Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Nature Within


A belated recognition of Earth Day, in the words of others:

“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.” 

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” 

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” 

“I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.” 

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” 

“The world is not to be put in order. The world is order. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order.” 

“The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.” 


Monday, April 29, 2013

On Waiting and Watching (III)


Most audiences of live performance understand the amount of time, talent, and hard work that goes into training for and producing a stage show. What audiences do not know is that backstage all of the performers are reminded that regardless of their hard work and dedication, regardless of how important this is to them personally, what it symbolizes in their life, what they are about to do is work, and it is not for them; it is for the audience.

As an audience member then, it is important to remember that those people are up there giving it all away to you, each and every one of you.

Some things to take into consideration, or, how to be an audience member:

1) Arrive on time.  This means that if the show begins at 2, get there at half past so that you have time to use the restroom and find your seat.

2) If you can turn it on, turn it off.  Yes, we can see the glow from your phone, the little yellow light on your camera, and the reflection of the screen in your glasses.  Yes, it is a distraction.  And yes, we would prefer for you to watch us without a screen between us.  Live performance is best captured in our memories.

3) If your child does not want to be there or simply cannot sit still or be quiet, leave, quickly.  Sorry.

4) Remember that large casts may have many friends and relatives in the audience, so maybe call that girl fat after you leave the theater in case you are sitting next to her mom.

5) Clap enthusiastically and throughout the performance.   

Edward Gorey Image Courtesy of:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Micro Dwellings


This winter I visited the MicroDwell 2013 exhibit at the Shemer Museum in Arizona.  Micro dwellings are exactly what they sound like; less than 100 square foot structures designed to serve a functional purpose using a very small amount of space and resources.  These structures take well to passive heating and cooling, are often portable (at least to the site) and inexpensive to build.  And many of them are just as innovative in terms of design and aesthetic as their full-sized counterparts.

I like the idea of designing small.  I think that smaller living spaces discourage the accumulation of needless possessions, save resources, and improve the quality of life in high population density places.  While the size of these spaces can be initially daunting, consider that small dwellings are not a new idea.  Thousands of people live in trailers, studio apartments, and rented rooms and have for a long time.  Perhaps it is time for us to address some of cultural and climactic challenges with innovative design.

The MicroDwell website and Photograph source:

Visit the Shemer Museum Website:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hide and Seek


I keep listening to the talking heads and heads of state and people interviewed on the street declare that we are victorious in Boston because we did not and will not allow ourselves to be terrorized.  But did we not just let the search for a single person put the entire city of Boston under house arrest?  Did we not suspend all business, education, and cultural events because of that man?  Did we not increase the range and enormity of the impacts of his actions by doing this?  And what does this say about the future of our civil liberties?  Is fear a justifiable cause for the erosion of our rights?  Maybe we all need to step back and think about what terror really means and what kind of power we want to give to its perpetrators.

Merriam Webster defines terrorism in this way: "The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims."

To read the FBI's much longer and more detailed definition:

Photograph Courtesy of:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Picture This


From 1970 to 1977 the EPA hired professional photographers to document images relating to the environment, the EPA, and ordinary life in America.  The collection, called Documerica, consists of thousands of disparate images most of which have seemingly little to do with the environment.  But the project is an amazing time capsule of American life in the late 20th century.  More than 15,000 of these photographs are available for public viewing on the National Digital Archive.  Happy hunting.

To view the Collection:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Watching Dance


It is remarkable what we miss when watching dance.  Some simple tips for dance audiences:

1.  Look at their feet.  In most forms of dance a lot of the work and technique is in the feet so make a point of looking down.

2.  Read the program notes.  Story lines, influences, history, imagery and motivation are all often articulated in program notes and can be important to understanding or relating to the work.

3. Appreciate the challenge of synchronicity.  Dancers often achieve amazing feats of sameness without notice of or recognition by the audience.  Being able to dance is one thing, being able to do it exactly like ten or twenty other people is a different story.  Appreciate the work of the corps de ballet as well as the soloists.

4. Listen.  Much of the work and mechanics of dance are revealed in the footfalls and breathing patterns of the dancers, if you are close enough, try to listen to the dancers as well as watch them.

Photograph Courtesy of:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Boston Public


The first public library in the United States was founded in Boston in 1636.  In 2010 a push by universities, arts and literary organizations, public bodies, and private foundations resulted in the formation of a free, public digital library.  An ongoing project, the public digital library hopes to serve as an open-source network for the collecting and curating of media. It serves as single point access to collections throughout the United States and makes accessible images, sounds, and cultural items otherwise lost to the general public. What a wonderful thing.

To Visit the Digital Public Library:

Photograph Courtesy of:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Harsh Reality


A list of things to know before setting out into the world:

Anything valuable requires hard work.

If you are not willing to work hard someone else will be.

There is a big difference between the things you want and the things you need.

No one thinks about you as much as you do.

Few things are fair.

You will always have more to learn and will do much of that the hard way.

Unexpected and tragic things are inevitable; you will not be able to plan for them.

Most successes are built on the backs of failures.

You cannot make everyone like you, or even be pleased with you.

You will not be the same person in ten years that you are today.

You will be offered transformative experiences, but will not be able to predict in what way they will transform you.

You only get to do this once.

Other great lists of life lessons:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Word Play


What will we do when we lose Will Shortz?  Since 1987 he has provided public radio listeners with the weekly Sunday Puzzle and is editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle and the founder of the American Crossword Puzzle tournament.  He is also the only person in the world with a degree in Enigmatology, the study of puzzles, which he received from Indiana University in 1974.  

It is easy to want to make fun, or at least light of, Shortz and his fascination with puzzles.  But consider for moment that Shortz' kinds of puzzles, intellectual, challenging, and most decidedly adult, are one of the ways in which smart people play.   Puzzles are a bastion of safety and entertainment for nerds, number people, and punners.  And puzzles are good for us; studies show that the brain needs to exercised just as much as the body to maintain healthy functioning as we age.

I saw Will Shortz speak at Indiana University in 2008.  Not surprisingly, he made us do a puzzle; all ten thousand of us.  People loved it.  He went to great lengths to remind us that we are all unique individuals with our own interests and our own paths.  It is good for us, and sometimes everyone else for us to follow our passions.

To Listen to the Sunday Puzzle:

Alzheimers Association:

Photo Courtesy of:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tax Day


Take a moment in silence.

And then,

There are a couple of historical events and broader contexts related to the Boston marathon bombing that I feel need to be more heavily considered in our decision making with regards to and understanding of these events:

This is most likely a domestic dispute.  Typically, foreign terrorists want to connect their actions with their ideologies as quickly as possible. This is a pissed-off American.  This is not "the other" that we have grown to fear, but one of our own. Boston, home of the tea party, is synonymous in American culture with freedom, independence, and the protest of taxes.  The marathon is a cultural icon; the meaning of it and nostalgia we hold for it would not really be understood by a foreign group. 

Tax day.  The day of the race is the first tax day in recent memory in which I did not see a flood of tax stories on the evening news.  That I do not remember hearing tax day mentioned even once is puzzling to me.  Since 2001 the total share of taxes paid by the very wealthy has decreased as the share paid by the middle class has increased.  Since the Occupy Movement of 2011, the movement for economic justice has gained increasing traction from citizens affiliated with both liberal and conservative political parties.  

We have been so badly distracted by the gun control debate that we have failed to address the larger problem of anger, violence, and untreated mental illness in our population.

We need to have a larger conversation.  This fight will not be won with force; it will grow from social change.


Photograph Courtesy of:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thought of You


Sometimes we dance alone, but most dances are for, with, or about another person.  Artist Ryan Woodward captured the nature of the dancing relationship in his animated short, Thought of You.  A video interlude:

Thought of You:

Photo Courtesy of:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Art of the Steal


Everyone borrows.  Phrases, motifs, shtick, even characters and plots, but at what point does it go from inspired by to stolen from or a cover to a copy?  Yes, there are ways to copywrite, watermark, and trademark, but the reality is that we are really held at the will of each other, trusting that people, they just will not steal.  And most people won't, not on purpose or with any intention of unfair gains and losses.  Most people want to perform their own works, of their own creation and be recognized for their own talents.  Sometimes there is gray area.  Sometimes there is not.  When I am in doubt, I cite my source.  Especially in dance, where so much of our work is videoed and photographed and posted and re-posted, if I am inspired by someone, I tell people that, if I borrow, I ask, and then I give them credit.  This is not always a perfect process, but most of the time, I think it works.  I think that we all mutually benefit from cross promotion and inspiration and that audiences like to know about our processes and influences. Do your own work.  Don't forget to cite your source.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt was confiscated by the Nazis when they took over Austria and the painting's owner, Ferdinand Block-Bauer, had to flee to Switzerland. In 1988 the Austrian government decided to return art that had been illegally seized by the Nazis to their rightful owners. And in 2006, Block-Bauer heir Maria Altmann was returned this and four other paintings by Klimt. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

All in the Family


Every year the New York Musical Theater Festival chooses several new and promising musical theater teams and their productions to showcase in their summer festival.  This year, brothers John, Patrick, and Walter Kennedy are presenting their adaptation of the classic, Swiss Family Robinson.  It is a great idea.  Swiss Family Robinson is a story about values, hard work, and survival.  It is a classic escapist tale who's time has come to be renewed amid the clatter of a sinking economy, climate change worries, and the do it yourself movement.  That the team is brothers, that they originally wrote it over 30 years ago, and that they bring quality writing, musical composition, and choreography to an overlooked classic bodes well for the success of this production.

What I love about it the most is that Walter Kennedy, the productions choreographer, was a faculty member of my undergraduate dance program and a mentor.  I am tickled for him.  I think that spending the summer in New York with your brothers putting on a big show sounds like just about the most fun in the world.  I have the kind of respect and appreciation for him typical of long-standing instruction and I know enough of his curriculum vitae to be impressed with his career prior to education (he was a principle dancer for Bela Lewitzky) but, like any good instructor, he still seems to me so very very human.

There is nothing more exciting than watching a mentor or instructor work their craft outside of the classroom.  We forget, sometimes, that these people were also once students, that they worked, sweated, and hoped just like we do.  We also forget that that in most cases they were successful.  We see them now, older, maybe larger or more tired, or we do not see them at all, being so focused on our own study, and forget that they were once luminous, center stage, beaming into the spotlight.  We see glimpses of them in their prime, a lovely foot, a beautiful and effortless triple pirouette, a show poster with them suspended midair, glorious in their flight. We forget that they could return to that place again, that they are not yet done, that we have become a part of their craft, but they have more to do outside the studio.

Sometimes we forget just how very much we can learn from our instructors and sometimes their best best lessons are unintentional.  Go take class.

To see the Swiss Family Robinson Project:

New York Musical Theater Festival:

Photograph from the original 1978 production by the "Brothers K", find it on their Facebook page.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

In Plain Sight


I have only just now, after years of bird watching and myriad course hours studying natural systems and animals really begun to see camouflage.  And I mean really see it, for the first time I am beginning to appreciate the complexity of the markings, how specifically they are developed, and why it is just so hard to spot wildlife.  The moment of this shift in my understanding came when I discovered that Siberian Tigers are not white, as one might think, but bright orange.  How then, you might ask,  do they camouflage themselves from their prey?  The trick is not in blending into the snow, but in blending into the bare orange limbs and tree trunks of the Siberian forest. 

I have been most struck by this in birds, returning over and over again to the pictures in the guidebooks, this time to look not only at the birds, but at their surroundings, seeing them in the greater context of their environment.  I wonder in what other areas of my life this new perspective can be applied, what else I have not been seeing.  Look around; see things differently.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wait and Watch II


There is a Korean man that was sent by the education department of the Korean government to Northeastern Siberia to film educational nature videos.  How he interpreted this request in practice was to spend up to seven months at a time enclosed in small holes in the ground or on elevated platforms waiting to film Siberian tigers in their natural habitat.  Which he did, beautifully.  That no such footage was in existence previously is an indication of the elusiveness of these animals.  That there were times he waited for three or more months before seeing one is some kind of testament to patience, endurance, and the ability to wait and watch.  Is he crazy? A xenophobe? A recluse? No, in interviews he talks of the struggle to stay, his longing for the company of other people, how he missed his family.  Whatever the reason, his personal struggle and fortitude have given the world the best glimpse into the lives of these enormous and beautiful creatures, which is good, because of the handful or so of tigers he was able to find, at least two of them were killed by poachers before he finished the project.  If habitat encroachment and climate change are not doing enough to drive this dominant species to extinction, human greed will get the job done.  Perhaps we should take to heart the great lengths these cats have gone to avoid humans in modern times, and unless we are willing to simply wait and watch, we should leave them alone.

To watch a Nature documentary on the Tigers and see the footage:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Photograph Courtesy of:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Stone Cold


There is nothing better in the education of a tapper than the instruction of a good drummer.  Real percussionists do far more than keep time, they serve as the foundation, backbone, and elaboration of the musical experience.  Percussion speaks to our souls and enters our bodies, reminding us that we are all born into rhythm and nursed inside the tight drums of our mothers bellies.  There is a large distance between tapping, dancing, to the music, and using the tap form to become a percussionist, a part of the band.  A good percussionist needs to know nothing about tap other than that it lets you make sounds to teach a dancer about rhythm, syncopation, and phrasing.  The key, I have been told, is in the doing.  

Recently we, myself and several hundred musicians, artists, and friends celebrated percussionist and instructor Kenny Reed in an eight-hour concert to raise funds for his dialysis.  Kenny, founder and lead man for Stone Cold Jazz, cut his chops in New York as a percussionist for Sesame Street and on air as a DJ among many other things.  He made his way west and now has landed in Oregon.  Kenny is old-school jazz, knows every tune in the book, wears a sharp suit, and carries his drumsticks wherever he goes; in case of emergency drumming.  We are glad to have him as mentor, artist, and friend. 

To give to the Kenny Reed Fund contact:

To listen/watch early Sesame Street:

To Listen to Stone Cold Jazz

Photo courtesy of:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Arable Lands


Sustainable green roofing is not a new idea.  It first gained mainstream attention as a solution to the lack of urban green spaces in the form of roof top gardens, and verandas.  Since then, actual live roofing has become an increasingly popular way of addressing urban storm water runoff and air pollution.  These roofs not only play an important role in the psychology of urban living, but also in the movement towards sustainable food networks, energy efficient housing, and passive remediation.  Far from being the sole domain of hobbit holes or thatched cottages, green roofs are now becoming a part of modern design, and they should.  The skeleton of our lives, our infrastructure and architecture can go a long way towards helping us effect the kinds of lifestyle changes we need to make in order to become a healthy, functional society that lives in some kind of balance with the rest of the world.  Start small; plant something.

Photograph Courtesy of:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Little Tramp


On the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1959 Charlie Chaplin, known more for politics than philosophy or mindfulness, wrote this poem on the topic of self love.  In simple verse he touches on some of the most important aspects of how we view ourselves in the world, authenticity, respect, simplicity, and good health.  It is my hope that it does not take me until my own 70th birthday to own these words and implement these sentiments in my life.  My hope, is that by learning to truly love myself, I will lead a happy, well, and long life.

As I Began to Love Myself – Self Love Poem by Charlie Chaplin
As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering
are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.
Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody
As I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time
was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this
person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life,
and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow.
Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance,
I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens
at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm.
Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit steeling my own time,
and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.
Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do
and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in
my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for
my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew
me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude
a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since
I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worry
about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where EVERYTHING
is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me
and it can make me sick. But As I connected it to my heart, my
mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this
connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems
with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing
new worlds are born.Today I know THAT IS “LIFE”!

Photograph of Charlie Chaplin circa 1916:

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Way.


A List of Simple Things:

Breath in.  
Breath out.
Accept yourself.
Embrace change.
Be positive.
Love big.
Let go.

To listen to the entire Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff:

Photo Courtesy of:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Age of Letting Go


I spent the first two decades of my life like many of us do, trying to please other people.  When that would fail, which it inevitably did, my approach was to blame myself, my failings, my big mouth.  I always wanted to fix it, to make amends, make peace, make up.  The idea of losing someone, a friend, a boyfriend, whomever, was terrifying to me; I thought that even if the nature of the relationship shifted there could always be room for that person in my world.  So I took their tirades, constructive criticisms, gossip, and side remarks all to heart, always assuming there was something that I could and should do to please and therefore keep a person in my life.  What I did not understand was that a persons pleasure or displeasure with me, their reasons for moving on or staying near, or really, any of their choices whatsoever, had little to nothing to do with me.   People can say things out of spite, jealousy, and greed.  They can and often do put their own interests first and judge others unabashedly through their own lenses and biases.  They rarely have the success and happiness of those around them at the core of their actions. 

This is not to say that people are bad or unkind or dis-compassionate, just that there are times in life in which those around us do not serve us as friends, mentors, or partners.  When this becomes clear, it is time to let them go.  For the first time in my life I am doing just that, letting people that bring me down, interfere, complain, or act as bad influences just...slip away.  For the first time I have a clear sense of living my own life, for its own purpose, and taking really good care of the most important person in my world, myself.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Six Words


The Six Word Stories project was launched in 2008.  Inspired by a famous challenge made to Ernest Hemingway, that he could not write a complete story in six words; which he did, this project has asked people to write their memoirs in just six words. And they have done it, with grace, sentiment, and sometimes humor.  What is amazing to me about these tiny distillations is their authors ability to focus in on a singular profundity, theme, or incident in which to frame their lives.  When I try this I my mind scatters to corners of memories and epic tales of adventure, none of which contain either the significance or the brevity of a good six word story.  There is an importance to this effort though, a clearing away of the rubble of ourselves until we can see ourselves more simply, even if the rendering will always be incomplete.

Do you have a six word story of your life?  Share it below:

Hemingway's Story, which he claimed to be his best work
"For sale; baby shoes, never used."

Visit Six Word Stories:

Photo Courtesy of:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Nice This Time of Year


Every year a list of the most deadly cities in the world is released by a collective of peace and justice groups throughout the world.  Almost all of them are in Latin America.  Fifteen of them are in Brazil, nine are in Mexico, and five are in the United States.  Five.  They are Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Oakland, and St. Louis.  We should think about these statistics every time we hear someone talk about the American Dream, the high standard of living in the US, and our role as a world leader and a purveyor of peace and democracy.  We should also think about this when we talk about gun control, a debate that is becoming more and more myopic from either side.  We all know that the issues of gun violence and gun control in the US is mired in politics, civil liberties, ways of life, and our abysmal understanding and treatment of mental illness.  But it does little to dissuade us from talking about it in meaningless sound bites.  Perhaps a look at the numbers will help clarify things.  Perhaps ranking so high and in such poor company will persuade us to take a different approach to the subject.  Either way, something has to shift.  And it is beginning to.  The City of Los Angeles and many other communities are using gun buy-back and trade-in programs to conduct outreach and provide much needed social services such as grocery exchanges, cash programs, or bike exchanges.  Find something better to do with your gun today.

For Information about the Guns for Groceries Program in Los Angeles:


To view the complete list:

Photograph Courtesy of: 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Wake Up Call


At last.  At last the birds have returned, the leaves are budding, the crocuses and daffodils are blooming and even the people are shaking off the vestiges of winter with a change of shoes, a swept front porch, and a casting open of the windows.  I find myself out walking, taking long deeps breaths and long, meandering routes through vine-covered alleys and improvised parks.  The air is thick with sweet spring buds.  I marvel at the rediscovery of myself in the world, emerging as I have, whole, well, and in good spirits from my winter slumber.  I let the sun shine on my face.  I become aware that in this moment, there is nothing wrong.  In this moment I have no pressing problems, no concerns or regrets, no fears to face.  In this moment all things are as they should be.