I’m in New York, and the usual hormone swing that occurs on Day 20 or so of my menstrual cycle has coincided with (helped create?) one of the most joyful, intense, emotional, vulnerable, soul-searching, inspiring weeks I’ve had in a long time. Is that too much information? Well, that’s too bad, because for me, hormones rule the roost. If we ain’t talkin’ about them then we don’t got the full picture. Moving on:
How is that things move so quickly here? There is a different sense of time. The two-hour transit journey with my castmate Alex from Newark International to our AirBNB in Bed-Stuy felt both brief (as the commuter rail whisked us to Penn Station and we talked about what being in Wayfinders has meant to us) and interminable (as we lugged our suitcases up the 8th flight of stairs in as many minutes, sweating, peeling off our winter coats). I had rather dogmatically insisted that we take the train because it’s upon boarding MTA that I truly feel I am in New York. There are mysteries to the transit system here that I enjoy solving. For instance, none of the EMERGENCY EXIT signs are true. People just push the doors open and they don’t make a sound.
Brooklyn! My God, what a city. I had never been to Brooklyn before this week, and now I find myself wrapped in its loving embrace. Enjoying its beautiful, fashion-forward, diverse people (man, Chicago is REALLY segregated compared to here), its wonderful shops, cafes and restaurants (props to La Bagel Delight, Smoke Joint, WTF Coffee Lab, Black Forest, and Propeller Cafe among others), its beautiful parks and brownstones. Bonus: our “office” for the week is the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where I feel tremendously lucky to be performing. The facilities, staff, and history of this arts institution make my heart sing. I wish every artist could be surrounded by such support, all the time. But it takes decades of hard work to get oneself here, methinks. The Fisher, where we’re performing, is the newest BAM venue — just a few years old. The blonde wood floors of its rehearsal studio make me want to choreograph something. They make me want to LEARN to choreograph something, anything. There is at least one place in this country where adventurous art can find a highly resourced home, and it is here. Quite amazing.
This week, I’m pretending to be a theater person. I have much to learn. Every conversation (like today’s, with the delightful Adam Marks) yields little trails of artistic breadcrumbs for me to follow later, connecting me to something I didn’t know about before. Someone will drop an ensemble name in conversation and I nod as convincingly as possible, while making a mental note to Google this later. When I get home I’m going to watch/learn everything I can get my hands on about Big Dance Theater, and The Builders, and Fiasco Theater. I’m going to watch John Doyle’s production of Company on Netflix. Study Pina Bausch and Robert Wilson and Meredith Monk and people who found a home here, became legends here.
Today I visited at the New York Insight Meditation Center. There are many contradictions inherent in the experience of taking two trains into Manhattan, buzzing into a high-rise, getting into an elevator, and arriving at … a meditation room. I spent a silent hour there meditating and reading. In their book-loan area, I stumbled on Christina Feldman’s book, Woman Awake. I left a $20 bill in the donation box. Somehow this book was precisely the one I need to read. I’ve been thinking about my spiritual lineage — my parents and grandparents. I am lucky to say it is an amazing lineage of devoted prayer, creativity and contemplation. In the electric buzz of this city, sacred space is even more essential.
There are no sure voices to guide us. We listen for them, anxiously, and search the lonely corners of books and churches and, yes, even the minds of friends and teachers, but none echoes the counsel of reassurance for which we yearn. We shake the old order with cries of anger and contempt, demanding its yield of authority and knowledge, but when the words fall, we cover our ears against the shallow ring. We are the women of solitude, being taught the art of living in and through the Spirit, and it is not easy.”
– Mary E. Giles, The Feminist Mystic