, doing a compositions assignment that has so many stipulations, it would take at least a month--in a week. these have all made me feel like i'm going to die. like i'm going to crash and burn. like i will fail miserably. but then i don't. there are many failures along the way, but the resistence to death--both physically and metaphorically--pushes us out the other side with a new sense of purpose and spirituality. it's an acknowledgment that every moment we continue to live, we are actually cheating death.

anne bogart talks about how the creative process is violently destructive. how for every decision an artist makes, she is killing a myriad of possibilities. this tends to lead to stasis and creative block: we don't want to "kill our babies." and so it makes sense that our work here seems to bring us in very close proximity to destruction, but ultimately leads to amazing creative discoveries.

some of my fellow trainees still seem to be unscathed by what i see as this proximity to death. maybe they are tougher. maybe they are in denial. maybe they are not actually of this world. i, however, emphatically am.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

on SITI summer-part one

greetings from saratoga springs!

thanks to everyone's donations and a bit of support from the city of austin, i managed to raise enough funds for siti. i've been here since sunday. it's been an exciting experience. 61 "theatre-makers" of different kinds, coming from literally around the globe (28 are from abroad) to train rigorously for about 8 hours a day and make some pieces together.

it's only day two and already my body is revolting.

yesterday was relatively physically easy. viewpoints consisted of introductions. and composition class was all about exercises for "making" and directing, not so much physical activity. so it was only the hour and a half of suzuki. which did scare me for a second, when i thought my legs would literally fall out from under me from pure exhaustion.

but today was very different. viewpoints was mostly running. for an hour and a half. running and doing things in unison. but i could do viewpoints for hours. and then suzuki, which had me sweating and panting. the afternoon was speaking and breathing. easy, right? no. for "speaking," we had to learn dance moves and hold prop sword and swing them very fast. and for "breathing," we did suzuki stomps yet again.

my quads, groin, and glutes are very, very sore. arnica is my friend. and i have a blister waiting to pop on my big toe. lovely.

and then i met with my compositions group (all men, incidentally--how exotic!) for two hours after dinner.

this may all sound like complaints. but i assure you, this is what i'm here for, and i'm happy to report that it is exactly what i want to be doing. the pain is, well, pain. but it's an instructive and constructive pain. i'm learning my limits and being lovingly yet forcefully pushed to extend them. and there is a certain euphoria after crouching and stomping and "connecting with the ground" for hours. yes.


Monday, March 23, 2009

on asking for help

dear readers, i am asking you to help me.

i got into SITI summer, which is awesome! directed by Anne Bogart, SITI is at the forefront of physical and ensemble-based theatre. SITI summer focuses on Bogart's "Viewpoints" method, as well as her "Compositions" technique for creating original work, and Suzuki Actor Training. as a performer and director, this opportunity will enrich my craft and knowledge. (for more info on SITI summer go here.)

thing is, i'm broke. if i want to pay for tuition, room, board, getting there, and making up for money i won't make while i'm attending, i need to raise serious $$$. i have plans for fundraising, but even after getting money from the city of austin, my dad, etc. i still don't have quite enough.


i'm asking all my friends on email, facebook, my blog, and twitter to help me get to SITI summer! i humbly ask for a modest contribution of $10-$50. if all my contacts give me $10, i'm very close to paying all my tuition! if half my contacts give me $20, well, same thing! and so on.

if you would like to make a contribution, you can send it via paypal below:

or send a check made out to "katherine shorb" to:
2906 glen rae st
Austin, TX 78702

in return, i offer the following:
$10-$29 donation: a 5X8 postcard with original calligraphy by yours truly (see examples of my calligraphy here.)
$30-$49 donation: a postcard and a signed copy of the script to my solo show: "of chicks, dicks, and chinks."
$50+ donation: a postcard and a signed DVD of my award-winning experimental short: "task/in-progress"
please include a mailing address with your contribution.

your donation is an investment in art. it offers many returns.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

on opportunity, doubt, money, and life

what happens when the thing you've been wanting and waiting for for almost a year becomes *this close* to happening, but there are two things standing in your way: money and time?

i was accepted to SITI summer for this year. a year ago, when i spoke to the director of my solo show, friend and co-artistic director of the rude mechanicals, madge darlington, the first thing she told me was to do SITI. at that point, it was just not possible, the application deadline had passed. so i went to vancouver instead. which was fabulous. but really only a taste of the techniques and methods i wanted to learn.

since then, i've co-won two theatre awards, acted in two plays, a short film and directed a play. and now i've been accepted to SITI. all my theatre friends are super excited for me. it is, in fact, a big opportunity. and not one that is completely common. i was looking at the resume of scott turner schofield. he's one of those performers who gets enough gigs to support himself with art full-time. a tranny boy with income, if you will. he's done SITI.

i'm having trouble trying not to think it was some kind of clerical error. i mean, i've really only been doing this a minute. at the same time, anne bogart's (that's the director of SITI) who thing is that she is all about the inter-disciplinary. she always uses music and film as inspiration. or as part of theory. so maybe it's not such a mystery why they accepted me. i am a discipinary whore.

thing is. now's a tough time... i'm broke ass. and i still haven't won the lotto. the whole institute costs over $3000. which includes room and board. but still. and then, i have a mortgage. and i won't be making money while i'm stomping and viewpoint-ing. so. that means that in order to get to saratoga springs, pay for the institute, room and board, and my own mortgage, i would have to raise at least $4500. $5000, to be safe...

it's one thing to desire something. it's another to actually go and get it/do it. there are always complications that beg the question: what is your commitment? is this for real, or were you only having fancies about your glam life?

and what of this glam life? i've been an on-again-off-again artist since college. i've never felt particularly glamorous. seems that people see artsy life as such. maybe it is. or maybe i should let it be.

why is it that every time i accomplish something, i can't enjoy it? i'm always thinking about the down side. i get into SITI, i have to raise the money. i get a grant for the opera, i have to
raise a match. i get an award for a show, i have to split it with people.

what's up with that?!

(deargod: pleasehelpmemakesenseofthisandthejoyofmydesiring)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

on jesus, my work is important! now what do i do?

so. i'm slowly accruing cancer objects. slowly. but each one i get, i feel the gravity of my project deepen more and more.

i received the narrative of one object today. i will be receiving the object itself soon. it came from a person i knew a decade ago. i didn't even know she had cancer. but her 4-page story caught me up. her narrative was so thorough, so precise, so real. as i read it, i felt deeply honored that she took the time to share her experience with her. and that she will impart such a loaded object onto me.

it's a strange process. i've now structured "una corda" in a way that i need participation from others. to get this participation, i need to talk about my piece as significant. but i realize i only partly comprehend how significant it is. because every time a new person contributes to the piece, i think, "wow. my opera is so important. i can't believe i'm doing it."

of course, this gives me anxiety. how can i take this friend's story and objects and respect her contribution while ultimately using my own voice (quite literally)? how do i balance my innate earnestness with my conditioned critical eye and my somewhat wry humor?

then again, this anxiety is necessary. this discomfort. as tennessee williams said, struggle is part of being an artist. he was mainly talking about financial struggle (which, hey, i got that, too!), but i think most inspiring art is fueled by struggle. at least, the art that inspires me.

sometimes, though. it's like hugging a hedgehog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

on ten ways to become a lesbian

(this is one just for fun. procrastination can breed such things)
1. go to every club, knitting circle, potluck, performance art happening, and slam poetry event you can find wearing a sandwich board that states, “free toaster.”
2. shave your head. the quarter-inch attachment is the most lesbionic. alternate action: change your hair color with henna or one of the mainstay manic-panic colors: bad-boy blue, hot hot pink, green envy, or red passion.
3. cut your nails. complain about how you have to keep your nails sooooo short now. loudly and often. even better, cut just the nails on your forefinger and middle finger (or middle finger and ring finger, if you’re like that) on your dominant hand. use this hand conspicuously: show off your cell phone, pull on your dykey stud or small-hoop earrings, point at your brand new copy of dykes to watch out for, etc. extra points if you put your nail clippers on your keychain or the zipper of your sufficiently sensible shoulder bag/backpack.
4. learn and actively participate in more than one of the following activities: softball; basketball; rugby; playing the drums or a brass instrument other than french horn; a martial art; cigar smoking; open mic nights (preferably at your local wymmyn’s bookstore or lesbian bar); camping; woodwork/carpentry; composting; and suddenly announcing disgust at the misogyny, homophobia, racism, etc. at awkward or inopportune times, the more awkward the better (points if these awkward moments include your birth relatives).
5. learn the lyrics to “both hands,” “closer to fine,” “ice cream,” “iowa,” “i kissed a girl (sobule version),” “i spent my last $10 (on birth control and beer),” “drag king bar,” or any major song by melissa ethridge, k.d. lang, meshell ndégeocello, le tigre, or tracy chapman.
6. stock your tea cabinet with at least seven different types of tea with at least one black, one green, and one herbal tea.
7. read one of the many canonic lesbian books (rubyfruit jungle, zami, tipping the velvet, written on the body/oranges are not the only fruit, stone butch blues, mrs. dalloway/orlando, etc.) and post on every social networking site you belong to how much you “loved” it and how it “opened your eyes” and how much you “identified” with it.
8. if you are a meat-eater, become vegetarian. if you vegetarian, become vegan. if you are vegan, become macrobiotic. if you are macrobiotic, eat meat again, but in a sexy, enlightened way. openly discuss all your food allergies. if you have none, make them up. "i'm allergic to water!" consume more legumes and whole grains. buy the moosewood cookbook. actually cook with the moosewood cookbook.
9. watch lots of fag porn, with fags and dykes (pot luck time! don’t forget your sandwich board!). balance your fascination and disgust. claim you own a dildo bigger than the biggest dick in the porn. vocally revel in how hot fag porn is. then complain loudly about how you can’t find dyke porn like this. or announce that you’ve seen “crash pad” and think it’s the beginning of a renaissance of dyke porn. loiter near an empty bedroom or the bathroom.
10. find a girl you like, romance her or entice her to romance you, kiss her, sleep with her, call uhaul. repeat.

Monday, January 26, 2009

on cycles

smell of ink in the stone. "this is the character for 'health.'" an emerald green bustier bought on a whim, but still not worn. purple cane. no sandwiches. polymer clay. art days. "no guilt."

the lights are bright. i know not to squint. audience tense with silence. lungs full of phlegm, head sore, throat searing. just need first word. once it comes, all emerge as though connected by the same chord. rehearsal means producing good at your worst.

breath visible in the morning air. clothes reserved for "nice" occasions. packed rectory. who's who of austin. song of weary. thoughts are wary. holding hat in hand, head bowed, standing. anger, anger, anger. too many shoulders covered in liquid from my face.

stand up from squatting over the count of 20. speech. sit over the count of 25. use the pain in your legs to give intensity. speech. up on 10. close your eyes. on your toes in 10. stay on your toes. balance. balance. speech. resistance creates intensity. resistance creates meaning.

we had a couple of excursions. not as many as i would have liked. sometimes entailing hospitals, almost always entailing food. i already knew i found her pretty late. shyness can do that sometimes. but the main thing was the finding. what is it with me, cancer, and emotional intimacy?

new photo added to the altar. it's too full now.

look at this, sweet new child. auntie now, for the umpteenth time, but still wonderful. not my niece but lovely just the same. throat blocked.

i was close enough in which to confide. but far enough in which to confide. sometimes the ability to see the end inspires strategic confessions. someone close enough to want to tell, far enough that the telling won't damage or change or burden. i wonder what ma told that nurse who she bought lavish gifts for. or what other confessions i was too close or too far to hear. it seems that witnessing confessions is part of preparing. being prepared really seems like a state after one has released everything into the world--in mysteriously/mystically meted-out doses. i'm very certain they made it look easier than it actually was.

elegy. made as wrappings. beds of flower heads and satin. the right words never seem to be right enough. like uttering them is somehow demeaning. even repetitions of words once perfect feel unwarm. still a yearning rises. the yearning to rise. skyward voice and hands, earthy thoughts and moistened face. body still present, but no longer necessary.

the idea of love, last exchanged word--it grows to take on different forms. no longer bright and clear and smooth as it once was. scarred, weathered, tougher. like an aging tree, embracing the wind-swept molding of its limbs. still to weather even more. but like a hand-thrown teacup, or imperfect scribble on the page, the wabi-sabi of combined generations, combined ideas, combined bodies acknowledging each border and overlap. my younger love changed by one older, still changed by one even older.

whispers. whispers on feathers not even sprung from the throat of a dove. and flying.

on and out and up.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

on memory and forgetting

because i know you've surely forgotten about me.

every so often, lovely partner says, "you should blog about that." but i haven't been.

i'm a little jaded with the internets lately. i've stopped paying attention to my rss feed. and it began feeling like this sucking, demanding force that just had no business trying to take up my time. i've just had no patience.

and so i've been away from here. and so many things have happened. obama. gaza. the new year. my mother's death anniversary. i shaved my head...

and then this weekend i visited my good friend who is very weak with illness, preparing to cross over.

she is really the main person who inspired and encouraged my cancer opera. visiting with her was hard; it's always awkward, figuring out whether to show up or leave some space, what to say, where to sit, how to talk, whether to laugh or cry. it brought back so many memories of being with my mother in this same month, seven years ago, of sitting with my friend and sharing stories, of eating cheap but good chinese food at the back of a market, of telling myself, "just listen to her talk about what you fear. it's important to her now, and it will become important to you in the future."

and meanwhile, another type of memory nags at me. so comparatively mundane and trivial: my memory of words. the lines i must say in the play. it's going up on 1/23. usually, i memorize lines pretty easily, remembering about 70% just from showing up to rehearsal. and then only i need a few hours on my own to hammer it all out. but this role... not only is it very little dialogue--i'm mostly talking to myself--i talk under other characters, so i have to listen as i talk. in addition, a lot of what she says is nonsense or repetitive. i've been running lines at any spare moment, in my car, the shower, waiting in line, and just when i am by myself at home.... last night, though, the director followed along with my lines as we did a line-through (where you only say the words from memory as fast as possible to see where you need work), after we were done, she turned to me and said, "it's almost impossible to follow along, let alone remember and say your lines..." so, we've come up with some ways to alleviate the strain on my memory.

it's not lost on me that my lovely partner is an historian, and here i am writing about memory and forgetting. and as i reflect on what is behind, i see us on the cusp of what lies ahead.

forward ho.